Hello, Dolly! (1969)

dollyBarbra Streisand took a lot of guff when she auditioned for “Hello, Dolly!” a classic musical set at the turn of the century. The Broadway role of Dolly Levi is traditionally played by an older woman, and Barbra was only twenty-seven at the time the film was made. However, she made the part her own, and I’d have to look a long way to find someone to disagree with me.

Dolly Levi is a lot of things – a dance instructor, a dispenser of advice, but most of all, she’s a matchmaker. Having spent most of her time since her husband Ephraim’s passing in the pursuit of bringing happiness to others, she has decided that it’s time to find happiness for herself – and she knows exactly who can help her with that. His name is Horace Vandergelder (played by Walter Matthau) and he owns a store in Yonkers, New York. He hired Dolly to help him find a new wife, and she’s eager to help him in this quest – especially when it means she’ll end up as the bride.

Going to Yonkers on the pretense of telling Horace she’s found just the perfect woman – a hat maker named Irene Malloy – Dolly then proceeds to turn his life entirely upside down. She convinces his two clerks, Barnaby and Cornelius, that they deserve a day off, and they close down shop, determined not to come home until they’ve kissed a girl. She encourages Vandergelt’s niece Ermengarde to enter a dance contest with her boyfriend, and then she sets off for New York herself to continue her plot from the other end. It’s quite involved, really – Cornelius and Barnaby have been encouraged to go to the hat shop, and she meets them there and tells them how to impress Irene Malloy and her assistant, Minnie. Skittering here, there and everywhere, she pulls everything into place until Horace realizes he can’t live without her.

Some of Broadway’s best music came from this show. “Before the Parade Passes By,” “It Takes a Woman,” and of course, the theme song, “Hello, Dolly,” which features a cameo by Louis Armstrong. Interestingly enough, the film was directed by Gene Kelly.

Some critics say this film is just an excuse to show off lavish costumes, and I say, “So what?” I loved this movie. I enjoyed the dance numbers, the simple storyline, and most of all, I loved Barbra. Her personality shines in this role, and her voice is velvet – pure, plushy velvet. Whether you’re looking for a comedy or a romance, you can’t go wrong with “Hello, Dolly.”

As a side note: Michael Crawford played Cornelius in this movie, to go on later and become Broadway’s most famous Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” by Webber.

This film was not rated.

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Barbra Streisand: the New York Nightingale

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