Title: Hello, Dolly!
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Director: Gene Kelly
Music: Jerry Herman
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.
J. Pat O’Malley
An expensive, large-scale and larger-than-life musical stars an odd pairing of Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, it is only Streisand’s second film after her surprising Oscar coup in big screen débutante FUNNY GIRL (1968), what’s more opportune than an out-and-out musical to exploit Streisand’s mellifluous voice and continue her winning streak as a new movie star was born! Also directed by the musical legendary Gene Kelly, it is one of the most lavish and enjoyable vaudeville ever! It is one of the top-grossing movie of 1969, but due to the decline of the cinema attendance, it was unsuccessful to earn back its pricy budget, hereinafter, the genre once was Hollywood’s predominant sustenance began to ebb until MOULIN ROUGE! (2001) and CHICAGO (2002) have bucked the trend in the noughties.
An opening tracking shot follows galloping hoofs, shining shoes from motley passengers, widow-cum-matchmaker Dolly Levi (Streisand) needs a splendid entrance to give away her name-card in the train station, she is on her way to conquest the half-a-millionaire bachelor Horace Vandergelder (Matthau) in Yonkers, so she assists the elopement of Horace’s niece Ermengarde (Ames) with the willowy artist Ambrose (Tune), sabotages Horace’s proposal intention with milliner Irene Molloy (McAndrew) by setting her up with Horace’s clerk Cornelius (Crawford) beforehand.
In the New York one-day excursion, it encompasses a park cruise, a grand parade and a sumptuous banquet with many delightful interludes, culminates in a boisterous roughhouse leaving Horace and Dolly negating their possibility of marriage and whatsoever.
Maybe it drags too long (a total running time of 2.5 hours) for all the fanfare of the stunningly orchestrated choreography and catchy music number renditions (Louis Armstrong has a charming cameo as the band leader in the hotel ), the banal and invariable happy-ending arrives hastily no matter how reluctant it seems to be.
Leaving aside the pompous man-seeking character settings of Dolly Levi (an overachieving rip-off of MARY POPPINS 1964), who is inexplicably a power house figure in the posh New York high society, and the sanctimonious quest of a sign from her late husband to let her go, Streisand is a composed singer radiant with her own flair, garrulously eloquent in her non-singing performances, but the lack of spark between her and Matthau is embarrassing. It is Crawford and McAndrew who vindicate the true romance in their subplot, which dissipates the stinking haughtiness all over the place.
In a word, HELLO, DOLLY! is a family-friendly, entertaining picture but curtailed by its own unwieldy flamboyance, but Gene Kelly and Jerry Herman should be hailed for their paramount knack in cooking such a superfluously dazzling banquet which would be much better with some sensible self-moderation.