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Do you enjoy grown men in flaming red suits twirling plates for a half an hour, jumping up in the air with serving platters as if they have frogs in their undershorts? How about food tricks mixed in like this is the amazing Kreskin? You know, they throw the food up in the air and what a miracle? It lands on the dishes, isn't that freaking amazing? Show of hands, how many people thought the food would land on the floor? See, if Gene Kelly were a director, instead of a dancer, he would have known that the scene is boring to anyone who can get ten neurons firing. Want to see why 20th Century Fox cleared out the boardroom after this movie went down in flames? Watch this piece of legendary poop. Babs begins talking as soon as the movie starts doing the worst Mae West impersonation you will ever witness. Babs, buy a mirror honey, you are as close to Mae West as I am to Channing Tatum. OK, buy a clue. Walter Matthau's shop assistants: when they were casting these roles did the calling sheet say: wanted bad acting, talentless boobs as effeminate as possible, no traditional macho men wanted only girlie men need apply. Yes, they are after those two women with the bad hats dressed like draperies. About the same probability that I got off the Hindenburg this afternoon. Please, give us a break; they would date each other.
There is a reason why Babs croons Hello Dolly for ten minutes until you will be looking lovingly at your cutlery: the rest of the score is dreadful. Yes, I loved that fifty pound dress she can barely walk in, oh, what a thrill. She takes three minutes to sing the first verse and does an encore. They were probably rewriting those other eternal classics: It Takes A Director, When The Parade Runs You Over, If You Ain't Got Intelligence, It Only Takes A Vomit Bag, these are the putative masterpieces you adore. Look, you can tell that Walter loathes Babs and vice versa. He is a comedian what is he doing in this movie? Do they look like a couple to you? Was the casting director on an IV when he put this ensemble together? I know Ice Ages that move faster than this boring piece of crap. Hey, do not take my word for it, it almost destroyed 20th Century Fox. People were cleaning out their desks after this hit the theaters. Keep a high voltage source near your chair, you will need it to wake yourself up with.
Babs engages her mouth at Warp factor eight, it never stops prattling, chattering until you will heave every heavy object, in your living room, at your set. She has this oozing arrogance, emetic, smarmy self pleasuring, mugging at the camera that will just grate upon your nerves. What is with the park and the gymnastics? What is Ringling Brothers in town with the circus? Every time Gene has a dead spot, he throws in more gymnastics. They should have cast all the chefs at Benihanas. When I say a giant piece of poop, boring like waiting for the sun to go Red Giant, you have to see this to believe it. The movie puts the capital C in Crap. When my aunt, a big Babs fan, dragged me to watch this, as a little boy, people were leaving en masse halfway through the movie. By the end, there were twenty people out of five hundred. Do not show this to the suicidal. EXCRUCIATING MALODOROUS EXCREMENT
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.
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.
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.
I had the dubious honor of being a part of my high school's production
of HELLO DOLLY a zillion years ago, so there was a time when I was
intimately familiar with both the play and the film. It's been a long
time and truthfully, I had my reservations about the show even then.
Watching the film again this past Saturday on Reel 13, I was reminded
how lame the show really is and the film version, as directed by Gene
Kelly, is even worse.
I suspect the popularity of Jerry Herman's original production during the 60's had more to do with the Carol Channing persona than the story. If that's true, then the film was handicapped before it even began by bypassing Channing in favor of a very young Barbra Streisand, playing a character fifteen or twenty years older than she actually was. This is not to say that Streisand is bad in the role. Her strongest assets her voice and her comic timing are on prime display here and she imbues the character with an engaging energy and vitality. She puts forth extraordinary effort, but one has a hard time believing that a) she is a widowed matchmaker and has been out of the public scene for a decade and b) she would be a good match for Walter Matthau's Horace Vandergelder character. This is the primary plot of the film and the film suffers because it never once seems plausible. Gosh Streisand seems even younger than the ingénue Irene Malloy character (Marianne McAndrew).
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, who were at least age-appropriate, were horribly off-the-mark in their performances. On the whole, I blame Kelly, who seems to have directed all of them (except maybe Streisand and Matthau) to be ridiculously over-the-top. This includes a baby-faced Michael Crawford as Cornelius Hackl and a I-don't-believe-he's-straight-for-a-second Tommy Tune, both of which went on to have wonderful stage careers. On film, they come off as silly and cartoonish. What's interesting to me is that as an actor, Kelly was always so smooth, sincere and understated. I'm bewildered as to why he wasn't able to bring that style to the table when he's behind the camera. It could have done wonders for the plot. It's hard enough to believe that all these people fall in love (there are four couples in the film) within a twenty-four hour period. The wide-eyed, loud and juvenile performance styles make it impossible, but I wonder what it would have been like if the characters had the opportunity to establish real connections with each other make us care and root for them to get together. It could have made for an entirely different experience.
(For more information on this or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website at www.reel13.org)
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.
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.
Rip-snorting musical from 20th Century-Fox, turning its backlot into New York City, circa 1890 while telling the tale of widow Dolly Levi, an indefatigable meddler and matchmaker who hopes to deliver herself into the arms of an eligible storekeeper from Yonkers. Producer Ernest Lehman adapted his screenplay from the popular stage musical with a book by Michael Stewart, based on Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" (itself filmed without music in 1958). Director Gene Kelly attempts a breathless pace right from the start, which leaves the early scenes feeling rushed and hyperactive. Professional critics in late 1969, perhaps put off by the unimaginable-for-its-time $25 million budget, complained that the picture was overblown; however, in hindsight, this is inconsequential, as the scenario begs for a huge presentation...and a huge star in the lead. Barbra Streisand (deemed too young to be portraying a widow) is a marvelous Dolly: a firebrand (and a firecracker) who knows nothing of subtlety, she goes for the gut, as the role requires. As her reluctant intended, Walter Matthau looks unhappy and seems stuffy, but repeat viewings reveal this to be the character and not necessarily Matthau's disposition at the time (he and Streisand failed to get along while filming). The song numbers, particularly "Just Leave Everything To Me", "Before The Parade Passes By" and the celebrated title tune, are joyous, and Michael Kidd's line-'em-up choreography is often stunning in widescreen. The film does run too long, and it loses some vitality whenever Streisand is busy and the pixilated juveniles take over, but Kelly is determined to give his audience a showcase--a slam-bang, old-fashioned musical parade with pearls and feathers and floor-length gowns. At that, he succeeded. *** from ****
This film was presented in a monthly film series (@ a society of
retired university faculty & staff). Through the past year, to this
point, all of our films have been interesting. We left half-way through
this one at the intermission (thankfully, there was an intermission so
my partner and I could compare our reactions and find they were
The acting seemed somewhat flat and without much spark or life (despite or because of dramatic gesticulations, voice inflections?). And the dance numbers seemed too long and extravagant and, rather than promoting vitality and interest, dampened ours.
Maybe if we'd stayed to the conclusion, it would have fully redeemed itself?--but we saw nothing in the first 90 minutes to suggest such a promise would be fulfilled.
We both agreed that Barbara Streisand seemed too young for the part she was playing while Walter Matthau, her love interest, looked as if he was going through the motions while playing a role he didn't really want to be in.
I'm glad others enjoy it; different strokes for different folks.
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