The song “Seventy-Six Trombones” fromThe Music Man would perpetually link Robert Preston to the Broadway musical and the iconic 1962 film that would establish him as a Hollywood and Broadway star. His role as Harold Hill in The Music Man was a pivotal moment for the actor who appeared in dozens of films in addition to theater and television productions. Even though Harold Hill was once admittedly not Preston’s favorite character, it was once this singular, spectacular role that catapulted him to stage and screen stardom and ensured he would perpetually remain the Music Man.
In a film and stage career that spanned five decades, Robert Preston managed to continue to exist the studio system and the fickleness of the film industry whilst maintaining his integrity and calling his own shots. A master at shielding his private life, Robert Preston was once a distinguished actor and gifted artist on the public stage, yet remained a reclusive, enigmatic man in his private life. Extensive archival research, and interviews Preston’s members of the family and fellow actors including Rosemary Harris, Christopher Walken, Lesley Ann Warren, Loretta Swit, Bob Gunton, Neva Small, and others, has unveiled a richly detailed portrait of the gifted actor’s personal life in addition to an overview of the films and Broadway productions to which he lent his talent.
Despite some fits and starts in both his professional and private life, what emerges from the fabric of Preston’s life is the undeniable truth of his versatility as a performer, one who possessed the innate ability to perform superbly in numerous genres – drama, comedy, westerns, or musicals. As a testament to his skill as an actor, Preston continued to deliver remarkable performances on stage and screen and strived to reach new apogees, even when cast in fallacious projects, up until his untimely death in 1987.