Opened December 16, 1969
Hello, Dolly! was a musical version of Thornton Wilder's play, The Matchmaker with a score written by Jerry Herman. Dolly opened on Broadway with Carol Channing in the main role in 1964.
20th Century Fox Studios acquired the rights to Hello, Dolly! in 1965. Broadway producer David Merrick put a clause in the contract that said Fox could not release the film so long as the play was still being performed on Broadway (Merrick wanted to break the record for longest running Broadway show). Filming was completed in July 1968 and editing began. Unfortunately for Fox, Dolly was still running on Broadway! (A December 1968 Life Magazine story said a Fox official asked Merrick, “We've got to get Dolly out soon. How can we arrange it?” To which Merrick replied: “Money.”)
Fox agreed to pay Merrick for any lost income that the Broadway show would incur, and released Hello, Dolly! in December, 1969.
In 1967, when Streisand was in Hollywood rehearsing for the Funny Girl movie, she spoke [somewhat optimistically] to columnist Charles Champlin about doing the Dolly film:
... it's not just a filming of the stage version. That's not the way it was presented to me and I wouldn't have done it. I wouldn't have done it on stage, wouldn't have wanted to. It wouldn't have been right for me. But this movie as I get it is going back closer to the original (Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker).
Dolly was budgeted at $20 million, but ended up costing the studio $26,400,000—a huge amount in 1968.
Dolly Casting, Screen & Costume Tests
In 1964, Barbra Streisand was photographed with producer David Merrick, who was shaking hands with Carol Channing dressed in her Broadway Dolly costume. Who knew then that Streisand would eventually star in the motion picture version of the musical?
Streisand's casting was announced in May 1967.
Years later, Channing told a newspaper about the movie casting:
No one even called me and told me. I remember I was in Montreal doing 'Dolly' and I read about the casting in the newspaper. Well, of course I felt suicidal; I felt like jumping out a window. I felt like someone had kidnapped my part. Eventually, everything worked out. Barbra has a tremendous creative force—she is so good - but that movie flopped. In hindsight, I was better off not doing it.
It was Channing's role as Muzzy Van Hossmere in the 1967 Julie Andrews musical Thoroughly Modern Millie that convinced producer Ernest Lehman not to hire her as Dolly. He found Channing's bigger-than-life stage personality too much on the movie screen.
(Incidently, Channing was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Thoroughly Modern Millie).
Lehman also considered Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Andrews for Dolly. But it was Streisand who got the role. “Barbra is a warm, appealing personality,” he explained, “and I believe she will be enormously sympathetic as a manipulator of the lives of other people.”
It was reported in newspapers that Streisand earned $750,000 for the movie and costar Walter Matthau (playing Horace Vandergelder) received $500,000.
Dancer, actor and director Gene Kelly was hired by Fox to direct Dolly and started work on the film in October 1967.
The studio did many screen, makeup, costume, and set tests before beginning principal photography on Dolly.
Director Gene Kelly also tested many character actors for the supporting parts, including Trisha Noble and Sandy Duncan as Irene and Minnie (below, top), and Laugh In funny lady Jo Anne Worley as Gussie Granger (below, bottom). “We've created a new Dolly Levi, a very young widow,” Kelly explained. “Her husband's death has been recent, she's more in love with his memory. This also has meant all the people had to be younger. To get young players with experience I literally interviewed 1,000-2,000 people.”
For Streisand's screen tests, Hollywood artists changed her makeup, wig, and costumes as Dolly Levi. Streisand's favorite cinematographer, Harry Stradling, took one week off between shooting Funny Girl and Dolly, and was back to work filming some of these tests.
Some of the different looks for Streisand were quite interesting!
Barbra participated in the tests in February 1968.
My characterization of Dolly Levi in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ is something realized after much soul-searching of my own private impression of that incredible Yonkers matchmaker. When I did my first film, ‘Funny Girl’, I was recreating a part I had played for months on Broadway and in London. ‘Hello, Dolly!’ required an entirely different approach.
I searched for the parts in myself that were right for Dolly and that's what I used. There was a big struggle in the beginning. I didn't want to play this role because the part of Dolly that is me I don't like to be shown. But once I accepted the fact that I was going to do it, from then on, it was fun.
— Barbra Streisand
Gene Kelly told the L.A. Times: “The difference between doing Hello, Dolly! and my other pictures has been mostly a question of schedule. We shot the ending first, and musicals are usually shot in continuity. Our meteorologist advised us to go to Garrison, N.Y. in June for the Yonkers sequences and work outside [in Los Angeles] in July and August.”
