This is one of the first musicals I ever saw, and it is one that has held a special place in my heart ever since. This features so many memorable and toe tapping songs, stunning costumes, and an unforgettable performance by Barbra Streisand.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Streisand as an actress. I love her as a singer though, but can barely stand her as an actress, however in Hello Dolly! I really do love her performance. I think that she was the perfect choice as actress and singer for the role. Streisand makes Dolly so full of life, so outgoing, amused by the reactions to her matchmaking and interference by some people. I also like how she makes her vulnerable and fragile at times.
Dolly is grieving following the death of her husband, but when the time is right she realises that she can move on and allow another man to claim her heart. Dolly’s serious and more emotional side is revealed in the park scene; her sad reaction to watching all the young couples enjoy the day brings home to us what she has lost from her own life, she then pulls herself out of her sadness and joins in the happiness of the day by singing Before The Parade Passes By.
Gene Kelly directed this and filmed much of it out on location. The film is set in the late 1800’s and tells the story of New York matchmaker, Dolly Levi(Barbra Streisand).
Dolly ends up falling in love with the man she is currently trying to match with a suitable wife. That man is wealthy Yonkers store owner, Horace Vandergelder(Walter Matthau). Horace likes Dolly, but is annoyed by her interference and how she seldom takes life seriously. Horace takes life too seriously and is a very grumpy man.
Cornelius (Michael Crawford)and Barnaby(Danny Lockin)are two clerks who work for Horace. When Horace is away in New York, wooing the elegant Irene Molloy(Marianne McAndrew), Cornelius and Barnaby head to New York for a well earned small break.
Chaos and comedy ensue when Cornelius ends up falling for Irene, and a series of misunderstandings lead the two men to be mistaken for millionaires. Barnaby enjoys his own flourishing romance with Irene’s bubbly assistant, Minnie(E.J. Peaker).
This all leads to a dinner at the lavish Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, this is a dinner that you won’t forget in a hurry. This dinner spectacle is overseen by head waiter Rudy(David Hurst).
Irene Sharaff designed the films beautiful costumes and they are lovely to look at. My favourites are Dolly’s gold beaded evening gown, Dolly’s purple dress and feather hat she wears during the parade, Irene and Minnie’s blue and red evening gowns, and Dolly’s pale pink dress and hat she wears during the proposal scene.
My favourite songs are the following: Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Hello Dolly, Elegance and Before The Parade Passes By.
Louis Armstrong makes a fun cameo as the bandleader at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant who sings Hello Dolly with Barbra. That sequence is my favourite in the whole film, I love the song and the way Barbra and Louis perform that scene. It is also in this scene where we see Barbra in that unforgettable gold dress. Does anyone know what ever happened to that dress? It really is something to behold and I’d like to think someone out there has it safe.
I love Michael Crawford as the hapless Cornelius. His role is very comic, but also quite touching and he plays this superbly. We love his character and want him to get a happy ending and the respect of his boss. Michael does a lot of physical comedy in this and shows his skill at this as he would do later in the TV series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Walter Matthau is the unfortunate weak point of the film for me. He is just so stiff, dull, and seems quite out of place. I also never really buy the growing romance between his character and Dolly. I doubt someone as outgoing and fun loving as Dolly would want to be the partner of this guy. If we had some more scenes depicting their growing feelings for one another this might have been convincing.
Thankfully though as there is so much else going on in the film, the character of Horace doesn’t spoil things too much. Matthau was a brilliant actor and comic, but he feels like he was miscast in this role. He does convince as the domineering boss and uncle though. I also think he is funny during the dinner scene where he is on a date.
Everything about this film is big, from the vast crowd scenes, to the songs, to the visual spectacle(costumes, sets etc). It really is one of the last great musicals to come out of classic era Hollywood, and it was all overseen by the musical legend that was Mr. Gene Kelly. It’s like Kelly wanted the musical era to go out on a real high. I’d say he succeeded.
My favourite scenes are the following. Cornelius and Barnaby hiding in Irene’s hat shop when Dolly and Horace come calling. The entire Harmonia Gardens sequence. The park dance and the parade that follows. Dolly’s conversation with her dead husband. The Put On Your Sunday Clothes sequence. Horace’s hysterical dinner date with Ernestina Semple(Judy Knaiz). The opening sequence.
Never seen this before? What are you waiting for? Put on your Sunday clothes, buy a train ticket for New York, and stop off for a meal at the Harmonia Gardens with Dolly and her friends.
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