Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hello Dolly (1969) Gene Kelly Blogathon Entry.

Thanks for stopping by for my not so serious review of Hello Dolly. My contribution to the Gene Kelly Blogathon that is running this week.

Hello Dolly (1969)

Barbara Streisand as Dolly Levi
Walter Mattau as Horace Vandergelder
Michael Crawford as  Cornelius Hackl
Marianne McAndrew as Irene Molloy
Danny Lockin as Barnaby Tucker
E.J. Peaker as Minnie Fay
Tommy Tune as Ambrose Kemper
Louis Armstrong as Orchestra Leader

Gene Kelly

*Fair warning. If Hello Dolly is your favorite film or you cry when anyone doesn't love musicals then this review is probably not going to make you feel happy and wanting to be best friends with me going forward. 

 We open to a bustling street that is eerily quiet. Thank you Hello Dolly for easing me into the music. It would just be too overwhelming to have kids playing with their hoops and sticks along with a fab musical score right out of the gate.

 They don't waste any time in presenting their star.  Judging by that hat I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's Phyllis Diller. (RIP you wonderful gal. you!)

 Nope! It's Bab's and I know she's going to sing.  Lay it on me!

 She's doing that annoying sing talking that I don't like. But those talons and that hair make it all worth it. I can already tell she's going to be a real pain in the butt.  Get that paycheck girl!

 She's already trying to charm a gaggle of pick pockets. 

And break this guys back with her luggage of over ruffled garments.  Soooo passive aggressive. 

 And we're insulting pregnant ladies. (I hope all of the little people are hiding somewhere!) She's on a tear. So if you sing your insults it's okay?

Over at Mr. Vanderhelder's Feed Store/Intimidation Factory a young man is begging to marry his daughter. 

  Obviously a tyrant.  That's the only explanation for poppin the collar.

The baby Vanderhelder has the sads but I'm so confused that I don't know if she wants to marry Lanky Legs or she's happy she can't.  (I promise to get back to you on that!)

 You know things are bad at Vanderhelders when the staff hangs out in the cellar. 

Vanderhelder is headed to Brooklyn to see his lady friend and he's leaving Barnaby and Cornelius in charge of things. (I'm sure nothing will go wrong.) And now they're all singing and trying to dance in unison with the minimum wagers in the background. 

You knew Dolly was gonna show up.  Heaven forbid anyone else gets through a chorus or a dance number without her. You know what's worse than Walter Matthau trying to sing?  Being joined by Babs. (Yeah. I said it!)

Two nags. I would go with the white one and get the heck out of dodge. 

Dolly is scaring me and she just wont leave.  Sooo abrasive. Put your talons away lady.

 Annnnd.. She's now in the buggy.

He informs her that he's headed for Brooklyn and I can't tell if she's happy or trying discourage it.  It's that hair. So distracting!

She's now wearing gloves. I hope she's going to murder Barnaby and Cornelius then make a petticoat out of their skin. 

Time to snoop around out back where Lanky Legs is sneaking in to a window. The gravel isn't even cold in the drive and these people are all over the place with their mischief. 

There's no keeping Dolly out of your business so here she is. all feathered up and I just know she's going to start singing again. 

Back downstairs. Team Genius is plotting an escape, 

Of course nothing escapes Dolly! With very little effort she talks these boys into leaving the store and heading for Brooklyn. Just don't take the train if you want leg room on your way.

Team Genius is blowing up cans from the cellar. I can't imagine why Walter would be nervous about leaving these two in charge of his business. Who's idea was it to blow up a few cans of food? Was that for the men who were dragged to see this disaster?

 This is exactly why Yonkers doesn't get that many tourists. They harass you with dance numbers the minute you step off of the train. 

I hope Gene Kelly gave them all hazard pay.  Dancing with parasols is dangerous.

 And now they've brought in those perky von Trapp kids to punish me!

 Overloaded wagons with singers and parasols because Kelly loves testing the limits.

 And the overload continues! This looks more like the train out of Dubai than the one out of Yonkers.  I'm starting to get nervous.  Those dresses alone must weight 100 lbs each.