Ernest Lehman on Streisand
In 1969, when Barbra Streisand was roasted by the Friars in New York, Dolly's producer and screenwriter, Ernest Lehman, wrote this tongue-in-cheek tribute for the program:
WHO NEEDS HER?
BY ERNEST LEHMAN
She's always making a POINT, and too often she’s RIGHT, dammit. And she makes the point by poking you in the ribs with that long, tapering index finger of hers and it hurts. But then every day you find yourself waiting for her to make some MORE points, because you begin to like being touched by her. This is SHOW business?
I mean, did you ever eat dinner with her (or lunch, or a nosh?) and have her start eating food off your plate? It’s YOUR dinner and you’re hungry and she’s eating the food right out from under your mouth. What kind of behavior is this? And then one day she DOESN’T eat off your plate and you get depressed. It’s ridiculous.
To her, midnight isn’t too late to phone the screenwriter and discuss line changes. If he happens to be the PRODUCER TOO, even one o’clock in the MORNING is all right. But to talk to him for an HOUR? . . . TWO hours? . . . just to make a few scenes BETTER?. . . just to make the WHOLE PICTURE better? What kind of nonsense is that? Glancing at the time every few minutes, watching the telephone all night, and sometimes it doesn’t even ring. Who needs THAT?
“Why do you always stare at me?” she says.
“I don't know. I can’t help it.”
“Well, stop it.”
“Then stop looking the way you do.”
Who needs a reputation as a voyeur?
I ask her if she likes some work I’ve done, or SHE’S done. If she likes it, she says yes. If she doesn’t like it, she says no. This is Hollywood. Who does she think she is? From MARS?
“Do you mind coming into the studio this Saturday?” I ask. “We’ve GOTTA get this dubbing finished.”
A shrug. “OKAY.”
There goes my day at the beach.
“I’ll run the rough cut for you Monday night. We’ll have dinner in the projection room. Anything you want from Chasen’s, The Bistro or Perino's?”
“Could I have a hamburger, french fries and a coke?”
Okay, so she sings like a dream, short circuits the screen with high voltage brilliance, makes you laugh and cry and ache for more. She always wants it to be good, and good is never good enough for her, and she’ll stay up till four in the morning figuring out how to make it better while she’s doing her nails and eating too much chocolate ice cream. But who needs all that passion for excellence? Who needs thrills? Who needs fun? Who needs memorable experiences? I mean, after all, it’s only a MOVIE.
WHO NEEDS BARBRA STREISAND?
From the 1970 American Cinematographer article:
- 20th Century-Fox purchased film rights to "HELLO, DOLLY!" on March 9, 1965 and pre-production work on the project began exactly one year later.
- Construction of the huge New York street set began October 23, 1967. On January 2, 1968, choreographer Michael Kidd began developing routines with the nucleus of his chorus.
- The stars and featured players began rehearsals with director Gene Kelly and Kidd on February 19.
- "HELLO, DOLLY!" went before the TODD-AO and DeLuxe Color cameras on April 15 for a scheduled 89 days of shooting.
- The production was completed in 90 working days on Aug. 23, a feat regarded as extraordinary in view of the size of the project and the fact that about 65 percent of the film was made out of doors subject to the vagaries of weather. The company was caught only once with a large crowd of extras (350) and so committed that it couldn't retreat indoors to a "cover" set. This was on the New York location.
- All the 1890 period interiors and the Manhattan exteriors were shot at 20th Century-Fox Studio, while the Yonkers exteriors were made at Garrison and Cold Springs, N.Y., with the big finale number against a sweep of the Hudson River.
(Click the ad to the right to order HOLLYWOOD SCREENTESTS DVD which contains Streisand's screen tests for Hello, Dolly! and also screen tests for supporting roles.)
Dolly Production Notes
The following text in this section was taken from the “Hello, Dolly! Journal” and was written by Jack Hirschberg. The photo captions below are by Barbra Archives; photos from my collection.
It is evident that mere size and cost need have no direct correlation with the entertainment values of a stage or screen presentation. Many a theatrical musical comedy, costing half a million dollars to mount, has closed within a week. Indeed, some have even been spared the hurt of a Broadway opening. Similarly, many a motion picture, costing more than enough to finance a small pocket republic revolution, has never risen above the bottom half of a multiple-run double bill.
On the other hand, durability through the decades and repeated success in a multiplicity of formats offer strong indication of a vehicle's intrinsic worth and deep appeal. Hello, Dolly! reaches you with impeccable credentials. Give or take a few weeks, the story, in essence, is 135 years young.
