Throwback Thursdays: Marching Band Movies

In celebration of the 2013 Drum Corps International Finals, Big, Loud & Live 10 (which will be simulcast at movie theaters this Thursday), MoviefiedNYC honors five films that, in one way or another, feature marching bands, or a central character who, in a moment of inspiration, joins the town parade. And that’s what these films do: they make you want to step out of your humdrum life and join the parade. 

— John David West

1. Drumline (2002) 

What’s amazing about Drumline is that it was a big hit when it was released in 2002; yet it’s merely a movie about a college marching band. Yes, a marching band, not a CGI superhero! Furthermore, it’s a good movie! Being in a marching band is really hard work. Director Charles Stone III effectively shows just how hard that work is, while avoiding the typical clichéd tale of an overconfident, talented musician who gets in trouble with the unchangeable old guard. That is what happens in Drumline. Because of some solid writing, the story feels unique and remains fresh today. Who needs flashy CGI? The cymbal playing looks sexy as hell!

2. The Music Man (1962) 

A con man, Professor Harold Hill (Robert Preston), arrives in River City, Iowa, to sell musical instruments to the town’s boys, who incidentally don’t know how to play an instrument. His solution is the “think system” of learning. They just have to think about the music, and they will know how to play their instrument: a sort of turn-of-the-century visualization technique.  Professor Hill outfits his band with newly purchased uniforms, newly purchased instruments, yet no musical instruction. But after a big change of heart, Professor Hill finds his way. The movie punctuates his new-found honesty with a big Hollywood marching band finale to the song “Seventy-Six Trombones.” Of course the town joins in and marches along
3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Of course Ferris Bueller’s Day Off makes the list: it’s the 1980s, John Hughes is directing, teenagers are trying to figure themselves out; so irreverent Ferris is here for obvious reasons—a spontaneous musical number in a parade. When Matthew Broderick takes the mike and sings “Danke Schoen” and  “Twist and Shout” on a parade float moving down the streets of downtown Chicago, movie magic was made, and being a teenager in the ’80s wasn’t so bad; in fact, it made you want to join the parade.

4. Hello, Dolly! (1969) 

Ok, so it’s not a great movie. On the other hand, it’s not that bad, really. What happened? It stars Barbra Streisand, features Louis Armstrong, and was directed by Gene Kelly.  When Dolly Levi (Streisand) decides to join the parade and not let life pass her by, you can’t help but want to march along “Before the Parade Passes [you] By.”  Streisand really knew how to throw down a good parade song in her early career.  

5. Take the Money and Run (1969)

In the early days, a young Woody Allen was at his slapstick best in Take the Money and Run. Written, directed, and starring Woody Allenthis polymath plays Virgil Starkwell, an incompetent bank robber. While this is not  a typical marching band film (a subgenre waiting to be exploited?), it features a brief comic/gem moment where Woody plays a marching band cellist, complete with his own wooden concert chair—just silliness. 

Big, Loud & Live 10 – Thursday, August 8
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