The original design of Barbra Streisand's gold-beaded gown shown in the Harmonia Gardens scene weighed 40 pounds and cost $8,000. Twice during rehearsals, she tripped over its 2.5-foot train. Other dancers also tripped over it during rehearsal, so the train was taken off the dress. The train is shown intact when Streisand starts down the stairs, but later it disappears.
The set for the Harmonia Gardens filled an entire sound stage at Fox Studios and occupied three levels: a dance floor, a main section that surrounded the dance floor and an upper mezzanine. The Harmonia Gardens sequence took an entire month to shoot.
During filming, Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau fought bitterly. He disliked her so intensely that he refused to be around her except when required to do so by the script. He is famously quoted as telling Barbra that she "had no more talent than a butterfly's fart". Interestingly, he is clearly seen in the audience at Barbra's One Voice concert at her Malibu ranch, where invitation-only guests paid $5,000 per couple to help establish the Streisand Foundation, which supports numerous charitable organizations. Apparently, Walter Matthau did not hold grudges.
On a break from filming, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford visited horse races nearby and saw a horse named Hello Dolly. Matthau refused to place a bet on it because it reminded him of Barbra Streisand, whom he detested. Crawford placed a bet on the horse. It won the race and Matthau would not speak to Crawford for the rest of the shoot unless absolutely necessary.
In the parade scene, the YWCA marching unit was the award-winning California High School Drill Team, under the direction of Ms. Jackie McCauley. The group was selected by Twentieth Century Fox based on their performance in the Hollywood Santa Claus Lane Parade on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving Day, 1967. The marching band in white uniforms was the UCLA Marching Band. The band in red and black uniforms was the San Fernando Valley Youth Band.
The scenes set in turn-of-the-last-century Yonkers, New York, were actually filmed a few miles up the Hudson River, in Garrison New York. Yonkers was recreated by putting false fronts on the existing buildings of the small village. The final wedding scene and reprise were shot at the Trophy Point monument and overlook of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
The train car shown in the final shot of "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" is from the Strasburg Rail Road, an active steam museum short line still in existence. The "Hello Dolly" car is open to the public.
The film grew out of a massive attempt by Twentieth Century-Fox to duplicate its earlier, unprecedented success with The Sound of Music by producing three expensive, large-scale musicals over a period of three years, Doctor Dolittle and Star! being the others. Unfortunately, film attendance as a whole was down and all three films' box-office performance reflected this. All were released amid massive pre-release publicity and all lost equally massive amounts of money for the studio (though "Dolly" was in the box office top 5 for the year of its release). The result was that several top studio executives lost their jobs, and the studio itself went into such dire financial straits that it only produced one picture for the entire calendar year of 1970. In truth, Fox would never recoup its losses until a highly successful theatrical reissue of "The Sound of Music" in early 1973.
Also considered for the role of Dolly was Elizabeth Taylor, who was passed on because she couldn't sing. Doris Day and Shirley MacLaine (who played Irene Molloy in the non-musical predecessor The Matchmaker (1958)) were both briefly considered as well. Carol Channing was never considered for the role because it was felt, despite her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, that she could not carry a film of this stature despite being one of Broadway's top leading ladies. Channing's "Millie" co-star, Julie Andrews, ironically turned the role of Dolly down.
When director George Roy Hill heard about the turn-of-the-century New York set constructed for the film, he wanted to use the set to film a brief sequence in which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Etta Place visit the Big Apple. The producers were proprietary about the set, and didn't want it to appear in another movie. 20th Century Fox, however, allowed Hill to take still photographs of his stars Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katharine Ross on the set, surrounded by the extras (who appear in the old-time, tinted photos as city crowds) which were used in a montage sequence that served as a transition between the U.S. West and Bolivia sections of the movie.
Many of the taller building facades constructed on the Los Angeles front lot of 20th Century Fox as part of the outdoor sets (representing 1890 New York City) concealed the towers of then-new Century City--constructed on the former back lot of the studio..
In the original musical, Vandergelder was supposed to crash a dance number called "Be My Butterfly," after which he was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. Dolly visits him in his holding cell at the courthouse, and this is where she sings "So Long, Dearie." For the movie, that number was dropped, and Dolly sings "So Long, Dearie" at the train station.
In the original musical, Cornelius Hackl and Irene Molloy sing "It Only Takes a Moment" in the courtroom during Horace Vandergelder's trial; in the movie, however, they sing "It Only Takes a Moment" in Union Square Park. The entire arrest and trial sequence was dropped for the movie version.
The original Broadway production of "Hello Dolly!" opened at the St. James Theater on January 16, 1964 and ran for 2844 performances, setting a Broadway longevity record. "Hello Dolly!" also won the 1964 Tony Award for the Best Musical and Best Score. The original Broadway production is the nineteenth longest running show ever as of February, 2013.
In the final shot Horace kisses Dolly in front of the church. Walter Matthau detested Barbra Streisand so much that he refused to kiss her. To get around this he leaned near her and the camera was positioned so that the angle makes it appear that he kisses her when, in reality, his face was several inches from hers
The song "Love Is Only Love," which Barbra Streisand's Dolly sings in her bedroom before the Harmonia Gardens scene, was not in the stage production of "Hello, Dolly." "Love Is Only Love" was written by Jerry Herman for the Broadway musical "Mame" but was cut before the show's opening. The song occurred in the story as Mame Dennis tries to explain falling in love to her pre-teen nephew, Patrick.
Leading UK DVD retailer HMV noted during an analysis of its 3rd quarter figures (July-September) for 2008 that "Hello, Dolly!" had sold more copies in this period than in the all the quarters combined for the previous 10 years. This was put down to the popularity of WALL·E which features clips from "Hello, Dolly!" at several key points.
One of the horse-drawn buses used in the New York scene in the beginning of the movie (Dolly is briefly seen descending from one) is still in use. It is part of the Krewe of Orpheus parade in New Orleans and can be seen every Lundi Gras, still drawn by horses. A calliope has been installed on the upper deck.
Danny Lockin, who played Barnaby in the movie, also played the same role live on the St. James Theatre stage in New York while the movie was in first run theaters. Sadly, he was murdered a few years later in LA.