At first glance I'm not sure which one is the prettier one here and Walter's suitor. But a sympathy card is in order either way.  The one on the left looks like Little Bow Peep after a night out at a Scottish Pub.

  Peep is so excited at the prospect of marriage to a wealthy man that she's going to burn the dress shop down.  But where will Brooklyn find pretty things?

 Team Genius has somehow made their way to Brooklyn to visit Peep. (I'm sure Dolly isn't far behind!) She's never met a conversation that she didn't feel she had to be apart of in her own mind,.

 Yeah... We can still see you.

 She always acts so appalled and surprised. I guess we're even since yards and yards of purple clash with your red bouffant hair.

 Team Genius is hiding since they're supposed to be back in Yonkers guarding the feed store. I hope the minimum wagers have run off and joined another dance troop. That would serve them right.

The gig is up and Walter knows there are men hiding in closets and under tables.  He just doesn't know it's Team Genius. He's also confused as to why the ladies think they are wealthy. I don't know why they think that but I'm going with the fact that they aren't in an asylum somewhere.

 I honestly have no idea what's really going on here. Maybe they'll break out into song so I can catch up.  Does Hello Dolly have cliff notes somewhere?

Ohh! Team Genius is learning to dance now. I certainly see why Gene Kelly was asked to direct this extravaganza of fun.  Although I would love to see what Stanley Kubrick would do here. (On Team Melted Tulle!)

 Team Genius is good enough for group dance after their lesson.  In case you're wondering. Group Dance is like All Skate.  Everybody dances.

 Ooops. Hide your eyes kids.  IT'S A PUBLIC PARK!  Knock it off!

 Lanky Legs wants to join in so badly here and he does. Reading is overrated kids! Musicals are just so darn cheery and confusing but I'm going to ride this out for the sake of Gene.

 I knew Peep didn't entirely trust Barnaby! Or is that Cornelius? Anyway. she left her scarf on a bush. Rooting for a good kidnapping here. Anyone else?

Dolly isn't content until she drags everyone else in. I know musicals are cheerful and fun but it's risky to drag the copper away from his patrol.  (Don't judge me! I'm just looking out for Peep.)

Dolly is clearly the go to girl for impromptu park dancing while the boys in extra large hats look on in confusion.  It's not your every day park outing kids. Not with Dolly Levi around.

 She's just like Mary Poppins but without the carpet bag and Dick Van Dyke.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any more fun. we've got a parade.  A parade with fat pigs and all of Brooklyn waving at pigs.

 Waaallltter is angry marching! He's no Doug Fairbanks but I appreciate the effort here.

Dolly gets all distracted momentarily by a squealing pig then she's back to talk singing and setting up Waaallltter! Meanwhile the Meat Packers Union on 14th street is cheering this entire debacle on.

Please stab Bab's. Walter. Trust me. It's the only way she'll stop.

He's so confused by her sing talking and the fact that she keeps holding up the parade that he gives in to a blind date.  I have no idea what's going on and I'm a bit sad that he dumped Peeps over two guys hiding in her boutique closet.

Dolly: "Do these tubas make me look fat?"  No! But the 50 lbs of purple lace does.

Team Genius was talked in to a double date with Peeps and Not Peeps. It was all Dolly's doing. I don't even know what the motives are and I'm fine with that.  I'm just content knowing that there will be singing and creative dance.

Peeps and Not Peeps have shown up for their fancy date.  I wasn't aware that Brooklyn was so populated with the naive and hungry.

If their boutique business is down it's because they're a walking advertisement for the overly fluffed and unnecessary .

After a bit of double talk and Team Genius getting out of going inside a fancy restaurant we get to sit through another sing and dance scene. Why torture the innocent people who have paid a lot for a nice quiet meal?

Bab's has her hair down and is all ready for a song before bed but she still has a giant bouffant.  How does that even happen?

 We finally get inside the restaurant brought to you by every over sized prop in the 20th Century Fox prop department. Nothing says expensive like ginormous everything!

 The soon to be betrothed are there. If this is her dinner dress I cant wait to see the wedding gown.

 It's date night for everyone! That looks like a dancing outfit to me so I've already prepared myself for a few spins over some Bananas Foster.

