If you missed the first showing on Aug. 11 of ‘Hello Dolly’ on the big screen, don’t worry. You have one more chance to see Dolly Levi descend the crimson staircase of Harmonia Gardens in her glittering gold gown on Aug. 14, a scene that is worth the price of admission alone.
In a celebration of its 50th Anniversary, Fathom Events and TCM present the 20th Century Fox three-time Academy award-winning film, Hello Dolly directed by Gene Kelly and choreographed by Michael Kidd, starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau.
Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) works her feminine wiles as she surrounds her true aim, Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) in a whirlwind of romantic circumstances. We get a sense of Dolly’s opportunistic and ambitious manner in one of the first musical numbers of the film, “Just Leave Everything To Me,” recently heard last season on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s eight-Emmy winning, smash Amazon comedy, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” [worthy of its numerous nominations and subsequent wins.] Although she charges in hurricane-like force, Horace spends the majority of the film refusing Dolly’s advances. Ultimately her strategy is artistic and precise, clenching her uncertain target in the most tender of traps.
Costumes were created by the New England native, Golden Girl Irene Sharaff, including the iconic gold gown, which was comprised of approximately one pound of gold thread, accented with Swarovski crystals, weighing in at a hefty 40 pounds, complemented by a green-and-yellow ombre-feathered headdress. It not only played well against the Harmonia Gardens backdrop but also with Streisand. Why call Sharaff the Golden Girl? She also created the iconic gold Phoenix gown in the 1963 version of “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor. (learn more about Cleopatra here) Sharaff’s detailing was not exclusive to the star. Note the flamboyant designs of the accompanying cast. To learn more about Sharaff watch the binge-worthy Amanda Hallay YouTube channel Ultimate Fashion History, an absolute must for classic fashion fans.
Set design was created by the Academy award-winning art director/production designer, John Decuir who also lent his talent to “Cleopatra” and the 1956 version of “The King and I.” A two-million-dollar overhaul of 20th Century Fox’s Studios backlot New York street was used as the set for turn-of-the-century scenes. On-location scenes were staged in upstate New York. The milliner’s shop is a clear-cut soft feminine juxtaposition to Vandergelder’s grain shop. Unless rewinding or pausing the film, consuming the grandeur of Harmonia Gardens is virtually impossible. It is, within itself, its own character, in lavish luxurious opulence. IMBD: 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 one-and-only 63-year-old Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong offers his signature gravelly rendition of “Hello Dolly” unceremoniously, unseating the newest sensation in America at that time, The Beatles, from the top spot on the Billboard charts, on May 9, 1964.
Gene Kelly’s complete kit bag full of MGM musical expertise is not lost on this film, including camera angles, as well as the progression of the story through music (Learn more about Gene Kelly here.) Streisand’s dialogue is fast and witty. In the scene where Dolly and Horace are having dinner in Harmonia Gardens, referencing chicken wings, a foreshadowing double-entendre laden exchange ensues.
Dolly: Here, let me cut your wings.
Horace: I don’t want my wings cut!
Dolly: No man does Horace…no man does…
A few online sources claim that the on-set relationship between Kelly and Streisand was strained, however Kelly biographer and widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, ensured that both had mutual respect for one another.
With her distinctive voice, Streisand remains a living legend. The Brooklyn-born Striesand began her acting and singing career as a teenager, moving on to Broadway. Her first album won a Grammy. In 1968 she starred in the hit musical film “Funny Girl,” successfully reprising her role in 1975 in the film “Funny Lady.”
However, in 1976 she remade “A Star is Born,” where she sings a song that this writer feels is her ideal. If you are unfamiliar with Streisand’s portfolio, know this song: “Evergreen.” It is emotion-filled and fluid, like gentle waves. Striesand purposefully and perfectly restrains the power of her voice. Simply stated it is beautifully magnificent. For those familiar with the lyrics, mid-way through, it could lead you in serenading a lover, real or imaginary, possibly making you believe that you, too, are a diva.
You’re probably not, but it’s fun to pretend.
“Hello Dolly” originated on Broadway, its revivals summoning iconic stars such as Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey – who starred in the all-black cast – and it’s most renowned and most associated actress, the late Carol Channing (Watch Carol Channing’s documentary trailer here.)
Say hello to Dolly once again. Join TCM and Fathom events for Hello Dolly’s 50th anniversary.
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