Customer Reviews: Hello Dolly [VHS]
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on September 3, 2003
The debates over this film have been raging for years, and now that HELLO, DOLLY! has been released on DVD, they're likely to continue for years to come. Opinions are certain to vary, but let's clear up a few misconceptions right from the start -
After 20th Century-Fox purchased the screen rights to HELLO, DOLLY!, producer/screenwriter Ernest Lehman was fairly certain he'd be asking Carol Channing to recreate her stage performance for the film - that is, until he saw her in the 1967 movie THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE; to put it as delicately as possible, her features didn't translate well to the big screen. Fox executives were equally doubtful about Channing, so the search began for a new Dolly. After flirting with (and subsequently dropping) the idea of Elizabeth Taylor, the leading candidate became Barbra Streisand. The powers-that-be suspected (correctly) she was headed for major film stardom, and they hoped a fresh, younger Dolly would give the multi-million dollar project greater appeal. Lehman immediately revised his script, eliminating all references to Dolly losing her husband fourteen years earlier, and - after concluding that audiences wouldn't accept Streisand as an Irishwoman - changing the character's name from Dolly Gallagher Levi to simply Dolly Levi. The studio made the offer, Streisand signed on the dotted line, and Lehman surrounded her with the creme de la creme of the MGM/Arthur Freed movie musical unit - Gene Kelly (director), Roger Edens (associate producer), Michael Kidd (choreographer), Lennie Hayton (musical scoring), and Irene Sharaff (costumes).
Skeptics, however, dug in their heels, and a period of bad press followed; there was outrage a film novice like Streisand had taken a role they considered her ill-suited for. A wave of sympathy engulfed Channing, who received a consolation Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (even though Beatrice Lillie received the film's best reviews when it was released).
The bad press began to wane when Streisand's first film, FUNNY GIRL, was released to critical acclaim, box office success, and a Best Actress Oscar; suddenly there was great anticipation for HELLO, DOLLY! And when the film finally opened in December of 1969, it played to packed (and enthusiastic) houses from New York City to Hollywood. Even critics who questioned Streisand's appropriateness for the role agreed she put on a hell of a show.
After a solid start, however, the film's success was mixed; HELLO, DOLLY! received seven Oscar nominations (including one for Best Picture), but Streisand was overlooked. And though it ranked as one of the top ten box office attractions of the year, it hadn't recouped its production costs by the end of 1970; it was neither the runaway success the studio was hoping for, nor the disastrous flop its critics made it out to be. But to the dismay of naysayers who wanted the film to die an ignoble death, DOLLY kept attracting new fans - first on television, then on video, and later on laser disc. Obviously, somebody had done something right.
Watching the movie now on DVD, it's hard to believe such a good-natured, visually spectacular film could have provoked the feelings of animosity it did (and apparently still does). As for Streisand, I think Lehman was absolutely right to cast her; there may be times when she seems too hip for this wholesome slice of Americana, but her funky irreverence is what makes HELLO, DOLLY! so much fun. Not only is she in excellent voice throughout - if anything, she sounds better here than she did in FUNNY GIRL - but it's hard to imagine anyone else bringing the poignance she does to Dolly's monologue in the park ("Ephraim, let me go"), or being as raucously funny in the dinner sequence at Harmonia Gardens ("You salt your beets, and I'll salt mine"). In fact, her energy and charisma are so dynamic that the film's pace falters whenever she's not around - no disrespect to either Michael Crawford or Marianne McAndrew, but the subplots involving Cornelius Hackl and Irene Molloy, while pleasant enough, are hardly enthralling. Walter Matthau, however, makes a surprisingly effective Horace Vandergelder, and his scenes with Streisand have some genuine comic vitality. If there were offscreen tensions between the two, they weren't apparent when the cameras were rolling.
