Some days, you just need to step back into some nostalgia when things aren’t going so well, and after receiving some disturbing news, which might not be so disturbing, after all, you need to kick back with an old movie. This was in our collection, and hadn’t made it to Musings as of yet, so we thought we’d give it a try.
This is a tale of Americana in the 1890s, not in the Wild West, but in New York City and an upstate Hudson River town, Yonkers. Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) is the ultimate yenta, and she can arrange just about everything from dates and marriages to dance lessons, but as she is widowed, she has a bit more freedom than single or married women do, and she uses this to her advantage. She is also getting a bit lonely and has an itch to find a new husband. This begins her campaign to snag a “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” from Yonkers, Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau).
Horace has problems of his own. He has a niece, Ermengarde (Joyce Ames) that is dead set on marrying artist, Ambrose Kemper (Tommy Tune), which he is completely against. His shop clerks, Cornelius Hackl (Michael Crawford) and Barnaby Tucker (Danny Lockin), are bumbling idiots, and least from his P.O.V. He has called on Dolly for two reasons. He is looking to make a match with milliner, Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew), and get Ermengarde out of Yonkers to cool down the relationship between her and Ambrose. Dolly shows up just in time to throw about fifty monkey wrenches on Horace’s plans, after Horace has left his store. She hears the clerks potting an escape to NYC, she sets things up so they will meet with Irene Malloy and her assistant, Minnie Fay (E.J. Peaker). Also, she catches Ambrose and Ermengarde about to escape as well. She sets them up to enter a dance contest at Harmonia Gardens, a very glamourous and elaborate restaurant on 14th street. Of course, places like we see in this movie really only exist in two places, theme parks and on matte paintings used in the set designs of the day. This makes us appreciate production designers so much more. No wonder our game critic, Will, is looking to become one.
The bulk of this story is in a very clean and bright NYC of the 1890s, with all the art nouveau trappings of the time just about everywhere. There are huge sets, bright colours, lots of dancing, and much to Cleave’s delight, 1960s coloured tights and hiked skirts. All of this is an elaborate scheme to get Dolly into Horace’s good graces without having to compromise her freedom. So many people are in on it, and this crafty redhead has a way of charming them so much, they never knew they were in on the plan. Where are all the crafty yentas when we really need them?
This was one of the last of the epic musicals set in the steampunk era that were so popular during the 60s, and with the new trend and interest in the late 19th century in today’s pop culture, we might see them come back, but in a darker, more sophisticated manner. Hello, Dolly! is a an elegant bit of fluff, and perfect for escaping, as was the case for the movies of the time. With the era of extreme civil unrest, war protests, different factions vying for their basic rights, such movies were needed to help us get away from the headlines.
Another aspect of Hello, Dolly! I did not catch on to until I watched it this time around as the innuendo in the dialogue that seemed to slip by before. This movie is riddled with sexy snippets here and there. So, listen and watch carefully to the songs and more, especially Dolly’s lines. No wonder this woman was so crafty!
If you can slip down to the library, look for this DVD to check out, or pass $5 to the checkout at Wal-Mart, because seeing it without the commercial breaks is worth the time, and with this new perspective, it will be like watching it new all over again, and if you don’t want this much brightness and song and dance, you can watch snippets in the Pixar film, WALL-E.
I give this film a Musing review of