Before seeing this film, I believe my only other encounter with Hello, Dolly! was in WALL-E. For me, that’s not a bad thing. Meeting Hello, Dolly! out of context didn’t make me put any outside influences on WALL-E. However, as I watched Hello, Dolly! I did think of WALL-E a few times, and when I think of that lovable robot, I can’t help but smile. But it wasn’t just my association with WALL-E that helped me enjoy this film, most everything about it was just endearing and whimsical.
Now, I had my doubts. As I popped in the disc, I prayed I wouldn’t have another My Fair Lady reaction. It’s so much nicer to enjoy musicals. When that It Takes a Woman song started up, with all it’s oozing sexism, I was preparing myself for the worst. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Crawford started singing Put on Your Sunday Clothes and I was all smiles. That happy feeling only grew throughout the film.
The story goes that Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) is a well-known matchmaker who’s got a business card for everything. She’s been hired by Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) to find a suitable husband for his niece and a wife for himself. Thing is, Dolly has her heart set on Horace but doesn’t know how to tell him or how to get him out of a date in New York with the lovely miss Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew). When she hears Horace’s under-appreciated employees are sneaking off to New York, she tells Cornelius (Michael Crawford) and Barneby (Danny Lockin) to find Irene and Minney (E.J. Peaker) and take them out on the town. Dolly will handle the rest.
One of the things that makes this film so infectiously happy is all the wonderful color. It seems to be early summer, with all the trees a healthy green and the sky always a clear blue. That train to New York is so colorful and full of singing people, you’d think it was destined for Disney World. When the big song and dance scenes come together, all the costumes seem to make a pastel rainbow of frills, lace and feathers. The parade scene with all the floats, music, costumes and even a pig was just lovely. The Oscar for art and set direction was well deserved.
The scene with all the dancing waiters had to be one of my favorites. The simple gag of gluing fake food to a tray so the waiters could flip and twirl without spoiling dinner is wonderfully affective. The bit where a customer picks a fish from a tank, then a lobster, and then a duck as it flies off the tray with a waiter ready to shoot the selection in mid air put me in stitches. It is all so wonderfully absurd but done with such style and fantastic elegance that it’s simply charming and a great laugh. And when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the whole scene is topped off with a Louis Armstrong cameo.
Thing is, I do not understand why Dolly has her heart set on Horace. Sure, he’s rich, but he’s also stingy, grumpy, loud and impatient. Something in his voice reminded me of Mr. Magoo, perhaps the bulbous nose furthered that image. The way Matthau yells at Streisand throughout most of the film may not have been all an act. Rumor has it, that he detested Streisand, saying that she “had no more talent than a butterfly’s fart.” He even refused to kiss her at the end and instead a simple camera trick was used while he kept inches away.
Hello, Dolly! is a simply enjoyable film. I cannot deny that my toes were tapping to the beat. Everything is so fun and bright like a summer day. I’ll admit, it’s not my usual taste in film, but if it was the only video tape I could find in a post-apocalyptic world, it would be a great find and would keep my spirits up.
“Put on your Sunday clothes,there’s lots of world out there…”