But more than anything else, DOLLY on DVD offers great opportunities for those of us who just want to concentrate on musical numbers (we know who we are). There are moments worth savoring again and again in "Just Leave Everything To Me," "Put On Your Sunday Clothes," "Dancing" (Danny Lockin and E.J. Peaker are particularly impressive here), "Before The Parade Passes By," "The Waiter's Gallop," and, of course, the title number with Louis Armstrong, but Streisand's best number is probably her simplest - "So Long, Dearie." It isn't hard to understand why her character gets a marriage proposal after that one.
As for the age issue - yeah, it's a little strange to see a woman in her late twenties being referred to as an "old girl." So why didn't Ernest Lehman ask Jerry Herman to alter the lyrics? Hard to say - maybe he didn't think anyone interested in realism would be watching HELLO, DOLLY! in the first place. And ultimately, that's what this movie is all about - pure escapism on a grand scale. The quality is apparent in every frame, so just kick back and enjoy the show.
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on July 16, 2003
HELLO DOLLY has received a bum rap over the years. Its oversized budget and colossal New York-circa-1890 back lot set is said to have sunk 20th Century Fox. This is far from the truth.
Now, almost 35 years later, DOLLY can be seen in proper perspective: it's a well-done, old-fashioned movie musical. Its only sin is that is dresses up a flimsy Broadway musical in the form of a big-time movie musical. Let's face it, HELLO DOLLY's book features situation-comedy type scenes of hiding in closets and mistaken identities. It doesn't have the weight of the Nazis (i.e. SOUND OF MUSIC) or the Americana of OKLAHOMA. It is, nevertheless, frothy fun -- with a great, hummable score!
Barbra Streisand is also blamed for accepting the role of Dolly Levi, too. Dolly should be middle-aged; Streisand was 27. Also, Carol Channing was famous for the part (she won a Tony for it) and Streisand is considered to have "stolen" the movie from Channing. (I personally could not fathom watching Carol Channing for 2-1/2 hours.) Streisand was too young. But does it really matter? She's absolutely hilarious in DOLLY, and sings the score wonderfully. It was Streisand's second film, and one of her too few musical films.
The DVD features a wonderful featurette from 1969. The featurette contains great behind-the-scenes footage of filming the "Before the Parade Passes By" scene, as well as the "Sunday Clothes" scene. Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd, and Irene Sharaff are all included.
Fox has restored HELLO DOLLY and this DVD features the restored print. DOLLY has never looked better! From the multi-colored feathers on the back of her hat in the opening scene, to the canary-yellow "Hello Dolly" dress in the Harmonia Gardens, Streisand looks fabulous and colorful and bold. Throughout the film you will notice various shades of purples pop out. The paint-speckled trees in the "Parade"park scene are an interesting detail! The only scene that misses is the dimly lit "Love is Only Love" song. The colors look faded and the picture quality drops a notch or two.
I must also sing the praises of this WIDESCREEN release! I've watched DOLLY for years on a pan-and-scan VHS tape. The movie looks excellent in widescreen - the way it was originally filmed - and it's great to see some of the action in the extremes of the frame. For instance, this is probably the first time I've ever seen what Streisand was doing in the right part of the frame while dueting with Louis Armstrong!
So enjoy HELLO DOLLY. Dolly'll never go away again.
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on July 23, 2003
I got my advance review copy for the region 1 release of Hello Dolly and had to write a review here. This is one of my favorite films, and I will concentrate on the tech specs for the disc. It is enhanced for widescreen 16:9 and says Dolby Surround on the packaging but is actually Dolby Digital 4.0. This is one of the best sound transfers I have yet seen for a classic film. There's no doubt that original master tapes were used for the sound transfer. The seperation is so good, the voices of the singers move from left to right with extreme clarity, and when the entire cast is singing, it reminds me of the best of the RCA VICTOR recordings, the ensemble comes at you from all around including the surround. I give the sound a 5 out of 5.
