By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
Many modern audiences know this film as “the old movie featured in WALL·E (2008).” Hello, Dolly! is much more than just an old movie, though, because it remains a classic even though it was originally released in 1969. It might not be the greatest movie musical ever made, but it is still a very lighthearted film, and it is essentially a “feel-good” movie that continues to enchant audiences with its memorable songs as well as a special sense of innocence in this adaptation of the original Broadway production.
Since this is a musical, the songs and score are obviously amazing! The film also earned an Academy Award nomination for Irene Sharaff’s colorful costumes, and even won an Oscar for its production design. The performance of the title number remains one of the greatest musical performances ever filmed, and this screen gem is all thanks to the brilliance of director Gene Kelly, who also starred in some of the best movie musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, including Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and the Best Picture winner An American in Paris (1951).
Gene Kelly was actually (and absolutely) furious when he failed to earn a “Best Director” nomination at the Academy Awards even though Hello, Dolly! earned a “Best Picture” nomination that same year. Practically every song in this film is filled with fun, color, and extravagance, and the ones featured in WALL·E actually help enhance the plot of that equally beloved Disney/Pixar flick.
Even with its coveted “Best Picture” nomination, the film failed to receive nominations for acting nor writing. Barbra Streisand actually tied with Katharine Hepburn for the “Best Actress” Academy Award when Streisand starred as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1968), but her performance as Dolly Levi is somewhat flat and superficial. Streisand was able to give Fanny Brice a sense of emotional depth, especially since her character had to deal with a tumultuous relationship with Nick Arnstein (played by Omar Shariff). However, Streisand did not exactly do that for Dolly Levi.
The plot of Hello, Dolly! is also a bit too simple since it is basically about a bunch of romantic couples who want to get married after traveling to New York City. That lack of complexity to the story and acting is probably why Hello, Dolly! failed to earn Academy Awards nominations in these major categories as well as lost the “Best Picture” Oscar to Midnight Cowboy (1969), which remains one of the most notorious and controversial “Best Picture” winners given due to its dark subject matter.
Even with some minor flaws, Hello, Dolly! is still one of the most famous musical films ever made. It was also the most expensive musical film ever produced during its original release in 1969. The film also helped the career of Michael Crawford (who played Cornelius Hackl) who went on to star in the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original Broadway cast of The Phantom of the Opera. Barbra Streisand herself remains a pop culture icon (as of 2018). Hello, Dolly! has also been referenced and parodied numerous times in pop culture, including an episode of Spongebob Squarepants in which Spongebob suffers from halitosis (bad breath) and says, “and hello, Dolly!” This film is not exactly the best movie musical ever made, yet many people still enjoy this musical, especially since WALL·E introduced many modern audiences to this seminal classic.
Hello, Dolly! (1969) Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every musical number
Take a Drink: every time Horace Vandergelder expresses frustration against Dolly Levi (which is partially because Walter Matthau absolutely detested Barbra Streisand in real life)
And Cheers: during the epic performance of the title number in the Harmonia Gardens