When Professor Harold Hill comes to River City, Iowa, to start a marching band he encounters a group of stubborn locals who don’t cotton to strangers but do like music. They have a barbershop quartet, a music teacher, a library whose benefactor mysteriously left the books to the librarian and the building to the city council, and a long tradition of prescribed charity, marked by being willing to help, without really loving, one’s neighbour.
Harold Hill is a flim-flam man, a character in American letters that goes back to folklore and the tall tales of frontier humour and reaches its apex in the story of the Duke and Dauphin in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. (Even the Wizard in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz is a moral version of the species) They are frauds and hucksters pitting their wits against the dull denizens of the flat, dull central and prairie states, and they are riverboat gamblers and snake oil salesmen…
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