( b. Jun 08, 1918 Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, USA - d. Mar 21, 1987 Montecito, California, USA ) Male
Mr. Preston was an American actor best known for his portrayal of a brassy, breezy, fast-talking and warmhearted confidence man from Gary, Ind., Prof. Harold Hill, in The Music Man.
In a career that spanned nearly half a century, Mr. Preston appeared in a wide variety of plays and films. Mr. Preston's stage credits included leading roles in Twentieth Century, The Male Animal The Tender Trap, Janus, The Hidden River, Ben Franklin in Paris and The Lion in Winter. He also appeared in Shakespeare's Henry IV in the mid-1960's.
But it was his vibrant realization of the title role in The Music Man, an extraordinarily successful musical comedy by Meredith Willson, that won Mr. Preston lasting fame. Brooks Atkinson, then the drama critic for The New York Times, called The Music Man ''marvelous'' and added, ''If Mark Twain could have collaborated with Vachel Lindsay, they might have devised a rhythmic lark like The Music Man, which is as American as apple pie and a Fourth of July celebration.' ''As the infectious bunko man, Mr. Preston could hardly be improved on,'' Mr. Atkinson added. ''His expansive energy and his concentration on the crisis of the moment are tonic.''
Mr. Preston played the shady but likable salesman who is finally redeemed by the love of an Iowa librarian named Marian. He remained with The Music Man for the first three years of its run, and later re-created the leading role in a 1962 motion picture with Shirley Jones.
'My Best Hobby'''Acting is all I've ever done, and I've nothing else to make comparisons with when anyone asks me whether I've ever wanted anything else out of life,'' Mr. Preston told an interviewer in 1964. ''It's given me enough satisfaction so that I haven't wanted or had to look for anything else. For a man without hobbies, I stand in a wonderful spot, where what I do is my best hobby and everything else is a poor second.''
Mr. Preston served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, then returned to Hollywood and resumed making films. But after he came East in 1951 to replace Jose Ferrer on Broadway in Twentieth Century, he remained in New York and quickly established himself as a particularly versatile theatrical actor.
After leaving The Music Man, Mr. Preston continued to appear regularly on stage and screen.
His television appearances were sparing. ''I've done my best to avoid B pictures,'' he said in 1983. ''Why should I go into them now and call it television?'' Nevertheless, he appeared in several television movies in recent years, including ''September Gun,'' the story of an aging gunfighter, ''Finnegan Begin Again,'' about a veteran newspaperman, and ''Outrage,'' about a father whose daughter was raped. His only television series, ''The Chisholms,'' ran on CBS in 1979 as a mini-series and continued the following year as part of the network's regular programming.
Whether working in films, theater or television, Mr. Preston insisted that the experience for an actor was essentially the same. ''The camera lens or the television camera is still just a proscenium arch,'' he told The New York Times in 1985. ''And as a great old character actor once said to me, wherever you're acting, you reach up and take hold of the proscenium arch and you pull it down around your shoulders.''
Source: The New York Times obituary