The video quality is another story and a good one. This is flawless, it is like watching a new movie. It is so clear it almost seems like 3d on my Sony front projector. The colors have been restored and I believe the transfer was from 70mm negatives because this is one of the clearest conversions of a classic Fox has done. Extras are several trailers, a featurette, which isn't alot (I was hoping to see the 20 minutes that were cut and maybe a commentary and extras like the SOUND OF MUSIC disc had).
For the price,... this is a steal, to be enjoyed over and over as it is like going to the cinema again.
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on April 10, 2000
Hello, Dolly! is one of the best musical films I've ever seen. It is filled with high exuberance and is incredibly lavish. Of course it is silly and light hearted. It is what it should be. Everyone in it seems to be having a grand time. Barbra makes a wonderful Dolly Levi and I'm so glad she did this film despite her own misgivings. It has brought so much joy to millions. I can't imagine anyone else in the movie role. Gene Kelly directed this film and did a marvelous job.
Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin are hilarious in their roles of Cornelius and Barnaby. Marianne McAndrew and E.J. Peaker as Irene and Minnie Fay are charming and delightful. To top it all off, what a finale! A location of a beautiful white chapel with green lawns stretching out for miles is the setting for the end medley and wedding. Streisand makes her way down the bridal path framed by hundreds of beautifully dressed attendants. The camera pulls back to reveal a scope of magnificence. Perfect.
I certainly can't wait for the widescreen DVD version to be released. If you've never seen it in widescreen you are in for a rare treat. This movie is gorgeous. The musical number, "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" is dream and of course the title tune with Streisand and Louis Armstrong is magnificent.
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on August 19, 2003
"Hello Dolly!" is the elphantine musical film based on the long running stage play that in 1969 failed miserably to find its audience at the the box office. Directed by legendary song and dance man, Gene Kelly and featuring the meticulous choreography of Gower Champion, this is a big, brassy, spectacular production, the likes of which we aren't likely to ever see again. Barbra Streisand plays Dolly Levi, a matchmaker whose heart is set on landing stuffy hay and feed owner, Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau). The off camera bickering between the two co-stars may have been legendary, but none of it shows up on the screen. Streisand and Matthau are ably assisted by Marianne McAndrews, Michael Crawford, Tommy Tune and the incomparable, Louis Armstrong. Removed from all the angst, hype and negative publicity that branded musicals box office poison from about 1959 onward, "Hello Dolly!" emerges as one of the best of the genre, an outstanding, tune filled epic production that never fails to entertain!
FOX VIDEO has given us a handsome looking DVD. Colors are rich, bold, vibrant and extremely well balanced. Black and contrast levels are only slightly on the weak side but adjusting one's television contrast and brightness fixes this right up. There is NO EDGE ENHANCEMENT, ALIASING or PIXELIZATION or FILM GRAIN or AGE RELATED ARTIFACTS for a visual presentation that is as smooth as the plot. The soundtrack has been remixed to 5.1 surround but suffers slightly from a muffled characteristic, perhaps because of noise reduction equipment used in the remastering effort. Still, most of the film has a crisp, clean and not overly bright sound to it that, while dated, nevertheless is easy on the ears.
EXTRAS: A Theatrical Trailer. That's it.
BOTTOM LINE: I should fault Fox for given us no extras but with the film looking as though it were shot last week I have to stop myself and just proclaim, "Well done!" An absolute must for your DVD library!
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Hello Dolly is truly one of the last great musicals from the golden age of Hollywood. It seems like no expense was spared--it took one month just to film the "Hello, Dolly!" sequence in which Dolly returns to the Harmonia Gardens. This scene lasts about ten minutes in the film--but still, one month to get ten minutes footage is a lot of time to get so little footage! Barbra Streisand works well, actually, as Dolly Levi--her husband could have died early in life and that's all it would take to explain a younger woman in the role of Dolly Levi. Moreover, the other cast members turn in fine performances, too.

