Hello, Dolly!

Hello, Dolly!

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More infamous for bringing Fox financially to its knees than for being the last major musical directed by Gene Kelly, Hello, Dolly! is one big-assed bull in a china shop. The film cost nearly as much to produce as Cleopatra and made far less at the box office, thus earning the film its reputation as one of Hollywood’s foremost turkeys. The role of Dolly Levi, made immortal on Broadway by Carol Channing, was given to Barbara Streisand in one of the most glaring cases of flagrant miscasting. But that’s all in the past. How does Hello, Dolly!, an update of The Matchmaker, look today? In a word: campy. Kelly, as a dancer and an actor, was never one to ask “Is this a bit over the top?” The choreography, the performances, the set decoration, the dialogue, everything about Hello, Dolly! is played directly to the back row of the theater, which would be fine on the stage, but on anamorphic widescreen close-ups tends to be more frightening than mirthful (thankfully, home viewing cuts down a bit on the mugging factor). As the youthful dancer-in-training Barnaby Tucker, Danny Lockin looks more like a gymnast doing a floor routine. Still, other aspects of Hello, Dolly! read a lot better with age. La Streisand’s rapid-fire delivery recalls such chatter-heavy early talkies as His Girl Friday. The unabated feel-good attitude and emphasis on underhanded plottiness makes the film not that far removed from Singin’ in the Rain. The film’s centerpiece scene in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant builds up to a satisfyingly complex conglomeration of multiple story threads. And Jerry Herman’s song score is peppered with flat-out great showtunes like “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” and the title song. It’s no The Band Wagon, but neither is it Paint Your Wagon.

20th Century Fox
148 min
Gene Kelly
Ernest Lehman
Barbara Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew, Danny Lockin, E.J. Peaker, Tommy Tune, Louie Armstrong

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