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This film was certainly beautiful to look at and listen to. I was lucky
to see it in 70 mm during its initial roadshow release. It was one of
the few movies to have the negative actually filmed in 70 mm, rather
than having the standard 35 mm merely blown up to 70 mm for the
roadshow. "The Sound of Music" was another picture originally filmed in
70 mm, and we all know how beautiful the cinematography was in that.
Sadly, the high cost of 70 mm has essentially ended the use of that
type of film format.
"Hello, Dolly!" deserved the Oscars it won, such as musical direction, sound, and art direction-set design. About 15 years ago I stopped in the riverside village of Garrison, New York, to see where it was partially filmed. The real building that was adapted into Vandergelder's Hay & Feed was still there at the time, and "Vandergelder" was etched on the window pane from its use in the film. The bridge over the railway tracks is still there.
As much as I like the film as a whole, it does have some problems that could have been easily corrected. The early scene with Walter Matthau and Tommy Tune arguing over Ermengarde is overly dramatic and simply too theatrical. It might have been fine on Broadway, but the genre of cinema requires a bit of toning down. I blame this purely on Gene Kelly, the director, who should have known better. He is the one who is supposed to sense the pacing and delivery of lines. I get the impression he was trying to speed things up, knowing that there is a lot to fit into the picture. The screenplay was naturally required to closely follow the original material, but it could have been simplified a bit without sacrificing anything important. An example of this is the endless number of times that the audience is reminded that the main characters are going "to New York" by train. Once was enough.
Still, the music and choreography are superb, and carry the picture. Not everyone in it can sing as beautifully as Barbra Streisand, but it succeeds nonetheless. The number "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" is one of Hollywood's golden moments in terms of production quality. I have seen Carol Channing do the stage version and she was great, but I also feel that Barbra Streisand was perfectly adequate here. She can sing better than Ms. Channing and has real star quality.
If you visit the interesting Hudson River area of New York state, you will be warmly reminded of the scenic beauty in "Hello, Dolly!" Drop by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to take the public tour and you will see the magnificent setting where the final wedding scene was done, minus the church of course.
The miscasting of Barbra Streisand is an interesting topic of discussion
regarding this movie. She's way too young, as everyone else has said;
despite slight changes to the script and giving everyone the benefit of the
doubt, it's silly to think that a woman in her mid twenties would have built
up both the social contacts and worldly sangfroid that the character
possesses. That said, however, she does about as well as anyone could ask
playing a role she was 3 decades too young for. The animosity between
Barbra and Walter Matthau is another problem--they have no chemistry
together whatsoever. While his annoyance with her at the beginning is
believable, the turnabout at the end comes across completely false.
Fortunately, the movie has many other charms to make up for that central
My favorite part of the movie, and the heart of the film, is the "courtship" of Cornelius & Irene and Barnaby & Minnie Fay. Michael Crawford and the late Danny Lockin are absolutely adorable as Cornelius and Barnaby. The "Dancing" and "Elegance" numbers and the dinner scene at the Harmonia Gardens are worth the price of admission alone. Barbra plays better with the rest of the cast too; she's more believable as a "woman of the world" when she's with the younger cast members. The production design is wonderful as well. While the movie was outrageously expensive for its time, just about every dollar is visible on screen. The claustrophobic musicals they've made since the Seventies really look deficient when compared to the wide-open dance scenes and crowd shots in classic musicals like this one.
All in all, Hello, Dolly has much to offer. It's not the best musical ever made by a long shot, but it's undeniably fun to watch. It would be fun to see Barbra play the role now that she's a more appropriate age for it. Unfortunately, she doesn't do musicals anymore. Maybe Tyne Daly would take the part.
The strange history of the making of Hello Dolly could make a fine
motion picture itself. The feuding between Barbra Streisand and Walter
Matthau during the filming is well known and documented. The incredible
costs of the thing has also become an object lesson for movie producers
who are not operating in the days of the studio system and actually
have to pay the talent involved what they're worth. It's the biggest
reason why musical films are now so few and far between.
But I read a fascinating story in the Citadel Film series book on the films of Gene Kelly who directed Hello Dolly. It seems as though 20th Century Fox after scoring so big with The Sound Of Music decided on buying other big budget Broadway musicals hoping for lightning to strike twice. They bought the rights of Hello Dolly from producer David Merrick with the proviso that the film not be shown until the Broadway run concluded.
So Fox made the film with huge production costs with borrowed money from bankers who wanted their loans paid back as soon as possible. What Merrick did and certainly the demand was there was to keep the show running. Hello Dolly wrapped in early 1968 and was over a year sitting on the shelf not earning a dime. In the meantime the finance boys had to be repaid and with heavy interest.
