Wednesday, July 03, 2013

indelible moment: DaCosta's "The Music Man"

Not surprisingly, Morton DaCosta is not beloved among self-monitoring cinèphiles. DaCosta made only three films, two of which were based on stage plays that he helmed rather triumphantly on Broadway.

"Auntie Mame" and "The Music Man."

I suppose his status as a stage director made him inferior in the minds of those who think they know and appreciate anything filmic.

But the two films that DaCosta made based on his stage successes are anything but inferior.  Both "Auntie Mame" (1958) and "The Music Man" (1962), two Warner Bros. titles, are films that have a loyal fidelity to their source material, but which are uncannily cinematic as well.

DaCosta's eye for the screen - which cropped up when one least expected it - is especially evident in his witty staging of the piano lesson near the beginning of "The Music Man," set during the clever Meredith Willson musical number, "If You Don't Mind My Saying So."

Shirley Jones is the piano teacher to Monique Vermont's student and, for the occasion of the lesson, DaCosta and cinematographer Robert Burks playfully filled the expansive Technirama screen with the piano's entire keyboard. It's a visually eccentric moment and it jumps out at me - like a pop-out book - every time I watch this wonderful musical (which is often).

Note in Passing: "The Music Man" airs tomorrow night @ 8 (est) on Turner Classic Movies as part of its July 4th celebration.

12 comments:

Tom said...

Hey, I really appreciate this post. I love this film but never picked up on the way the piano keys are splayed across the screen. Very clever. Thanks for pointing it out. Can't wait to see the movie again - especially on a big screen.

mel said...

I have watched DaCosta's The Music Man innumerable times but I never noticed that they filled the screen with the entire piano keyboard in that scene.

I repeat little Amaryllis' words:
"THANK you."

Stella said...

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Ben said...

excellent post!! keep up this helpful stuff

Lisa Delman said...

Mortie DeCosta was my Great Uncle--he was my grandfather's brother. His original name is Tecosky. My mother's maiden name is Harriet Tecot. I wish I could have hung out with him. I was very young when he gave us a dog named Friday. I am a published author. Strange that when my book came out by Penguin, I got theater interest from several sources. I then began researching my Great Uncle. Nice blog post--thanks for the information. Lisa Delman

joe baltake said...

Lisa! Thanks for the kind words and the invaluable info. I plan to do a post devoted entirely to Morton DaCosta - real soon. I hope you check it out and I hope you like/enjoy it. -J

wwolfe said...

We saw this last year at the Last Remaining Seats series that shows movies in the grand old downtown movie palaces of Los Angeles. It was a wonderful evening. It never occurred to us that the movie was in some way insufficiently cinematic.

Billie said...

Thanks for your write-up.

Toni said...

My 8 year old & I love Auntie Mama.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so I'm two years late on this post. Morton DeCosta was my grandfather Jack Tecosky's cousin-- Music Man opened on Broadway the year I was born.... I have old photos of Morton in the living room of our home in Philadelphia as my folks celebrated my arrival (first girl after three boys). He was good friends with Theodore Bikel, who I came to know when he was on the speaker circuit, late in his career. Music Man, to this day, is still my favorite musical from that era, and I watch whenever I can catch it broadcast.

Thanks so much for your post, and for holding this movie up high. Morton was a terrific talent. My dad and I both played in the show at different times in our lives in honor and in memory of Morton DeCosta.
Judy Tecosky Fisher, Miami, Florida

judithtfisher said...

Don't know if what I just tried to post went through, and I'm only two years late in finding this...

Thanks for a great post, holding Morton DeCosta and the Music Man high. I, like Lisa Delman, am a relative. (He and my grandfather, Jack Tecosky, were cousins. Music Man opened on Broadway the year I was born, and Morton was able to make it to my "welcoming" party in Philadelphia (I was the first girl after three boys), and we still have pictures of him in our living room hanging out with family...
Music Man became a "theme" for me and my family... Both my dad and I were in the show, and as my niece left for NYC to try to "make it" on Broadway, I even wrote a parody of the song, "Till There Was You" for a send off.
Reading your blog tickled my heart...thanks

joe baltake said...

Judith! Thanks so much for sharing. Morton DaCosta rocks!