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.
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 (1986) 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 he did not hold grudges.
Leading UK DVD retailer HMV noted during an analysis of its third-quarter figures (July-September) for 2008 that this film had sold more copies in this period than in the all the quarters combined for the previous ten years. This was attributed to the popularity of WALL·E (2008), which features clips from this film at several key points.
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.
Was the very first film released on home video (VHS and Betamax) in the US. It was in the fall of 1977 on the Magnetic Video Corporation label, back when it was an independent company, and was the first of the 50 original films it licensed from Fox. Its catalog number was CL-1001.
When director George Roy Hill heard about the turn-of-the-century New York set constructed for the film, he wanted to use it to film a brief sequence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) in which Butch, Sundance 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.
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 scenes set in turn-of-the-last-century Yonkers, New York, were actually filmed a few miles up the Hudson River, in Garrison, NY. 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 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.
The film grew out of a massive attempt by Twentieth Century-Fox to duplicate its earlier, unprecedented success with The Sound of Music (1965) by producing three expensive, large-scale musicals over a period of three years, Doctor Dolittle (1967) and Star! (1968) 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 five for the year of its release). The result was that several top studio executives lost their jobs, and the studio itself fell 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.
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.
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 (1967), 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.
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 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.
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..
The ornate glass windows in the background of the Harmonia Gardens were recycled and used in the main dining room skylights of the SS Poseidon in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Egyptian hieroglyphic backgrounds from Cleopatra (1963) completed the Poseidon's dining room, even though the ship's design theme was of the Greek god Poseidon.
The original stage production of "Hello, Dolly!" was adapted from a non-musical play, "The Matchmaker", by Thornton Wilder, which premiered on Broadway in 1955. "The Matchmaker" was a revised version of Wilder's 1938 play, "The Merchant of Yonkers". Wilder based this on an 1842 three-act Austrian play, "Einen Jux will er sich machen" (i.e. "He Will Go on a Spree" or "He'll Have Himself a Good Time") by Johann Nestroy with music by Adolf Müller. Nestroy's play was adapted from a one-act farce, "A Day Well Spent" (1835), by English playwright John Oxenford and also has similarities to "L'Avare" ("The Miser") a 1668 play by Molière. "The Miser" is derived from the ancient Roman play "Aulularia" ("Pot of Gold") by Titus Maccius Plautus. "Einen Jux will er sich machen" served as the basis for the 1981 play "On the Razzle" by Tom Stoppard. The plot of "Hello, Dolly" is also similar to that of "A Trip to Chinatown" (1891), a musical comedy in three acts by Charles Hale Hoyt with music by Percy Gaunt and lyrics by Hoyt. This play was revised as another musical, "A Winsome Window" (1912), produced by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and featuring music by Raymond Hubbell.
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. 20th Century-Fox executives had asked Herman to write a new song for the film so they would have a candidate for the Academy Award for Best Song, and they were upset that instead of giving them a new song, he palmed them off with a discard from "Mame" that, because it had been performed publicly during "Mame"'s out-of-town tryouts, was not eligible for the award.
Twentieth Century-Fox had agreed to theatrical impresario David Merrick's stipulation that its film could not be released while the Broadway production was still running. As the show was nearing its fourth year on stage by the time filming got under way, it was assumed that it would have closed by the time the movie was ready for release. However, Merrick then replaced his stage actors with an all-black cast led by Pearl Bailey, an acclaimed move which invigorated the theatre box-office considerably. As a result, the finished film spent a year gathering dust in Fox's vaults, and only got released after Fox had come to a lavish financial arrangement with Merrick so that he would waive his stipulation. This added to the film's already huge cost and helped make it an even bigger flop. The stage show ran for some seven years, long after the film's original release.
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.
Carol Channing had originally played Dolly in the Broadway production, and won a Tony Award for it. The same year Barbra Streisand was nominated for the same award for Funny Girl (1968). Streisand eventually played both parts, and won an Academy Award for "Funny Girl."
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.
Jo Anne Worley auditioned for the role of Gussie Granger, a.k.a. Ernestina Semple. Worley had been a stand-in for Carol Channing in the original 1964 Broadway production. In 1973 Worley play Dolly in a stage production performed in Sacramento, California.
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).