Fox went to court to get out of the contract and release the film and Merrick did for some hefty financial consideration. By the time Hello Dolly sold its first ticket there was no way it could ever payback the cost. In fact it was the fifth highest grossing film of 1969 and still Fox lost big money on it. In the words of Barnaby Tucker, "Holy Cabooses".
Well they spent big money on it and it shows. The production numbers are expensive, the entire town of Garrison, New York was made up to look like Yonkers at the turn of the last century. The New York scenes were lovely to look at and expensive to the bean counters. And what the biggest musical star of her time commanded in salary ate a lot of that budget as well.
It's a great film that Kelly put together however and certainly Gene Kelly was a man who knew his way around the musical film. Between Streisand and Matthau feuding he must have felt like a referee. But both were professional enough to turn in good performances though the chemistry isn't quite there.
Louis Armstrong's record of the title song is an American classic and it was almost mandatory that he appear in the film. His duet with Barbra Streisand is a piece of cinematic musical history. A fitting end for a man who brought the joy of living to his art and shared it with a grateful world.
Besides the immortal title song Jerry Herman's score has some other gems in it as well. Streisand has one of the best numbers in her career with When The Parade Passes By and young Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin as Matthau's employees sing and dance a storm in It Only Takes A Moment.
I can't finish this review without a word about Danny Lockin who left this earth way too soon the victim of a brutal murder. His performance as Barnaby Tucker is so winning that you can't help a tear coming to your eye when you read about his fate. His dancing reminded a whole lot of Donald O'Connor, I'll bet Donald O'Connor thought so as well if he saw Hello Dolly. He lived a life that convention dictate as a gay man he could not be open about it. The closet eventually killed him, but he left us this wonderful performance to remember him by.
And to you, the late Danny Lockin this review is respectfully dedicated to. Holy Cabooses Danny, I'll bet you're giving Terpsichore a lesson in high stepping.
perfectly directed by the wonderful and legendary gene kelly, with a note perfect cast. i was 20 years old when i first saw this film, beforehand, i had no desire to see it as i really did not like streisand. but having seen all the new releases that week, a friend pushed and shoved my into the theatre to see this. after the film we came out floating and dancing and singing, i have since seen it countless times, many times in glorious 70mm. the songs the dances the amazing sets and productions, all have gained in stature and enjoyment. yet again the public and quite a few critics got it so wrong, the film alas sank at the box office, and killed off an uplifting genre. sad also to see junk like chicago get kudos and box office, a film that is so cynical, tuneless and full of noise and empty bombast. performed by people who cannot sing or dance.bring back the old style Hollywood musical i say
This gargantuan musical was the last of its kind. It's like a dinosaur
ear-marked for extinction and yet it's highly entertaining. Parts of it
are terrible, (mostly those scenes in which Babs doesn't appear), and
Gene Kelly's direction is never as light on its feet as his dancing
used to be but when the aforementioned Miss Striesand is on screen, the
movie soars. Critics complained that at 27 she was much too young for
the part of Dolly Levi but she's a bona-fide star, so what the heck;
her Dolly is ageless and as musical-comedy performances go this is one
of the best.
The Jerry Herman score is decidedly old-fashioned Broadway. Sondheim may be the greater composer but Herman gave us tunes we could hum and the production numbers here are terrific, in particular the title song which gives us Striesand, high-kicking waiters and Louis Armstrong. Purists will always prefer the Joseph Anthony version of Thornton Wilder's original play "The Matchmaker" but this is no disgrace, so put on your Sunday clothes and let's have a whale of a time.
This generation (I'm ashamed to say MY generation) just doesn't seem to
appreciate a good musical, much less one that came out when our parents
were young-ens, heaven forbid! It will be a sad day when these classic
films are forgotten, but fortunately, they are all being remastered and
re-released on DVD for this generation to enjoy if only they would give
them a chance.
I bought the special edition of 'Hello, Dolly' because I adore musicals, especially those from the 50s and 60s when Hollywood really knew how to do it right! The top 3 billings were all people I had heard off... Streisand may not be the easiest person to love, but her voice is astounding... Who could forget Walter Matthau in 'Dennis the Menace', a film slightly more known to my age group... and last but certainly not least, Michael Crawford, a voice I had been listening to since age 3. I grew up listening to his solo albums as well as the original cast recording of 'Phantom.' I will say, he was my main incentive for seeing this film.
