Barbra Streisand & Dancers, Hello, Dolly! (1969)

The cast in the lavish 1969 period musical film “Hello, Dolly!” included Barbra Streisand (b. April 24, 1942), Walter Matthau ( October 1, 1920 – July 1, 2000), Michael Crawford (b. January 19, 1942), Marianne McAndrew (b. November 26, 1942), Danny Lockin (July 13, 1943 – August 21, 1977), E.J. Peaker (b. February 22, 1944), Tommy Tune (b. February 28, 1939), Joyce Ames, and a brief appearance by the legendary Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971). Gene Kelly (August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996) directed the film. The expensive film didn’t do as well at the box office as had been anticipated, as public tastes in movies were changing and American musical films were dying out.

 

Synopsis, via IMDb:

Matchmaker Dolly Levi travels to Yonkers to find a partner for “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, convincing his niece, his niece’s intended, and his two clerks to travel to New York City along the way.

 

A bit of “Hello, Dolly!” trivia, via IMDb:

Was the very first film released on home video (VHS and Betamax) in the US. It was in the fall of 1977 on the Magnetic Video Corporation label, back when it was an independent company, and was the first of the 50 original films it licensed from Fox. Its catalog number was CL-1001.

 

During filming Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau fought bitterly. He disliked her so intensely that he refused to be around her except when required to do so by the script. He is famously quoted as telling Barbra that she “had no more talent than a butterfly’s fart”. Interestingly, he is clearly seen in the audience at Barbra’s One Voice (1986) concert at her Malibu ranch, where invitation-only guests paid $5,000 per couple to help establish the Streisand Foundation, which supports numerous charitable organizations. Apparently, he did not hold grudges.

 

The original design of Barbra Streisand’s gold-beaded gown shown in the Harmonia Gardens scene weighed 40 pounds and cost $8,000. Twice during rehearsals, she tripped over its 2.5-foot train. Other dancers also tripped over it during rehearsal, so the train was taken off the dress. The train is shown intact when Streisand starts down the stairs, but later, it disappears.

 

When director George Roy Hill heard about the turn-of-the-century New York set constructed for the film, he wanted to use it to film a brief sequence in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) in which Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place visit the Big Apple. The producers were proprietary about the set and didn’t want it to appear in another movie. 20th Century-Fox, however, allowed Hill to take still photographs of his stars Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross on the set, surrounded by the extras (who appear in the old-time, tinted photos as city crowds) which were used in a montage sequence that served as a transition between the U.S. West and Bolivia sections of the movie.

 

Final film of Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was only on set for a half-day and did his shots in one take. In 1964, he had scored a #1 hit with his recording of the song, “Hello, Dolly!”

 

On a break from filming, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford visited horse races nearby and saw a horse named Hello Dolly. Matthau refused to place a bet on it because it reminded him of Barbra Streisand, whom he detested. Crawford placed a bet on the horse. It won the race and Matthau would not speak to Crawford for the rest of the shoot unless absolutely necessary.

 

Danny Lockin, who played Barnaby in the movie, also played the same role live on the St. James Theatre stage in New York while the movie was in first run theaters. Sadly, he was murdered a few years later in LA.

 

In the Harmonia Gardens, the back wall behind the hat-check girl is the wall from the ballroom of the Von Trapps’ villa in “The Sound of Music” (1965).

 

One of the horse-drawn buses used in the New York scene in the beginning of the movie (Dolly is briefly seen descending from one) is still in use. It is part of the Krewe of Orpheus parade in New Orleans and can be seen every Lundi Gras, still drawn by horses. A calliope has been installed on the upper deck.

 

The large fountain in the Harmonia Gardens set was reused in “The Towering Inferno” (1974). It can be seen in the top floor restaurant. In “The Towering Inferno”, it is knocked over by the water and kills the bartender played by Gregory Sierra.

 

The set for the Harmonia Gardens filled an entire sound stage at Fox Studios and occupied three levels: a dance floor, a main section that surrounded the dance floor and an upper mezzanine. The Harmonia Gardens sequence took an entire month to shoot.

 

The film grew out of a massive attempt by Twentieth Century-Fox to duplicate its earlier, unprecedented success with “The Sound of Music” (1965) by producing three expensive, large-scale musicals over a period of three years, “Doctor Doolittle” (1967) and “Star!” (1968) being the others. Unfortunately, film attendance as a whole was down and all three films’ box-office performance reflected this. All were released amid massive pre-release publicity and all lost equally massive amounts of money for the studio (though “Dolly” was in the box-office top five for the year of its release). The result was that several top studio executives lost their jobs, and the studio itself fell into such dire financial straits that it only produced one picture for the entire calendar year of 1970. In truth, Fox would never recoup its losses until a highly successful theatrical reissue of “The Sound of Music” in early 1973.

 

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