 Where is all of this fabric coming from? Why New York. why?  And why didn't she bring her squealing parade pig? I wanted to see it's face when they brought out the bacon wrapped asparagus.

 That's not a happy face! I hope he strangles Dolly.

 We go to the kitchen where the wait staff look like they're ready for a fox hunt. I'm not hating on it! If you can get away with it then it's always a plus to dress for your leisure activities while slinging foie gras.

 Regardless of the need for props while doing fancy dancing I would not want to eat a chicken that stays on the platter after a few spins. I don't care if a restaurant has fancy fountains. I just don't trust it.

 I'm beginning the think Gene Kelly likes his dance numbers. Even a spilled platter inspires a choreographed piece.

 Peeps and Not Peeps are still oblivious to the fact that Team Genius has no money. I'm feeling a bit bad for Team Genius here.  An entire pheasant must cost a fortune and don't even get me started on food that arrives ablaze.

 While the ladies admire their good fortune in finding these two they decide it's time to bail.

I know you're all thinking that a scene with spinning plates and fire would be saved for the finale. being that it's THAT special.  No no no. We get it right in the middle.  That Kelly! I can't wait for the finale.  I mean I'm really ready for the finale.

Barnaby or Cornelius has wandered back in to the private dining room of naivety and desperation. I can't wait to see how he gets out of this but I'm sure it will involve a song or two and a few pratfalls.

 Clearly uncomfortable without her float for moral support. this one is bailing on her free meal. In all fairness I just don't think she wants to admit that she's inhibited from raising her fork to her mouth due to the ruffle harness.

 Upon leaving. our blind date lets Dolly know it's safe to go inside. If only Bela Lugosi was inside that carriage planning his next murder.

 The restaurant is all a buzz with Dolly's arrival.  They know they're going to have to do a couple more dance numbers before clocking out.

 Ooohhh. Bab's looks so beautiful here.  You just know James Brolin saw this scene and knew she was the one. How could he not?

 They're all putting on a brave face but we know they're all scared. That gown looks expensive.

 Dolly sashays down the stairs. If you haven't seen the film just picture a cross between Mae West and Carol Channing.

 This is why Babs can tease the public with retirement. out of retirement. being coy about it and then making films like The Main Event but still holds on to her fan base.  We love you Dolly Levi! *snort

 These have to be the hardest working waiters on the East coast.

AWWW I love Louie.  The only one I know that can outshine Babs.  Thank you for giving me one thing. Gene Kelly.

 Waalllter is coerced into sitting down for another meal.

I've got to give it to Babs. She can talk non stop while scarfing down an entire turkey. Although it is a bit rude to the costume department that worked for weeks to get her in to that beaded gown.

Just when I thought things couldn't get anymore exciting the maitre d makes an announcement.  Please. please let it be Bela Lugosi!

 Dang! It's just a dance contest. That was going to be my second guess.

 It's interrupted by a melee. I'm still on Team Waaaalter even though I have no idea about what's going on.

 Waaalllter  runs into Team Genius and Peep. I'm confused too Walter but hang in there.

 There's singing going on in the park.

 and on the sidewalks of Brooklyn.

 Babs. can dance backwards. sing. talk and woo Waaalter all while wearing 200 lbs of beads. She really was made to play Dolly. But please spare us anymore closeups Gene.

 Stay strong Walter!

 We're back in Yonkers and either a cross dresser has taken over for Barnaby or Bab's is hiding in that trunk.

 Everyone shows up to let Walter know that Dolly is backing them in opening up their own feed store right across the street. Whaaa..? This entire movie was about getting the monopoly on grain?

 There's not enough gauze or Vaseline in the world...

 Oh no! She's going to sing again isn't she?

 Walter has succumbed to her charms and now they're engaged. I thought this was about feed and lying to people to get free food?

 The park is still alive with music as Barnaby or Cornelius woos Peep.

 Poor Walter!  He's doomed.

I knew this town they call Yonkers had to be some magical island.  Nobody is that happy and willing to dance over EVERYTHING!

Hello Dolly trivia:

The gold beaded gown that Streisand wears during the Harmonia Gardens scenes weighed over 40 pounds.  The train was so long and heavy that it kept getting tripped on so it was removed once she came down the stairs.