In 1835 John Oxenford's one-act play, A Day Well Spent, was first performed at the Theatre Royal, English Opera House, London. It concerned two young clerks, left to mind their master's shop, who betrayed his trust by locking the front door, donning their very best suits, and heading for a good time in London. There a series of hilarious circumstances results in the matching and marrying of three couples.
Seven years later in Vienna the theme was further developed, with full credit accorded Oxenford, in Johann Nestroy’s comedy, Einen Jux Will Sich Es Machen. In 1938 Thornton Wilder, the American author, used these plays as the basis for The Merchant of Yonkers, which was written expressly as a directorial project for Max Reinhardt and produced by Herman Shumlin for the Theatre Guild.
In 1954, with Ruth Gordon as Dolly, Sam Levene as Horace Vandergelder, and Tyrone Guthrie directing, the play, slightly revised and retitled The Matchmaker, opened in Newcastle, England, and wended its merry way through engagements at the Edinburgh Festival, in Berlin—for the troops—and at Birmingham en route to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London.
It was, as the British put it, a smashing hit, and the idea occurred to American composer Harold Rome that it might make a good musical. But the idea was dropped when David Merrick brought the comedy to New York with Miss Gordon and much of the British cast. She recalls: “It opened to the cheers and laughter of a great New York first night, and Dolly Levi got everyone married or hired for better jobs. Three years later the run ended at the Huntington Hartford Theatre in Hollywood.” Meanwhile, in 1958 Shirley Booth and Anthony Perkins put it on film for Paramount.
On January 16, 1964, a decade after he first presented The Matchmaker on Broadway, Merrick raised the New York curtain on book-writer Michael Stewart and composer-lyricist Jerry Herman’s tuned-up version of John Oxenford's lovable staple—and we entered the era of Hello, Dolly! From here on, the statistics go into orbit. With Carol Channing initially at the helm, Merrick's staging cost $350,000. As of December, 1969, it had returned to its investors over $8,000,000 in profits, exclusive of proceeds from its sale to 20th Century-Fox.
Miss Channing took the show on the road to 29 cities starting in mid-1965 and was succeeded on Broadway by Ginger Rogers. In February, 1967, she gave way to Martha Raye, who gave way to Betty Grable, who gave way to Pearl Bailey. Mary Martin opened the show's first tour April 19, 1965, in Tokyo, and then took Dolly to South Vietnam where the troops saw it staged at President Johnson’s request on flat-bed trucks. Miss Martin then took it to South Korea and Okinawa, and some time later Martha Raye brought another company back to Vietnam—twice. Meanwhile, Dora Bryan played Dolly in London, Carol Cook in Australia, and back on the home front the lady was portrayed on various tours by Eve Arden, Miss Grable, Miss Rogers, Yvonne De Carlo and Dorothy Lamour. In Las Vegas Miss Lamour and Miss Rogers alternated at dinner and supper show performances at the Riviera. Patrice Munsel took the part in a return Los Angeles engagement.
Foreign-language versions were presented in Sweden, Finland, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Israel, Italy, West Germany, Austria and Mexico. Japan saw it in English. The Soviet Union cancelled plans for Miss Martin to star in Moscow, indicating Russian displeasure with her entertaining American troops in the Far East.
Miss Streisand's celluloid appearance as Dolly will, however, in all probability be seen by more people than the combined worldwide audience chalked up by the various stage versions to date. It is interesting to note that global box office gross of the stage production through December, 1969, was over $55,000,000—far more than any other musical in history has ever earned. And by mid-December, 1969, the New York run had passed 2,430 performances. Believe it or not, the show was originally entitled Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman. As composer-lyricist Jerry Herman tells it, “The only reason we changed the title was because some ladies who booked theater parties objected to the word ‘damned’ and thought it would be easier to sell the show without that word. So, remembering the production number in Act Two, I suggested we use its first line as our title. That's how we came to call it Hello, Dolly!”
It was March 9, 1965, that Richard D. Zanuck, at that time executive vice-president in charge of production, announced the purchase of screen rights, and yet another year before 20th Century-Fox concluded arrangements with Ernest Lehman to produce Hello, Dolly! and write the screenplay as well. On January 2, 1968, choreographer Michael Kidd began blueprinting routines, and six weeks later Gene Kelly, the director, called for initial rehearsal with stars and feature players. Filming in Todd-AO® and DeLuxe color, with six-channel stereophonic sound, commenced April 15 and was concluded 90 days later, one day over schedule. Although 65 percent of the movie was shot outdoors, only one full day was lost to the weather—and that in Garrison, New York, when it rained.
