Not quite "just a moment," it actuality took over
139 years for the story of Dolly to evolve into the
immensely successful "Hello, Dolly!" franchise we
are familiar with today.
leave everything to me . .
be surprised to learn that the story of "Dolly" is a vintage
tale that goes as far back as the early 1800s. Before audiences
knew of either Carol Channing or Barbra Streisand, Thornton
Wilder wrote a play called "The Matchmaker," based on an 1852
story, and considered by some to be a classic. In 1958,
Paramount brought "The Matchmaker" to the screen as a
non-musical comedy, and establishing its star, Shirley Booth, as
the screen's first-ever Dolly.
Growing Up Dolly:
A History of the World's Best Known Matchmaker
Oxenford wrote a one act British farce called "A Day
playwright Johann Nestroy penned a full length play
entitled "Einen Jux will er sich machen" ("He'll Have
Himself a Good Time") based on Oxenford's one act
Thornton Wilder wrote "The
Merchant of Yonkers" based on Nestroy's play. It was a
Broadway flop which closed after just 39 performances.
Wilder rewrote "The Merchant
of Yonkers," calling it "The Matchmaker." The previously
minor character of Dolly Gallagher Levi was expanded to
become the centerpiece of the production. The play had a
successful run in London's West End and was ultimately
transferred to Broadway starring Ruth Gordon as Dolly.
The play was a hit and ran for 486 performances,
garnering a Tony nomination for Gordon and a Tony award
for the director, Tyrone Guthrie. David Merrick, who
would later bring "Hello, Dolly!" triumphantly to
Broadway, was this production's producer as well.
brought the story of Dolly to the screen for the first
time as a non-musical comedy starring Shirley Booth. In
"The Matchmaker," Booth played the meddlesome Dolly
"Gallagher" Levi opposite a cast of relative unknowns:
Shirley MacLaine as Irene, Anthony Perkins as Cornelius,
and Robert Morse as Barnaby.
"The Matchmaker" theatrical trailer
seen this film, you know that the story is essentially
the same, but without the musical production numbers. If
you're a fan of "Hello, Dolly!", this film is
interesting to watch, especially when realizing how this
century-old tale was brilliantly reinvented as a
Broadway showcase for Carol Channing, and later as a
film vehicle for Streisand. "The Matchmaker" is
currently available on DVD.
Shirley Booth as Dolly
Shirley Maclaine as
Robert Morse and Anthony
as Barnaby and Cornelius
Booth with Paul Ford
Merrick took another stab at his 1955 production of "The
Matchmaker" when he produced the Tony award winning musical
sensation "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway in 1964. At the Tony
awards, "Hello, Dolly!" was voted "Best Musical" and
Carol Channing was awarded "Best Actress" honors. In
total, "Dolly" racked in ten Tony's, making it the
season's biggest commercial hit, while dashing Barbra
Streisand's own hopes for a Tony (for "Funny Girl") in
the process. "Dolly's" ten Tony awards made it the most
honored show in Broadway history, a record that would
stand for decades. It took thirty-eight years for the
Tony baton to eventually be handed over. In 2001, Mel
Brooks' "The Producers" walked away with twelve Tonys.
"Dolly" ran in New York for an astounding 2,844
performances. After Channing left the show, a revolving
door of actresses was brought in to play the title role.
Among them were Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable
and Pearl Bailey, the most successful of Carol Channing's
replacements. Even the legendary Ethel Merman, whom
composer Jerry Herman had in mind when he originally
wrote the score, ultimately gave her own spin as Dolly.
In 1978, Channing starred
in her first Broadway revival of the show in a limited
run of 147 performances. She brought "Dolly" back for
yet another run of 116 performances in 1995.
Streisand starred in the film version of "Hello,
Dolly!". The film won three technical Oscars (Best Art
Direction, Best Sound, and Best Score Adaptation).
it was announced that Barbra Streisand had been chosen
to play the part on screen over Carol Channing,
controversy immediately erupted. Naysayers from Broadway
to Hollywood claimed that Streisand was too young to
play the part of the worldly widowed matchmaker. But
Barbra was a fresh, new, and immensely talented
performer, so giving her the chance to reinvent the
age-old character of Dolly only seemed logical. Besides,
who's to say that Dolly can't be a younger woman? In the
original script of "The Matchmaker," Thornton Wilder
describes Dolly Levi as a woman of "uncertain age."
was a flop at the box-office and 20th Century Fox
suffered major financial losses after pouring millions
into the biggest budget musical Hollywood had ever
produced. So where did the "Dolly" film go wrong?
can be made for the studio's, or perhaps director Gene
Kelly's, reliance on overproduction. Others contend that
the story needed to be tightened up for the screen,
after all there are long stretches of the film where the
star is noticeably absent. Only one new number was added
for Streisand to sing ("Love Is Only Love" - a
discarded trunk song from Jerry's Herman's original
Broadway production of "Mame") while other
non-Streisand musical sequences seemed to go on
Most would agree that the lack of chemistry
between Walter Matthau and Barbra was a major reason why
the film failed in the romantic appeal department.
Still, for all the criticism heaped on the film version
of "Dolly," none could justifiably be pegged on
Streisand's performance. Her vocals alone were enough to
insure a lasting legacy for the film.
D. Zanuck - Cast Barbra in "Dolly"
Richard D. Zanuck, the onetime head of 20th Century Fox passed away yesterday at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 77.
Zanuck was the executive who hired Barbra
Streisand to star in "Hello, Dolly!". It was a casting
decision that ignited controversy all the way from Hollywood
to Broadway. Should Carol Channing have gotten the part? Was
Barbra Streisand too young to play Dolly? Indeed, the debate
still goes on today.
Zanuck on the
set of "Hello, Dolly" (AP Photo)
Zanuck was not directly involved in the film's actual day-to-day
production, but as head of the studio, he was ultimately in
charge. During production, co-star Walter Matthau allegedly
became frustrated with his leading lady and went to the front
office with his complaints. Zanuck handled the issue by
famously telling Matthau that the film wasn't called "Hello,
In 1965, Zanuck purchased the film rights to "Hello, Dolly!"
from Broadway producer David Merrick. In the deal, Zanuck agreed
not to release the film until the Broadway show ended its
run. When the film was completed, the original contract
was renegotiated to allow for its release
(at a significant penalty
to Fox). The film did
open in December of 1969 even
though the show was still goin' strong on Broadway.
course, it is the film's title number that will always
be remembered for its historic significance. It paired
Streisand with legendary jazz great Louis Armstrong. In
1964, Armstrong released his own vocal version of the
"Hello, Dolly!" title number.
His rendition not only established itself as a long
standing number one chart hit, but its
extraordinary popularity and radio air play was a key
factor in the overall success of the "Dolly" franchise
on Broadway. Putting Louis Armstrong smack-dab in the
middle of the film's most famous number was a stroke of
did indeed reinvent the role, and her vocal performance
was head and shoulders above any delivery Carol Channing
ever gave to the part. Bitter at being overlooked for
the film role, Channing managed to keep her sour grapes
discussion alive in theatrical circles for nearly forty
years. Channing, however, made one concession to Barbra
in her 2002 memoir "Just Lucky, I Guess." According to
Broadway's Dolly, Barbra Streisand's singing in the film
Barbra's film version of "Hello, Dolly!" enjoys a robust
after-life in video and on television. With its recent
theatrical re-mastering (and subsequent DVD release),
"Dolly" is one of the most visually vibrant and exciting
films available for home viewing.