When the action begins, Dolly Levi from Manhattan takes a trip to Yonkers ostensibly to arrange a marriage for Horace Vandergelder's (Walter Matthau) niece Ermengarde Vandergelder (Joyce Ames). However, Ermengarde doesn't want any part of it--she's in love with a young artist named Ambrose Kemper (Tommy Tune); and Ambrose feels the same way about Ermengarde. What's more, Dolly eventually has plans for helping Horace's two clerks, Cornelius Hackl (Michael Crawford) and Barnaby Tucker (Danny Lockin).

A few days later, they all wind up in Manhattan and fate--with Dolly's help--begins to weave its magic spell. Cornelius and Barnaby become smitten with Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew) and her hat shop assistant Minnie Fay (E. J. Peaker). They all spend time together having fun; but Dolly has her hands full trying to manipulate Horace into marrying her instead of Irene Molloy--or the not terribly appealing Ernestina Simple (Judy Knaiz).

Of course, from here the plot can go in so many different directions. You may know the plot but there are no plot spoilers in my reviews! Will Dolly manage to get these two young couple together--along with Ambrose and Ermengarde--so that they can find a happy life romantically? What about Dolly's feelings for her late husband--to what extent will they get in the way of Dolly pursuing Horace? Will Horace, who is a very cranky and somewhat negative man, ever come around to marrying Dolly? Watch the movie and find out!

The song and dance numbers are fantastic. The "Hello Dolly" number alone was fantastic. Look for a wonderful cameo by the great Louis Armstrong who just happens to work in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant! It's great to see Armstrong on film with Streisand. The cinematography and choreography impressed me greatly during the scenes from the parade down 14th Street in Manhattan as well as in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant.

The DVD has an optional commentary and there's a 1969 featurette that shows how they organized and coordinated the parade down 14th Street in Manhattan. It's excellent! You can also choose languages but there's not much more. Oh, well. The film is very good and it still can stand mostly on its own.

Overall, Hello Dolly is a fine classic musical from the very tail end of the golden era of Hollywood musicals. The actors give extremely good performances; their acting is very convincing. I recommend this film for fans of Hollywood musicals as well as fans of Barbra Streisand.
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In reading some of the reviews for this wonderful movie, I can only smile and say:


Big, blustery, overblown, not realistic, after all how many people do you know that burst into song at a moment's notice? But HELLO DOLLY is pure and simple an extravagant musical.


Duh....what is a musical supposed to be?


I think this movie has some wonderful dancing, particularly by the waiters at the Harmonia Gardens. I guess some reviewers think the stuff done in FLASHDANCE or DIRTY DANCING is good dancing? Not in the same league folks.


She's the star, isn't she? And she does share some of the musical moments in the background---PUT ON YOUR SUNDAY CLOTHES, DANCING...etc.

Critics and reviewers have often criticized Babs as being "too young" for the role. Why should Dolly have been an old bat???

This movie was nominated for Best Picture in 1969, and over the years, many movie authorities have said it never should have been.

Well, I disagree. Its lavish sets and costumes, wonderful performances, a remarkably tuneful score and Barbra! This is a movie classic and only snobs would fault it for its extravagance!
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on September 5, 2003
"Hello, Dolly!" may not be a classic, but for those who enjoy splashy, colorful and tuneful old-fashioned musicals, it's hard to beat.
The DVD marks the first-ever video release of the Todd-AO version of the film; the previous VHS and laserdisc releases used the 35MM version. In most cases, the content of films released using the Todd-AO process were identical to the 35MM versions ("Oklahoma!" being a major exception---the Todd-AO and 35MM Cinemascope versions were shot separately). But in "Dolly"'s case, the Todd-AO version clearly includes some alternate shots. For example, the long tracking shot of Streisand singing solo in the "Before the Parade Passes By" number (immediately before the first shot of the parade) in the Todd-AO version is different from the 35MM version---if you have a VHS or laser copy, run a compare/contrast and you'll immediately see what I mean. Some of the shots of Streisand performing the title number and "Just Leave Everything to Me" are also different.
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on April 13, 2013
The story of a matchmaker who is trying to make a match of a rich man for herself has been tyold in several versions, but certainly the most famous is the stage and film musical. I will throw in the obligatory "Streisand was too young for the part" but it is her personality and the part of the character she is portraying that keeps the movie together from beginning to end. This is possibly the last of the golden age of musicals.

I've done a comparison of the DVD and the Blu-ray and the video and audio differences are incredible. The Blu-ray picture and sound are many steps above the DVD. Colors are spectacular.

The extras (a brief but tantalizing look at the making of the "Before the Parade Passes By" musical number and some trailers) have been carried over from the DVD and upgraded to high definition, which is very satisyfying. There is also a new featurette for the Blu on Gene Kelly direction the film.