'Dolly' is musically and visually stunning. All the principle cast members sing on their own, always a bonus, and the songs are accompanied by some of the most entertaining and memorable dance numbers next to 'A Chorus Line.' One could expect no less since this film is directed by the infamous Gene Kelly. Need I say more? 'Hello Dolly' is by far my favorite of the classics, and believe me, I've seen them all. Sure, you can complain that Barbra was too young to play Miss Dolly Levi, but the woman has talent, you can't deny it no-matter how you feel towards her as a human being. She can sing and she can act, why settle for for someone who fails to meet the former and resort to dubbing? That's the one flaw in 'My Fair Lady.' Matthau is astounding as always, and I have already stated how much I love Crawford. He is just so positively adorable in the role of Cornelius Hackl! Understanably, his gorgeous tenor isn't nearly as developed at age 27 as it was at age 44 when 'Phantom' opened in London, but it's pleasant none-the-less, and his acting is superb as always, flawlessly hiding his lovely accent behind the mousy but sweet demeanor of a Yonkers store clerk.
I love 'Hello, Dolly!' and I would recommend it to anyone who loves the classics. It's funny, uplifting, and heartwarming... what more could a person want in a movie? Don't miss this movie, you're never too young to enjoy the classics.
While some of the cast of "Hello, Dolly! leaves something to be desired, its sets, costumes, general production values, and choreography cannot be beat. Striesand is miscast, but nobody can fault her for that. She gives it her all, and frankly, I prefer her performance in this film, over her inexplicable star-making turn in "Funny Girl". Lots of money was spent on making this film, and every cent of it can be seen in the finished product. The film is leaps and bounds over almost everything made today. Every musical number is first-rate. This film should ONLY be seen in WIDESCREEN. To view a cropped video tape would be silly, since you would be seeing only half the film. "Hello, Dolly! is lots of fun, and a true testimony to the lost art of fine film-making.
Perhaps... just perhaps... Gene Kelly INTENTIONALLY cast Barbara Streisand as a younger, more sexual Dolly rather than the older version because he thought it would make more money... obviously wrong, but nonetheless an interesting strategy. I don't remember much of that time (late 60's) but I do remember seeing the movie with my mother at a drive-in way back then, and then catching a commercial-ridden version on a local TV station in the 80's after I had significantly fallen in love with Babs by way of Yentl. I believe, if I remember correctly, that Rudy's line at the Harmonia Gardens says that Dolly has not made an appearance there in over 2 years (not 20, not 40, not 50)... Let's assume that Ephraim died some 2 years ago and Dolly in despair cut herself out of her old life. Even at 27 (Babs age at the time), she could have been widowed at 25, which at the turn of the century would have been about 7 years of marriage for most ladies... How long did she have to have been married to qualify as "experienced". She purposefully picks on Horace because she has decided not to look for another "love of her life," but rather has chosen to affect someone who is bound to spend his life alone (like she has been facing) and make something more of his life than he alone could have done. Remember she even says in her prayer to Ephraim "Oh it won't be a marriage in the sense that we had one..." Get off the "She's too young" kick and look at the movie for what it is... a big, splashy, excellent produced bit of Americana. Movie musicals will never be this audaciously classy and clever ever again.
I don't think it was a coincidence that---apart from the great Caberet----this dis-jointed, messy, over the top nonsense signaled the end of the musical. If you want to learn how to overact...watch this. When it was released in 1969 it had mixed reviews. The dancing segments in this go on for far too long (it was directed by Gene Kelly..!!) Apart from Hello Dolly (the song) there are few worthwhile songs. Most of the film is done on a grand scale, and that partly disguises the weakness of the silly story. Barbara Streisand often looks uncomfortable (maybe she knew it was a turkey). Michael Crawfords overacting is ridiculous...his career in Hollywood was short. It is said that this poor movie ushered in the term "feel good movie". I only watched it to-day and "feel good" are not two words that spring to mind about my mental state...perhaps feel sick would be more appropriate.
Hello Dolly is really a fun film, it's based on Thorton Wilders "The Matchmaker" And thats just what Dolly is, She interferes with peoples lives for a living. From this ensues a lot of toe tapping music and enthusiastic energy. I really love this film, and I think it's one of the great musicals and people can't help but be swept up by it. It's brassy and loud but a great film to see. Barbra Streisand is not my favorite actress, but she brings vitality and loud mouth approch to the role that is pretty funny. My favorite characters are Cornelius Hackl and Baraby Tucker, they make a good comedy team (one tall, one short). I love the way they get nervous when first entering Miss Malloy's Hat shop. I enjoyed every minute of the movie. If you're in the mood for a good old fashioned musical with great energy, go for Hello Dolly.
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