One of Barbra Streisand's most beloved performances is that of the indomitable Dolly Levi in this hugely popular musical that received a Best Picture ACADEMY AWARDr Nomination in 1969. It's turn-of-the-century Yonkers, New York, where an ambitious young widow with a penchant for matchmaking (Streisand) has an idea for the perfect match --- tight-fisted, local merchant Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) and...herself! As she tries to win his heart, we're treated to one of the most musically entertaining, hilariously underhanded plots in film history. Directed by Gene Kelly, this winner of three OSCARSr for Sound, Adaptation Score and Art Direction is among the world's most cherished films.
“Any man who goes to a big city deserves what happens to him.”
1968 and 1969 were lucrative, star-making years for Barbra Streisand. Hot off her Oscar winning performance in William Wyler’s ‘Funny Girl,’ Barbra brings madding meddling matchmaker Dolly Levi to glorious life in Gene Kelly’s adaptation of the sensational stage show ‘Hello, Dolly!’. Co-starring Walter Matthau (Charade), Michael Crawford (The Phantom of the Opera), and featuring dance choreography by Michael Kidd - ‘Hello, Dolly!’ was designed upon its release to be 20th Century Fox’s next ‘Sound of Music.’ Unfortunately lukewarm reviews amounted to mild box office returns that put the studio in a financial hard spot that effectively killed any future plans of producing big spectacle musicals ever again.
While its initial reception was less than exceptional, Dolly’s life since release has been phenomenal. In the following 46 years, the infectiously entertaining and beautifully shot ‘Hello, Dolly!’ has earned its place as an example of the best Hollywood has to offer. Shot on 65mm by Harry Stradling Sr., every frame is alive with bright, beautiful song and dance spectacle. Punchy musical numbers, perfectly timed comedic beats, and the incredible cast make this pure entertainment.
Successful, hard working businessman Horace Vandergelder (Matthau) has designs to settle down and let a wife take care of him. In order to find the perfect woman that is equal to the tasks of cleaning up after him and answering to his every need, he’s hired famed marriage broker Dolly Levi (Streisand). Little does he know, Miss Levi has designs of her own to win him for herself! What follows is a hilarious parade of subterfuge and hijinks as Dolly Levi unfurls her plans bringing poor hapless Cornelius (Crawford), his pal Barnaby (Danny Lockin), and lady’s haberdashery owner Miss Molloy (Marianne McAndrew) into the fold. While she may ultimately be acting for herself, Dolly takes extra care to ensure that everyone she crosses paths with ends up far happier and fulfilled than when she met them.
True to typical spectacle Hollywood films of the era, this is an unchallenging film. But that’s the point. In line with its Broadway show origins, this is pure and simple fun. This is the kind of movie where you very quickly settle into the groove, rest your feet on the coffee table, and let the fun happen. There is no shame in having a smile on your face and bobbing your head along to the catchy tunes. It’s going to happen.
It’s amazing to learn that originally Gene Kelly didn’t want the job of directing the film, but ‘Dolly’ finds it’s splendor and firm footing because of his assured direction and careful staging. Any director that can manage over 12,000 extras for a single song number deserves admiration and respect. It’s also fantastic knowing this is the film that made Broadway legend Michael Crawford, a name synonymous with ‘The Phantom of the Opera.” If it wasn’t for Kelly’s intervention, Crawford’s actual singing voice would never have been heard as the producers aimed to dub him over. So much of this film hinges on Gene Kelly's work behind the camera that it is a true shame his efforts as a director aren’t widely lauded.
Everyone on screen, from the principal players to the talented background dancers are giving it their all. If you’re already a fan or have never seen it, you owe it to yourself to give ‘Dolly’ your complete attention.
Wow. There just really isn’t any other word for it. This beautifully shot film is given the grand treatment it justly deserves. The 2.35:1 framing simply sparkles in this fresh 4k scan. Clearly this film has enjoyed a full restoration effort as there isn’t a single bit of dust, errant scratch, or stray fleck to mar the print. Banding? Didn’t see any. Grain is visible but doesn’t dominate the image. The colors are rich and never overly saturated and flesh tones are spot on. Blacks and shadows breathe life into every scene and provide a wonderful sense of depth. From every bead on Dolly’s gold dress, to her feather boas, to the bricks in the street - detail is spectacular. If only every catalog title were given this same level of treatment.
Sporting a robust lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ does not disappoint. As a strong punchy musical, the voices, music and sound effects tend to run on the high end but are given plenty of room to breathe, nicely offering clean and clear separation that doesn’t overpower or blow out the mix.
With how the film was shot, with the camera constantly pulling back and the cast persistently coming at the screen, the directionality of the mix doesn’t move far from the primary front channels. Even during the big numbers where there is action happening on all sides, the imaging never really moves past those stereo channels except to provide a fleeting aurora to the left or right. It’s hard to call this a “5.1” mix. It’s definitely a beautiful sounding audio track to be sure, but it’s more akin to a Lossless 2.0 Stereo Mix with only slight, barely noticeable “surround enhancement.”
Also features Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0, and French Dolby Digital 4.0 tracks
Considering the incredible picture and fine audio track, there was little room left on the disc for bonus features. Sadly. It would have been amazing for Fox to include a second disc with some making of or cast interviews, but what’s here isn’t terrible - it just leaves you wanting more. A lot more.
Directing Dolly: Gene Kelly Remembered (HD 10:39) - This brief feature is an informative interview with Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly. Mrs. Kelly offers up a nice bounty of behind the scenes and production tidbits about Dolly. What’s here is informative and interesting, but also infuriating because it feels like there could be so much more out there for audiences to enjoy and learn about.
1969 Featurette (HD 6:53) - This restored bit of behind the scenes film of the “Before the Parade Passes By” song number is less of a “Featurette” than an extended theatrical preview of footage someone shot on set. It gives you an idea of the scale and the complexity of the shoot, but little else. There are no interviews with cast or crew, and most of the people on screen look as though they were unaware they were being filmed.
I have to give my wife credit for introducing me to this one. I’m not a big fan of musicals. I enjoy very few of them, but I am grateful to count ‘Hello, Dolly!’ among my favorites. The movie is pure fun from start to finish. In addition to being top-tier entertainment, 20th Century Fox did a fine job giving this film an incredible, eye-opening picture restoration with a fairly solid but not completely impressive audio mix. Sadly their efforts didn’t extend towards extra features in any meaningful way. If you’re a fan of the film it’s an easy recommend, if you’ve never seen it, give it a watch.