The costliest and most challenging set was the 15-acre segment of New York City which serves as background for the film's opening and for many key sequences, including the parade. At one time this set was to have been built on the studio’s Malibu ranch, but this would have created a fantastic transportation snarl, with as many as 5,000 extras and a crew of hundreds having to travel narrow canyon roads. Eventually, production designer John DeCuir worked out an ingenious layout involving the disguise of eleven major studio buildings and the erection of many more on the Beverly Hills lot. All told, 60 buildings, comprising sections of Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, Broadway and Mulberry Streets, 14th Street, the Bowery—and including old Grand Central Station, Tony Pastor's Theater, and the Waldorf-Astoria and Fifth Avenue hotels—were constructed. The detail is exquisitely accurate, down even to the advertising billboards, except that some geographic liberties have been taken.
And over it, a three-car train pulled by a steam engine threads its way along six hundred feet of elevated track, while horse-drawn trolleys glide along tracks on the streets below. Fortunately for the film's budget, animated electrical signs did not first appear in New York until 1891—a year after the date of our story. Hence the so-called Great White Way is not in evidence.
Lindley F. Bothwell, a collector of such things, supplied the elevated train and four of the five horse-cars, but the studio had to build its own horse-drawn, double-deck omnibus.
The parade included 16 separate units. And what a parade! Band after band, mounted soldiers, floats with pretty girls, a regiment of Scottish Kilties—hundreds of musicians, thousands of marchers, more thousands of onlookers. Fifteen radio-equipped assistant directors, several hundred makeup artists and wardrobe associates, 146 horses, 60 watering stations for the animals and humans, and 17 special toilet facilities, plus five first aid stations.
All this under Gene Kelly's calm direction as his cameras whirred away atop iron-tubing towers, maneuvered on long cranes, hung out of hovering helicopters overhead. The parade added some, $200,000 a day to the regular production costs of Hello, Dolly!
(Above: The assistant cameraman slates the two TODD-AO film cameras right before shooting the scene where Cornelius Hackl and friends enter the Harmonia Gardens.)
The rococo Harmonia Gardens night club-restaurant was inspired by Maxim's in Paris and London's Crystal Palace. Built on four levels, it is replete with fountains, candelabra, chandeliers and statues, all crafted in the studio shops. The carpeting, upholstery and curtains were all custom-designed and fabricated. All this was essential to the proper opulent setting for Barbra Streisand's grand entrance as Dolly, and as appropriate background for the inventively slapstick musical number, the Waiters’ Galop, a classic example of comedic choreography. The sequence was heaven-sent for the hundreds of extra and bit players who spent weeks wolfing down tons of tasty food, including shishkabob and crepes suzettes, prepared under the supervision of Bruno Moeckli, chef at the Hollywood Playboy Club.
(Above: Commuters at the Garrison train station, labeled “Yonkers” during the filming of Hello, Dolly! Below: The cast — Tune, Peaker, Streisand and Lockin take a break from the hot summer days spent on location in Garrison, New York.)
Scenes supposedly set in Yonkers, including the rousing production number, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and the colorful finale, were lensed at Garrison, N.Y., 60 miles up the Hudson from New York City, and directly opposite West Point. While today nothing remains in Yonkers dating back to 1890, the buildings in Garrison were actually erected around 1840—and had to be modernized by the addition of 1890-style gingerbread. Garrison's railroad station on the New York Central line was once the hub of weekend comings and goings by J. P. Morgan, Hamilton Fish and other tycoons whose country estates stood nearby. Its benches were once warmed by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee.
(Above: Achieving the helicopter shot that ends the Yonkers segment of the movie as the cast sings “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.” (LEFT) Helicopter on flat car is pushed along the railroad tracks by grips to achieve a "soft" start. (CENTER) The craft lifts off of the flat car, continuing the backward motion as it rises. (RIGHT) The helicopter soars above the train as it moves out of the station, and follows its journey along the riverbank.
20th Century Fox spent $30,000 building a period barn to conceal the modern cars that the regular commuters parked every day to take the train—cars that would be seen during the final helicopter shot. It's reported that one commuter refused to park his car under the barn, so the crew simply scheduled the helicopter shot for a Saturday—when the commuter wouldn't have to park or take the train for work! The helicopter shot, by the way, was photographed by ace aerial cameraman Nelson Tyler, using his patented vibrationless camera mount. Tyler also filmed the amazing tugboat shot in Funny Girl.)
