American actor (1918-1987) who went from B-movie actor to Broadway sensation with his Tony Award winning performance as con man Harold Hill, in the original cast of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man in 1957. (A part that he beat out Milton Berle, Art Carney, and Ray Bolger for, with his rendition of the song, “Trouble”).

“By song's end, River City knows that it has trouble all right, and the audience know that Bob Preston is the hottest performer on Broadway. Gliding tirelessly through scene after scene, he sings in an unpretentious, mellow baritone, turns Seventy-Six Trombones into as rapturous a piece of high-stepping bravura as ever brought down a house. His portrayal of a likable cad is a fine of job of acting, but he does more than act and sing. He kicks a mean one-step, dance the Castle Walk. And in an inspired number that has already made Choreographer Onna White a big name on Broadway, he joins the dancing company in a
soft-shoe, tippy-toe library ballet that is a triumph of precision and gaiety.“
--Time Magazine, 1958

After appearing in the film version of The Music Man in 1962, he became better known to Hollywood, leaving behind the Westerns and war pictures he had made in the 1940s, although he preferred to work not in films but on the stage. In addition to playing Harold Hill, he originated the role of Henry II in The Lion in Winter, Mack Sennet in Mack and Mabel, and the male lead in Tom Jones's I Do, I Do. Notable film roles include Big Ed Bookman in Semi-Tough (1978); Julie Andrewsmentor, Toddy, in Victor/Victoria (1982), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, although I suspect more noders on E2 are familiar with his work as Centauri in The Last Starfighter (1984):

“Alex! You're walking away from history! History, Alex! Did Chris Columbus stay home? Nooooo. What if the Wright Brothers thought that only birds should fly? And did Galupa think that the Ulus were too ugly to save?”

Preston died of lung cancer in 1987.

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