The set for the Harmonia Gardens filled an entire sound stage at Fox Studios and occupied three levels: a dance floor, a main section that surrounded the dance floor and an upper mezzanine. The Harmonia Gardens sequence took an entire month to shoot.

During filming, Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau fought bitterly. He disliked her so intensely that he refused to be around her except when required to do so by the script. He is famously quoted as telling Barbra that she "had no more talent than a butterfly's fart".

On a break from filming, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford visited horse races nearby and saw a horse named Hello Dolly. Matthau refused to place a bet on it because it reminded him of Barbra Streisand, whom he detested. Crawford placed a bet on the horse. It won the race and Matthau would not speak to Crawford for the rest of the shoot unless absolutely necessary.

The film grew out of a massive attempt by Twentieth Century-Fox to duplicate its earlier, unprecedented success with The Sound of Music by producing three expensive, large-scale musicals over a period of three years, Doctor Dolittle and Star! being the others. Unfortunately, film attendance as a whole was down and all three films' box-office performance reflected this. All were released amid massive pre-release publicity and all lost equally massive amounts of money for the studio (though "Dolly" was in the box office top 5 for the year of its release). The result was that several top studio executives lost their jobs, and the studio itself went into such dire financial straits that it only produced one picture for the entire calendar year of 1970. In truth, Fox would never recoup its losses until a highly successful theatrical reissue of "The Sound of Music" in early 1973.

Hello Dolly was the fifth-highest grossing film of 1969. With a production budget of $25.000.000.

 The set for the Harmonia Gardens filled an entire sound stage at Fox Studios and occupied three levels: a dance floor, a main section that surrounded the dance floor and an upper mezzanine. The Harmonia Gardens sequence took an entire month to shoot.

Ann Margret made a screen test for the role of Irene Molloy.

Also considered for the role of Dolly was Elizabeth Taylor, who was passed on because she couldn't sing. Doris Day and Shirley MacLaine (who played Irene Molloy in the non-musical predecessor The Matchmaker (1958)) were both briefly considered as well. Carol Channing was never considered for the role because it was felt, despite her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, that she could not carry a film of this stature despite being one of Broadway's top leading ladies. Channing's "Millie" co-star, Julie Andrews, ironically turned the role of Dolly down.

When director George Roy Hill heard about the turn-of-the-century New York set constructed for the film, he wanted to use the set to film a brief sequence in which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Etta Place visit the Big Apple. The producers were proprietary about the set, and didn't want it to appear in another movie. 20th Century Fox, however, allowed Hill to take still photographs of his stars Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katharine Ross on the set, surrounded by the extras (who appear in the old-time, tinted photos as city crowds) which were used in a montage sequence that served as a transition between the U.S. West and Bolivia sections of the movie.

Many of the massive fake buildings constructed on the outdoor back-lot sets in California to stand-in for turn-of-the-century New York City concealed working oil wells.

The large fountain in the Harmonia Gardens set was reused in The Towering Inferno. It can be seen in the top floor restaurant. It gets knocked over by the water and kills the bartender played by Gregory Sierra.

Louis Armstrong was only on set for a half-day and did his shots in one take.

The film was nominated for seven Oscars. winning three for Best Art Direction-Best Set Decoration. Best Musical Score and Best Sound.  It was nominated for Best Picture but lost out to Midnight Cowboy.

This was the second time that Gene Kelly would get to direct a film starring Walter Matthau having directed A Guide for the Married Man in 1967.

Kelly had wanted to direct for years while under contract at MGM but it wasn't until he returned to Fox Studios in the 1960's and after he started producing/directing Broadway plays that he was given the opportunity. Sadly. these high budget musicals where on their way out by then. making way for Dramas. Rom Com's and Suspense/Thrillers. 

I hope you enjoyed this not so serious review of Hello Dolly. It was a lot of fun to reminisce about one of Kelly's most memorable films behind the scenes. in the directors chair.

Don't forget to check out all of the wonderful entries in the Gene Kelly Blogathon.  You can find a list of them HERE. I'm off to read them myself.

Have a great weekend everyone!