Highly recommended.
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on September 7, 2003
It has been written that Ms. Streisand retrospectively termed the film version of "Hello Dolly!" the "worst mistake I ever made." If she did, she should re-evaluate her work and consider upgrading her opinion a bit. "Hello, Dolly!" isn't bad.
Granted, it's not the perfect fit of her Fanny Brice vehicles or "The Way We Were." Barbra is at her best in material tailored to her unique talents, and "Dolly" was a show that could never be a "Streisand vehicle." By the time she tackled the movie, the role had been played by just about every musical actress worth her salt. Each gave the part her own individual stamp, winning praise for shedding new and different light on a beloved character. So why did Hollywood eviscerate Streisand when she tried to do the very same thing?
It would be pointless to try to speculate on just what politics were in play back in 1969, when the film premiered. Better to examine the most common criticisms one by one, and see if they hold water.
First and foremost: Streisand's age. She was blasted as far too young for the role, making her attempted portrayal of a middle-aged widow ludicrous. What seems to have escaped many people's attention is that Streisand did not attempt to play a middle-aged Dolly. That had already been done quite adequately on the Broadway stage and in countless touring companies. Twenty-six at the time of filming, Barbra was mildly overweight -- which added years -- and wore period costumes. The combination made her look about thirty-five in the finished film. This is a perfectly plausible age for Dolly. At the time of the story (just before the turn of the century), women married young -- usually while still in their teens -- lest they become old maids. It was not unusual for a young girl to be married off to a much older (perhaps previously married) gentleman. (Remember, a lot of marriages were arranged for reasons other than love.) This common practice could result in a 25-year age spread between husband and wife, and left many a thirty-ish widow in that time period. Some re-married, some did not.
As portrayed by Streisand, Dolly Gallager Levi likely enjoyed an idyllic ten-year or so marriage to the much older Ephrom Levi, then found herself a widow while still quite young. Considering the conventions of the day, Barbra's portrayal of Dolly Levi as a still-young woman wasn't bad or inappropriate; it was just different from what we were accustomed to seeing.
Second: Streisand's interpretation of the role. If one can, for a moment, accept that Streisand was not attempting a middle-aged Dolly, then it makes perfect sense that she obviously could not rely on the dramatic devices that make such a middle-aged character endearing -- warmth, wisdom and eccentricity. A more youthful Dolly would have to be a bit more cunning in her approach, not above using the power of seduction and her still vibrantly sexy presence to manipulate people and situations to her advantage. Barbra at times seemed to be impersonating Mae West, waiving her merry widow hips and adding an insinuating double entendre to many of her lines. While she might have lacked some originality, she was dead on target for believability. Let's face it: women and men alike have been using sex to get what they want since the beginning of time. Streisand's Dolly Levi was simply doing what worked.
At other points in the film, Barbra's performance borders on slapstick. This is also entirely appropriate, given the sometimes farcical nature of the storyline (grown men hiding in closets, mistaken identity, and the hilariously destructive chase through a posh restaurant). This was no time for Streisand to start flexing her dramatic chops.
Almost no one has tried to find fault with Streisand's singing. Nearly at her vocal prime, Barbra gave splendid readings of the Jerry Herman score. Her voice showed the richness and velvet shudder that became the stuff of legend. Barbra's vocal work in "Dolly" was only bested by her singing in "Funny Lady" six years later.
The DVD presentation of "Hello Dolly" restores the subtle though vibrant color palate, and allows the film to shed the dated image it had acquired in the eyes of many -- who had probably only experienced horrendously faded television prints. The widescreen transfer is absolutely necessary to allow the viewer to fully appreciate the largely horizontal composition of the action, the dance sequences, and the sets (in this regard, a very stage-like presentation). Much of the comedy is lost in the pan-and-scan editing done for television prints -- Streisand and Walter Matthau bantering from separate sides of the Harmonia Gardens dinner table is a notable example.
While some may carp about the lack of extras offered on this DVD, it's not too much of a detriment. Behind-the-scenes documentaries have a way of spoiling the aura that surrounds a period piece such as "Dolly." Like a whimsical greeting card that suddenly loses its charm when one starts to analyze the paper stock, "Hello Dolly!" is best enjoyed as a somewhat insubstantial but deliciously spun cotton candy concoction that serves as a lovely tribute to a time -- and an art form -- long gone.
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