The railroad train, shown carrying hundreds of vacationers bound to the big city from Yonkers, consists of a steam engine and three cars built in 1832 and still operable. Indeed, it is the only scheduled, steam-powered, standard gauge passenger train in the country today, covering the nine-mile trip through the Amish country near East Strasburg, Pa. It was rented and transported to Garrison for the film.
Hello, Dolly! is probably the only musical ever to have had four original cast albums. The first three star Carol Channing, Mary Martin and Pearl Bailey. The fourth, of course, is Barbra Streisand’s. As of December, 1969, there were 243 English-language recorded versions of the title song, and close to 400 records of various items from the score.
But statistics, no matter how intriguing, have never made a theatrical property a success. At the core of the longevity of John Oxenford's original story in its many manifestations, culminating in the present film, is the character of a woman who seems indestructible through the changing times, the passing years, the comings and goings of the generations.
She is, as someone once remarked, “a dreadnaught, sailing the perilous seas of widowhood, using wits, guts and a surface of supreme confidence to make her way.” In an age of anti-heroes, she is the heroine supreme. Her victory—over the past, over loneliness, over despondency—radiates hope, and much good cheer.
She is crisp, yet she is soft.
She is Everywoman.
And whatever else she is, she is never dull.
(Below: The exterior of Dolly Levi's apartment was built in Garrison, New York. A local gymnasium-turned-soundstage was utilized by the company to build “cover sets” in case the exterior shooting was interrupted by rain or inclement weather.)
Jerry Herman & Adapting “Dolly” From the Stage to Screen
Jerry Herman contributed two new songs for the Dolly movie. The new ballad for the film, “Love is Only Love,” is the same tune as the song “Gotta Be A Dream” which was written for a 1961 Jerry Herman musical, Madame Aphrodite (which ran for 13 performances). The song was then rewritten as “Love is Only Love” for Herman's 1966 hit musical, Mame— but it was cut from the show. Herman then interpolated the song into the Hello, Dolly! movie for Streisand. He added the “Mrs. Horace Vandergelder” introduction to make it Dolly-specific.
“Just Leave Everything To Me”—the song which opened the movie and replaced “I Put My Hand In” from the Broadway show — was written specifically for Barbra for the film. Herman recounted his experience with that song and director Gene Kelly in his autobiography:
"Gene Kelly, who directed, did not want to have anything to do with me. It wasn't that he hated me personally, he just didn't want his movie to be contaminated by anyone from Broadway. Gene Kelly wasn't the only one who had that old anti-Broadway bias. So many of these movie people are like that. I am not the kind of person who generally gets a cold reception, because the smart ones know that I can be very helpful. But these Hollywood types didn't like any theatre people. They considered us the enemy--and that's the God's truth. On one of the few occasions when Gene Kelly would even let me speak with him, I tried to tell him something about 'Just Leave Everything to Me,' which was the opening song that I wrote for Barbra Streisand. I had written it for a specific place, very early in the movie. But instead of using it where it belonged, he put it in the main titles. I was very polite and did not lose my temper, but I quietly pointed out to Mr. Kelly that if he took that song out of the scene I wrote it for, there would be no music for the first half hour of the movie. He gave me the could shoulder, which offended me deeply, because I was giving good advice and I knew it. Gene Kelly knew it, too. But he wouldn't admit it until we were sitting together at the Hollywood premiere in the Rialto Theater. It was a wonderful opening sequence--beautiful titles, gorgeous photography, and a grand entrance from Barbra--followed by a solid half-hour of talk. I sat there fuming. He had the gall to turn to me and say, 'You know, I should have put the song there.' I wanted to kill him."
Songs and scenes from the Broadway show which did not make it into the movie were:
- “Motherhood March” — Dolly distracts Horace from the armoire in Irene Molloy's hat shop.
- In the Broadway show, after the polka contest at Harmonia Gardens, the cast is taken to night court since none of them paid for dinner. It is there that the young lovers sing “It Only Takes A Moment” and Dolly gives Horace her ultimatum with “So Long, Dearie.” Screenwriter Lehman cut the night court scenes for the movie and simply sent the characters into Central Park and the streets of New York City.
In 1997 Jerry Herman reflected on the film version of Hello, Dolly!:
"I like the film more every time I see it. And it's a great credit to Barbra because she knew she was too young. She's a smart cookie. She knew she was 27 years old playing a 60 year old woman. And she devised a way to do it that works today, that's lasted. She used that kind of pseudo Mae West, you know, whatever she devised. She's just so clever. And my God, she sang the hell out of it. I love the film much more than I did when it was released."
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