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Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau star in the charming tale of Dolly Levi, a New York matchmaker who falls in love with a wealthy bachelor from Yonkers named Horace.
For more about Hello, Dolly! and the Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray release, see Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on April 6, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Gene Kelly
Writers: Ernest Lehman, Michael Stewart (I), Thornton Wilder
Starring: Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew, Fritz Feld, J. Pat O'Malley
» See full cast & crew
Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray Review
"Before the parade passes by, before it all moves on..."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, April 6, 2013
Hello Dolly! is often referred to as the "last great Hollywood musical," but this obviously isn't true in any literal sense. Not anymore, anyway. For one, the big-budget musical has seen a small resurgence in the past decade or so thanks to Baz Luhrmann's glittery re-appropriation of the form and recent box-office successes like Les Misérables. And then there's the issue of how to define great. If we mean "a huge spectacle," then yes, Hello Dolly! fits the bill. But if we mean "exceptional" or "exemplary of its genre" or just plain "fantastic," I'm not sure the film qualifies. A relative flop with middling critical reviews when it released in 1969, Hello Dolly! put the already-hurting 20th Century Fox—which was hoping for a hit the size of The Sound of Music—in the financial lurch, making the studio hesitant to invest in other large-scale song 'n dance productions. So, if not necessarily "last" or "great," it's certainly fair to say that the film marked the end of the era when musicals could be made on lavish Bubsy Berkely-esque sets and shot in the prohibitively expensive 65mm Todd-AO format. Regardless of its faults—an overlong run-time, questionable casting, a story that's short on drama—Hello Dolly! has developed a cult following over the years, and members will be wowed to see the film for the first time high definition, where the detail inherent in the far-larger-than-35mm negative can truly be appreciated.
Directed by dancing legend Gene Kelly and adapted from the popular stage play by North By Northwest writer Ernest Lehman, Hello, Dolly! must've seemed a sure-fire success to 20th Century Fox, which gave the production a then-staggering $25 million budget. The money definitely shows up on screen—the film features elaborate 1890s period costumes by Academy Award winner Irene Sharaff and enormous musical set pieces with scores, sometimes hundreds of extras —but it's debatable whether the story is worth the expense. The film stars Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi, a red-headed widow and professional matchmaker who "arranges things for the pleasure and the profit it derives," as she sings in one of the opening numbers, "Just Leave Everything to Me."
One of the foremost criticisms of the film during its theatrical run was that, at twenty-seven, Barbra Streisand was too young to play the role that Carol Channing had made famous on Broadway. And yes, it's somewhat unbelievable that her fresh-faced Dolly would have the worldly wherewithal to be New York City's most well-known "arranger." Still, when one thinks Hello, Dolly!, it's Streisand who first comes to mind—not Channing—and it's hard to imagine this film version without her. She's a whirlwind of lace and feathers, a spit-fire chatterbox who's outwardly poised but inwardly unsatisfied.
The central theme of the film is that in fixing others' lives, Dolly has long neglected her own. When she travels from New York to upstate Yonkers to meet with her curmudgeonly client Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau)—an industrious hay and feed store entrepreneur who's "half-a-millionaire"—we quickly get the sense that what she really wants is to fix him up with herself. Instead, she's arranged for him to meet with Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew), the pretty owner of a hat boutique in Manhattan. Looking forward to some domestic help, he sets off for the city singing a misogynistic tune about how "it takes a woman" to "joyously clean out the drain in the sink" and "lovingly set out the traps for the mice."
Besides his money, it's hard to see what Dolly sees in Vandergelder, but she's nonetheless playing something of a long con to gain his affections. Knowing that his penniless young clerks Cornelius (Michael Crawford) and Barnaby (Danny Lockin) are looking to skip out on work for a day of adventure and possible romance in the Big Apple—they swear they won't leave until they've each kissed a girl—Dolly sends them to flirt with Irene and her assistant Minnie (E.J. Peaker). The focus here shifts to mostly follow the happy foursome as they spend a day on the town, the two rural bumpkins pretending to be rich players and fully anticipating to be thrown in jail by the end of the night, when they can't pay for dinner at the extravagantly priced Harmonia Gardens. Suffice it to say that love blooms, even amid the weedy lies. There's also a subplot with Vandergelder's niece and the poor artist who wants to marry her, but it's undeveloped and inconsequential.
