Movie posters from "The Music Man" and "That Touch of Mink"

The last bifurcated Golden Globe award for Best Comedy and Musical was given in 1963. The winners that year were The Music Man and That Touch of Mink. Since then the award has returned to its original designation - Musical or Comedy-  a wise move that anticipated the dearth of musicals produced in subsequent years, although ironically one-quarter of the future awards would go to musicals.

The Music Man, forever identified with actor Robert Preston, was the little engine that could. Meredith Wilson, who labored in Hollywood in the late thirties (his best-known work was scoring Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Sam Goldwyn’s The Little Foxes) was an obscure composer. The Music Man, for which he provided the book, music, and lyrics, was a true sleeper. No one expected it to amount to much.

But then overnight it became a Broadway sensation making a Hollywood has-been, Robert Preston, the toast of New York. The show even eclipsed West Side Story that year by winning both the New York Critics Award and the Tony as best musical.

When it came time to filming it, Warners purchased the rights and hired Morton DaCosta, who had staged the original production, to direct. (He had previously made Auntie Mame for the studio.) Jack Warner wanted Bing Crosby and then Cary Grant to play Professor Harold Hill, but DaCosta held his ground, and Preston got the role. Sadly, Preston failed to get an Oscar nomination and didn’t win the Golden Globe either. That award went to Marcello Mastroianni for Divorce Italian Style.

Most of the original cast recreated their roles with the exception of Shirley Jones who had already displayed her musical talents in Oklahoma! and Carousel. Two years before she had won the Academy Award for her dramatic turn in Elmer Gantry. The movie remains a treasure and deserves all the recognition it got.

The same cannot be said for That Touch of Mink, the Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy that year, although in retrospect, it was the best the year had to offer; Boys Night Out and If a Man Answers were its toughest competition. The film also won the Screen Writers Guild Best Comedy Screenplay award and was hugely successful both critically and commercially.

Of course, it had the incomparable Cary Grant, who was nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy or a Musical along with eight others! His costar Doris Day wasn’t nominated for this — she was for Jumbo —and the winner was Rosalind Russell for Gypsy.

Surprising footnote: Grant hated this film!