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A matchmaker named Dolly Levi takes a trip to Yonkers, New York to see the "well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire," Horace Vandergelder. While there, she convinces him, his two stock clerks and his niece and her beau to go to New York City. In New York, she fixes Vandergelder's clerks up with the woman Vandergelder had been courting, and her shop assistant (Dolly has designs of her own on Mr. Vandergelder, you see). Written by
Randy Goldberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Prior to playing Minnie Faye in this film E.J. Peaker had starred with Robert Morse in a short-lived (one season) sitcom called That's Life (1968). Morse had played Minnie Faye's suitor, Barnaby, in the 1955 stage production of "The Matchmaker", which "Hello, Dolly!" is based on. Morse repeated his role in the film version of The Matchmaker (1958). See more »
During opening credits, as Walter Matthau's name appears, a couple of wrecked modern automobiles (circa 1960s) can be seen dumped in foliage to right of railroad track. See more »
Most high school drama departments could do better
It is hard to finish watching "Hello, Dolly!" without wanting to strangle director Gene Kelly, or at least sue him for malpractice.
The acting is generally atrocious. I hope this won't hurt any of the actors' feelings, those still alive, because glimpses of competence sneak into their performances now and then, presumably when Kelly wasn't looking.
The most outrageously bad performance is delivered by E.J. Peaker, who seems to be delivering her lines on Laugh In or the Grand 'Ole Opry. Several actors sometimes seem to have dubbed their lines in a studio. Tommy Tune would be lucky to pass a high school drama class with his wide-eyed, goofy performance. Even high schoolers wouldn't ham it up so much.
The only relatively natural acting comes from Marianne McAndrew and Walter Matthau. I suspect Matthau wouldn't let Kelly push him into an exaggerated performance. He probably could see what was coming, that the over-acting would be the film's Achille's heel. We don't see the full Matthau edgy persona; he seems a bit distant. Matthew Crawford delivers the most amusing performance of the film.
When this movie came out, everyone was shocked and disappointed that they weren't going to get to see Carol Channing play Dolly. Everyone in America knew the music, and many had the Broadway cast album, so Channing WAS Dolly. And everyone in America would have gone to see the movie if Channing were in it. Barbara Streisand, on the other hand, was too Sixties in most people's mind to work, and not Matthau's type.
The Broadway production was an enormous success. I don't know why because I never saw it. There was the great music, some dancing, and the fantasy of traveling back 70 years to 1890s New York City.
Fantasies don't need fancy sets; if anything, too much realism can interfere. And that's one of the mistakes this movie makes. The sumptuous sets are among the most amazing ever created for a movie, but were a total waste of money. Guys and Dolls was set in NYC, but many of the movie sets were painted backdrops, and little of it looked realistic, but that didn't stop it from being a great musical. Most musicals are that way, and for a reason: they are fantasies.
Most of the acting was stylized Broadway performances, which clashed with such realistic sets, and just didn't fit a movie. Most of the performances and lines were rushed, which is a problem because the plot gets a bit complex in the beginning. Also, the scenes tend to shift without much connection or flow. It's as though this was a multi-track recorded movie, with each person delivering their performances separately in a sound studio, without any real interaction. There is ZERO chemistry between all of the performers.
Early on, I thought to myself, they should have hired Ernest Lehman to write the script. So I checked, and, oops, they did! Lehman did the screen adaptation of The Sound of Music and wrote North by Northwest. He puts a lot of effort into his writing, so I have to believe this screenplay was as good an adaptation as you could get.
So what went wrong? The directing. Some directors leave actors alone, for the most part, and some give them specific instructions. Kelly must have pushed them into these exaggerated performances, and, I suspect, pushed hard. If he had allowed them to use their judgment and let them interact, the movie would have been much better.
I think Kelly had been a singer-dancer in too many mediocre musicals that he was told were masterpieces, like An American in Paris. So I think he came to believe that if you had lavish, colorful dance numbers and lots of good music the movie would be a big success. But several of the dance numbers are way over the top, as though he is trying to top Fred Astaire, and have little to do with the story. The dancing waiters during Hello Dolly remind me of the Mel Brooks parody, The Producers (the original with Zero Mostel), which was deliberately trying to be as tacky as possible.
Kelly was a pretty good actor, but not great. I guess most of his acting was just being Gene Kelly; perhaps that's why he didn't really know how to direct actors. Just guessing.
The bottom line is that a lot of individual elements of Hello, Dolly! are excellent, but the movie is less than the sum of it's part.
== The story of Louis Armstrong's hit recording of the title tune is interesting. As I recall, he recorded it in one take, never having heard the tune before, in a studio as a favor. It was released after the Broadway show premiered while Armstrong was on tour, and to his puzzlement, suddenly everyone was requesting he perform Hello, Dolly!, a song he barely remember recording. No one imagined the song would be a hit, including Armstrong, except perhaps the composer.
Armstrong re-recorded it in 1964, and, believe me, everyone heard that song on the radio a million times and was whistling the tune; it seemed they never got tired of it. Armstrong had a long career as the premiere jazz musician in America, as well as being a popular performer, but this one song brought him to the attention of a new generation and gave his career a second wind. It was not a sophisticated jazz performance, but I don't think Satchmo minded; he always seemed to want to make music his audience would enjoy.
By the time the movie was finally released in 1969, the music had gotten a bit stale. The world had changed, and musical tastes had changed, too. I hope people today can forgive this movie its flaws so they can enjoy the delightful music.
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