The reason to watch Hello, Dolly! is its sheer, never-again-to-be-replicated spectacle, with waiters twirling tablecloths, a larger-than-life parade sequence, and fabulously ornate Easter egg-colored costumes. And the music, naturally. Jerry Herman's songs might not be as memorable as some of the biggest Broadway hits of the '50s and '60s, but there are some great tunes here, from the wistfulness of "Before the Parade Passes By" to the twirling romance of "Dancing." The best moment in the film, though—hands down—is Streisand's title track duet with Louis Armstrong, who made his final film appearance here, grinning and shuffling with that inimitable Satchmo joy.
Unfortunately, for how long it is—clocking in at 148 minutes, including an intermission—it seems like not much actually happens in Hello, Dolly! Sure, there are low-stress hijinks, some zingy conversations, and big musical numbers every few minutes, but the film lacks meaningful drama between the characters, making it all feel like airy fluff. With Vandergelder and Dolly, the script tries to use the old "we hate each other and we're unexpectedly falling in love" dynamic, but their inevitable happy union comes out of nowhere, unearned and inexplicable. It doesn't help that Streisand and Matthau had a notorious on-set feud; he thought she was a control freak, bossing Gene Kelly around, and even complained about her to Fox head Richard Zanuck, who—according to the biography Barbra—The Way She Is—replied, "I'd love to help you but this is not Hello, Walter we're making." Consequently, their onscreen chemistry is about as flat as Matthau's jowly singing. Half-kidding, there. Matthau's low-register crooning is endearing, even if it does sound like he's got most of a ham sandwich in his mouth.
Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray, Video Quality
Gorgeous. Immaculate. Delovely. I could go on. Hello Dolly! is simply beautiful on Blu-ray, with a 1080p/AVC- encoded transfer that's hands-down the most vibrant, candy-colored picture I've seen thus far this year. Vivid reds and pinks. Soft pastels. Barbara Streisand's fiery ginger hair. The patriotic hues of the huge parade. Gold everywhere. It's all lushly reproduced, backed up by perfectly balanced contrast. The image is strikingly detailed too, from the visible cloth patterns in Horace Vandergelder's tweed suits to the intricate beadwork in Dolly's evening gown and the feathers in her hair. There's some clear soft-focus-flattery going on in most closeups, but on the whole the picture is crisp and revealing. The image quality is the product of the DeLuxe color processing—a tonally similarly but less wieldy and expensive cousin to three-strip Technicolor—and the large 65mm Todd-AO negative. If you've seen any other 65mm/70mm films on Blu-ray—Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, Samsara—you already know there's just something inimitable about a large-format film transferred in high definition. 20th Century Fox gets that transfer process right with Hello Dolly!, leaving the film's fine grain structure intact, leaving no traces of edge enhancement, and using a fairly high bit-rate for such a long film. The print itself is absolutely pristine—I don't think I saw a single white speck—and beyond some light color/brightness fluctuations, there are no distractions whatsoever. Fans couldn't ask for better.
Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is almost as finely attired as the video transfer. Most of the sound issues forth from the front speakers, with the rear channels really only used as quiet bleeding room for the music. The issue here—and it's a small one—is that when the surround speakers are not in action, you can often hear them put out a low-level but noticeable hiss. But this is my lone criticism of the track. In all other regards, this mix is wonderful. Jerry Herman's songs sound rich and textured and punchy—no tinniness or crackling here—and the vocals always cut through cleanly. The same goes for the spoken dialogue, which is clear and easy to understand. The disc also includes three dubs—Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0, French Dolby Digital 4.0, and German DTS 2.0—along with English SDH, Spanish, and German subtitles, which appear in white lettering.
Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hello, Dolly! may not be the last or the greatest of the grand Hollywood musicals, but it's certainly a big-budget spectacle, with gorgeous 65mm cinematography, ridiculously frou-frou costumes—Streisand's gold-beaded dress weighed over forty pounds!—and larger-than-life musical set pieces. At the time of its release, it was actually the most expensive musical production ever made, and the money certainly shows up on screen. As for the story, well, that's another matter; Hello, Dolly! just isn't as memorable as some of the truly great musicals from the 1950s and '60s. Still, it's obtained quite a following over the years, and its cult will be pleased to finally have the film on Blu-ray. 20th Century Fox's transfer is simply astounding, and the disc even includes a short new retrospective made exclusively for this release. Recommended for all musical theatre geeks—I use the term lovingly—and Barbra Streisand fans.
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Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hello, Dolly! Blu-ray - February 20, 2013
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release on Blu-ray Gene Kelly's Hello, Dolly! (1969), starring Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, and Michael Crawford. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation on April 2.
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