Hello, Dolly


In 1890, all of New York City is excited because widowed, brassy Dolly Levi (Streisand) is in town (“Call On Dolly”). Dolly makes a living through matchmaking and numerous sidelines (“Just Leave Everything To Me”). She is currently seeking a wife for grumpy Horace Vandergelder (Matthau), the well-known “half-a-millionaire,” but it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself. Dolly travels to Yonkers, New York to visit Horace. Ambrose Kemper (Tune), a young artist, wants to marry Horace’s weepy niece Ermengarde (Ames), but Horace opposes this because Ambrose’s vocation does not guarantee a steady living. Horace, who is the owner of Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed, explains to his two clerks, Cornelius Hackl (Crawford) and Barnaby Tucker (Lockin), that he is going to get married because “It Takes a Woman” to cheerfully do all the household chores. He plans to travel to New York City to propose to Irene Molloy (McAndrew), who owns a hat shop there. Dolly arrives in Yonkers and sends Horace ahead to the city. Before leaving he tells Cornelius and Barnaby to mind the store.

Cornelius decides that he and Barnaby need to get out of Yonkers. Dolly knows two ladies in New York they should call on: Irene Molloy and her shop assistant, Minnie Fay (Peaker). She enters Ermengarde and Ambrose in the upcoming polka competition at the fancy Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in New York City, so Ambrose can demonstrate his ability to be a bread winner to Uncle Horace. Cornelius, Barnaby, Ambrose, Ermengarde and Dolly take the train to New York (“Put on Your Sunday Clothes”). Irene and Minnie open their hat shop for the afternoon. Irene does not love Horace Vandergelder and declares that she will wear an elaborate hat to impress a gentleman (“Ribbons Down My Back”). Cornelius and Barnaby arrive at the shop and pretend to be rich. Horace and Dolly arrive and Cornelius and Barnaby hide. Minnie screams when she finds Cornelius hiding in an armoire. Horace is about to open the armoire himself, but Dolly “searches” it and pronounces it empty. After hearing Cornelius sneeze, Horace storms out upon realizing there are men hiding in the shop, although he is unaware that they are his clerks.

Dolly arranges for Cornelius and Barnaby, who are still pretending to be rich, to take the ladies out to dinner to the Harmonia Gardens to make up for their humiliation. She teaches Cornelius and Barnaby how to dance since they always have dancing at such establishments (“Dancing”). The clerks and the ladies go to watch the Fourteenth Street Association Parade together. Alone, Dolly asks her first husband Ephram’s permission to marry Horace, requesting a sign. She resolves to move on with life (“Before the Parade Passes By”). After meeting an old friend, Gussie Granger (Judy Knaiz), on a float in the parade, Dolly catches up with the annoyed Vandergelder as he is marching in the parade. She tells him the heiress Ernestina Simple would be perfect for him and asks him to meet her at the Harmonia Gardens that evening.

Cornelius is determined to get a kiss before the night is over. Since the clerks have no money to hire a carriage, they tell the girls that walking to the restaurant shows that they’ve got “Elegance”. In a quiet flat, Dolly prepares for the evening (“Love Is Only Love”). At the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, Rudolph (David Hurst), the head waiter, whips his crew into shape for Dolly Levi’s return. Horace arrives to meet his date, who is really Dolly’s friend Gussie. As it turns out, she is not rich or elegant as Dolly implied, and she soon leaves after being bored by Horace, just as she and Dolly planned.

Cornelius, Barnaby and their dates arrive and are unaware that Horace is also at the restaurant. Dolly makes her triumphant return to the Harmonia Gardens and is greeted in style by the staff. (“Hello, Dolly!”) She sits in the now-empty seat at Horace’s table and proceeds to tell him that no matter what he says, she will not marry him. Fearful of being caught, Cornelius confesses to the ladies that he and Barnaby have no money, and Irene, who knew they were pretending all along, offers to pay for the meal. She then realizes that she left her handbag with all her money in it at home. The four try to sneak out during the polka contest, but Horace recognizes them and also spots Eremengarde and Ambrose. In the ensuing confrontation, Vandergelder fires Cornelius and Barnaby (although they claim to have already quit) and they are forced to flee as a riot breaks out. Cornelius professes his love for Irene (“It Only Takes A Moment”). Horace declares that he wouldn’t marry Dolly if she were the last woman in the world. Dolly angrily bids him farewell; while he’s bored and lonely, she’ll be living the high life (“So Long, Dearie”).

The next morning, back at the hay and feed store, Cornelius and Irene, Barnaby and Minnie, and Ambrose and Ermengarde each come to collect the money Vandergelder owes them. Chastened, he finally admits that he needs Dolly in his life, but she is unsure about the marriage until Ephram sends her a sign. Vandergelder spontaneously repeats a saying of Ephram’s: “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread about, encouraging young things to grow.” Cornelius becomes Horace’s business partner at the store, and Barnaby fills in Cornelius’ old position. Horace tells Dolly life would be dull without her, and she promises that she’ll “never go away again” (“Hello, Dolly!”).


Raise your hand if you’ve heard Louis Armstrong’s immortal rendition of the title song. If you haven’t, then there is probably a better chance that you saw and heard a couple parts of this musical in Wall-E. Those little snippets brought in a whole ne audience to this great musical. I’d say it brought me in as well, but I’ve been meaning to sit down and watch this forever and am just now getting around to doing so.

When I first chose to watch this film  this afternoon, it mainly in hopes of more Louis Armstrong exposure. While I was disappointed that he was only a cameo appearance near the end, two things appeased me. First, this film was made in 1969, 2 years before his death, so he was not at his healthiest (and it shows). Second, I was pleasantly surprised with how entertaining and enjoyable this film ended up being.

I know that Barbara Streisand is quite the massively talented singer and actress, but I had never seen any of her work, except for a few concert performance clips. Need I tell you that I was in awe the entire time she was on the screen. I can now see why there is such a big fuss over her.

Walter Matthau is perfect as a grumpy, aging, older gentleman. I suppose you could say this is the start of him being typecast as a grumpy old man, but don’t quote me on that. The part of Matthau’s performance that didn’t strike a chord with me, pardon the pun, is his singing. I realize that in films such as this, they don’t necessarily go for the best singers, but in a musical, I would think you would find a good singer for the part, or to at least sing over him.

A young Michael Crawford appears as Cornelius Hackl. What’s so significant about him?  Nothing, unless you consider the fact that he goes on to star on Broadway as the Phantom of the Opera. Seeing him here, you can see and hear the talent, but you would never guess.

The music in this film is great. Most of the songs are very catchy and will have you singing them in the shower. There are a few forgettable ones, but that’s to be expected.

*WHEW* As far as I know, there are no plans to remake this (for now). That’s the way it should be. This film is such an underrated masterpiece in the annuls of film musicals. It mixes music, comedy, and drama, and leave the audience thoroughly entertained. There is a tagline that reads something along the lines of films that attempt to be musicals will be measured in comparison to this one. Truer words were never spoken.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


One Response to “Hello, Dolly”

  1. […] he isn’t in Hello, Dolly! (which was directed by another idol of mine, Gene Kelly) very long, the few moments he is on screen […]

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