Musicals

Hello Dolly! (1969)

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; however in Hello Dolly! I really love her performance and think she was the perfect choice as actress and singer for the role.Streisand makes Dolly, outgoing, amused by the reactions to her matchmaking/interference by some people, and 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/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? 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.

Everything about this film is big, from the vast crowd scenes, to the songs, to the visual spectacle(costumes, sets etc). One of the last great musicals to come out of Hollywood, and overseen by a musical legend(Gene Kelly).

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.

Please leave your thoughts on the film below.

 

 

Romance

Charade (1963)

Charade is one of the most enjoyable films of the 1960’s. This film has everything. There’s two of the classic eras greatest stars at their best, thrills, romance, twists, deception, interesting and likeable characters, a cracking score and plenty of comedy.

Charade is directed by Stanley Donen, the man who brought us what is possibly the greatest musical, Singin’ In The Rain.)If you only know Donen from that film, then I think you will be in for quite a surprise with this one.

A perfect blend of romance, thrills, suspense and comedy, Charade has some dark moments too(two of the murders are pretty disturbing, despite not being overly graphic)and a suspenseful rooftop fight sequence. It also keeps you guessing until the last few minutes as to the identity/allegiance of two key characters.

Reggie Lambert(Audrey Hepburn)is in the process of divorcing her husband Charles. Reggie is dismayed to learn he has been killed and all their money is gone. Five men soon enter her life who all want something that Charles had in his possession when he died. They all claim it is worth a lot of money and it is vital that it is found. Reggie also learns quite a few things about her husband that she had previously not known.

George Kennedy, Ned Glass and James Coburn play Scobie, Tex and Gideion, three former friends of Charles, who are all convinced Reggie has what they are after. Walter Matthau is Bartholomew, an American agent who is also after the mysterious item claiming it is vital that the US government gets it before the other three men(who only want it for the money it will bring.)

Cary Grant is Peter Joshua, a mysterious man of many aliases who appears to be Reggie’s only friend and hope in all of this, but is he who he claims to be? Just who is telling the truth, and can Reggie trust any of them?Peter and Reggie find themselves falling in love which further complicates matters.

I wish Grant and Hepburn had made more films together after this, they make such a terrific screen team. Their romantic scenes are tender, funny and believable, they make you feel for their characters and look like they are having a great deal of fun. They also make their characters quite emotionally vulnerable at times, especially during scenes where their mutual attraction is developing.

This is one of my favourite films and is one I return to quite often. It cheers me up if I’m feeling down. The twists and turns are still effective even though I know what’s coming. There is some great location work too. Does anyone know the location of the ski resort?

My favourite scenes are the following. Peter taking a shower fully dressed, the scene on the boat between Peter and Reggie after she gets suspicious of him, the opening at the ski resort, the orange game at the club, Reggie and Bartholomew discussing her skill as a potential spy, Reggie trying to follow Peter and not get noticed and pretty much every scene featuring Cary and Audrey together.

Grant is at his most suave and funny here, and despite the age gap between him and Audrey you don’t really notice it as you do with Audrey and Gary Cooper(in Love In The Afternoon). Audrey gets a mix of comic and serious moments in this and excels at each, she really makes you feel for her character.

The rest of the cast are all superb, George Kennedy is extremely menacing, Glass is seemingly unthreatening, when his character is anything but, and Coburn is like a deadly snake waiting to strike. We get to see Matthau in a rare serious role and he has a brilliant serious expression during comic scenes.

Henry Mancini’s music is the perfect accompaniment to the action and romance on screen.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the park(with the market and Punch and Judy show)looks like the one featured in How To Steal A Million, has anyone noticed the similarity? Does anyone know the real location used?

Any other fans? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.