The last few days’ conversations about, one, Pete Buttigieg and whether or not he’s too well-read to be elected, two, the primary candidates’ visits to Iowa, and, three, the new Broadway revival of The Music Man coming next year have distilled, in my brain, into this song.
That’s the late, great Barbara Cook singing. Hers is my favorite recording to listen to, though I’m much more familiar with Shirley Jones in the role since it’s the movie version of the show that I grew up. Also, I was a fan of hers from the Partridge Family before I connected her with these earlier classic movie musical performances.
Speaking of those performances, it’s difficult for me, even all these years later and having seen several other women in the roles, to separate my idea of Laurie in Oklahoma, or Julie in Carousel or Marian in The Music Man from Shirley Jones. Even after discovering years later that the films so bowdlerized the R&H musicals, especially in the case of Carousel, which hardly even makes sense in the film. (Not as bad as what MGM did to Babes in Arms, the film of which didn’t even retain any of the Rogers and Hart songs, or maybe one or two, I can’t remember.) Anyway, I still see Shirley Jones’s sunny face and bright soprano when I think of those characters.
On that note, even though I think this film adaptation is very good, inexplicably they rewrote this song, using parts of My White Knight but creating an entirely new swingy refrain. I like it, but I think the original is far superior.
And then there’s the much later TV movie adaptation with Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth. It’s not great, though I do like Broderick’s performance quite a bit, which is sort of slyer, drier, than Preston’s. Though he’s more youthful and cuter than Preston in the role, somehow he reads as more cynical, a more convincing criminal. I also love Chenoweth in this one. Her conception of Marian is more adult, less petulant, less prickly than Jones. But I think because her face and voice are so preternaturally pretty, the more knowing quality she brings to the performance gets a bit lost in the film’s overall too-sweet tone.