When Disney’s Mary Poppins and Fox’s The Sound of Music ended up becoming the top-grossing films of their respective years in the mid-1960s, Hollywood studio moguls decided that big budgeted musical films produced for family audiences were a sure-fire way to box-office gold. Unfortunately for them, the succession of movie musicals produced in the period of the late 1960s occurred at a time when musical tastes especially among younger viewers were markedly veering away from a traditional Broadway sound. Hello, Dolly!, released in 1969, was one of the last of the mega-budgeted lush musicals produced during this period. With a popular new star and a well-known stage property, it did good business (unlike Fox’s previous musical entertainments Doctor Dolittle and Star! which were both box-office disappointments), but receipts weren’t enough to push the movie into profitability during its initial release. The era of the roadshow musical was coming to an end.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 2 Hr. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/02/2013
Matchmaking widow Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) has her cap set for wealthy Yonkers merchant Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau), but in order to claim him for herself, she must find a way to divert his attention away from unmarried milliner Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew). To do that, she enlists his chief clerk Cornelius Hackl (Michael Crawford) to visit New York and meet Miss Malloy himself. But Cornelius doesn’t have permission from his boss to leave the store, and he and fellow clerk Barnaby Tucker (Danny Lockin) must make up their minds to ignore their boss’ wishes in order to have a day of adventure in New York City.
The Production Rating: 4/5
After writing sterling adaptations of Broadway musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music which did marvelously creative things with song placement and scene alterations to make them more suitable for the movies, writer/producer Ernest Lehman has turned in a disappointingly flat screen adaptation for Dolly! Sure, a couple of songs have been eliminated or replaced (“Motherhood” and parts of “I Put My Hand In” which turns into the jauntier “Just Leave Everything to Me”), and a weak scene in a courtroom now takes place more felicitously in a park (composer Jerry Herman’s exquisite “It Only Takes a Moment”). But the movie under director Gene Kelly’s guiding hand always seems to keep the proscenium in mind and doesn’t have the same kind of opened-up, fresh take on the material that Lehman’s other musicals had. Choreographer Michael Kidd’s acrobatic dancing work, wonderfully recalled in such cinematic classics as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Guys and Dolls, gets full marks in the production numbers “Dancing” and the “Waiters’ Gallop” which precedes the all-stops-out title song, and the combination of Kidd’s staging, Kelly’s directing, and their star’s exciting vocalizing gives new sheen and verve to “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” the title song, and “So Long Dearie.”
But Hello, Dolly! must be the most un-felicitously cast musical of the 1960s. When the decision was made to hire the (then) twenty-six-year old Barbra Streisand as the middle-aged widow Dolly Levi, the entire script needed to be rewritten with all references to her long, happy marriage and extended period of lonely widowhood altered or rethought. Streisand sings the score brilliantly and puts everything she knows about delivering comic lines with Mae West-like inflections to good use in trying to make the comedy work. But with Streisand cast as Dolly, a different notion for Horace should have been paramount in the studio’s thinking. Instead of the middle-aged and plain Walter Matthau (who would be dream casting for a Horace opposite original stage star Carol Channing or Betty Grable or any number of other age-appropriate stars of that era), why didn’t the producer think younger, say, Steve McQueen or even the more musically adept (if older) Dick Van Dyke? Instead, we have a Dolly and a Horace appropriate to two different variations of the story but which don’t mesh at all well in the same film.
And casting problems don’t end with the two leads. Michael Crawford, today a well-respected musical theater leading man with a resonant baritenor voice, plays the gawky, inexperienced Cornelius with the cartoon-like goofiness he was known for at that period of his career, but his singing voice, untrained and chirpy then, does none of Cornelius’ musical material any favors (the aforementioned “It Only Takes a Moment” is a cruel victim of his shaky vocal timbre). Marianne McAndrew playing Irene Molloy doesn’t have the slightest bit of chemistry with Crawford’s Cornelius and doesn’t seem a suitable physical match for him either. She’s dubbed in the film by two singers, Melissa Stafford in solos and Gilda Maiken in “Elegance,” but these weren’t the best choices either having higher vocal registers than McAndrew's speaking voice (surprising given that associate producer Roger Edens who made very wise selections for dubbers during his MGM/Arthur Freed years was involved). Frankly, the two most ideally cast and performed roles are third leads Danny Lockin and E.J. Peaker as the awkward Barnaby and the ditzy Minnie Faye. Tommy Tune, just coming into his own as a musical theater performer at that time, towers over all as Ambrose Kemper, suitor of Vandergelder’s niece.
And yet with all these problems, the film is still marvelously entertaining. Streisand sells every one of her numbers (and an extra song was added for her: “Love Is Only Love” which Herman had discarded from the score of Mame), and the big production numbers all work (when Louis Armstrong turns around and begins singing a portion of “Hello, Dolly” while Streisand’s Dolly scat-sings in counterpoint, you’ll be in musical comedy heaven). Hello, Dolly! is one of those films in which the sum of its parts is far greater than its individual elements.
The film’s Todd-AO 2.20:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The image quality throughout is astonishingly detailed and rich. You’ll see patterns in the beading of Streisand’s gold gown that you likely have never before noticed, and some water dripping off a latticed window comes into focus for the first time in my experience. Color is super rich and saturated but always controlled so that the waiters’ red jackets and the red carpeting at the Harmonia Gardens don’t bloom. Flesh tones are entirely natural throughout. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is most effective across the front soundstage where the film’s lush orchestrations can be heard quite wonderfully. There isn’t much going on in the rear surrounds though there is some spillover there most notably in the “Before the Parade Passes By” sequence. Dialogue is always clear and well presented in the center channel even when there is some noticeable ADR present.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Directing Dolly: Gene Kelly Remembered (10:39, HD): Gene Kelly’s widow Patricia speaks on Kelly’s recollections to her about making the movie using behind-the-scenes imagery from the below-mentioned featurette to illustrate her points.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
1969 Featurette (6:53, HD): This includes some behind-the-scenes shots of the movie during production focusing specifically on “Before the Parade Passes By” but with brief clips from “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Dancing.”
Theatrical Trailers (4:14, HD; 4:17, SD): the American trailer and the Spanish language trailer are presented.
Hello, Dolly! is an entertaining movie musical. Its flaws and missteps don’t prevent it from offering classy entertainment in the kind of film that simply isn’t made any more. The new Blu-ray release offers beautiful video quality and more than acceptable audio though one regrets that the Fox vaults weren’t plumbed for more bonus material relating to this famous, Oscar-winning movie musical.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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