We're transported back to turn-of-the-20th-century New York, where widowed matchmaker Dolly Levi is flouncing around meeting people, being charming, and trying to make matches. She journeys up to Yonkers to meet the "well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) and to bring him and a couple of his employees, a hatmaker (there are lots of hats in this movie) and her assistant, back to New York so they can all romantically entangle with each other. Dolly's goal is to wind up with Vandergelder herself, but it won't be easy. Why? Because he's Walther Matthau, and that means he's perpetually cranky and cynical.
Peruse the soundtrack listing, and you'll realize that of the 13 songs in the movie, you only know one well and maybe a second one glancingly. How can such a successful musical be so unmemorable? The title track, which comes late in the movie, is important because it features a cameo by Louis Armstrong, and it's great to see him captured forever in Technicolor in all his glory. He makes Streisand look especially young. The other big number, "Before the Parade Passes By," is Dolly's strident promise to herself to live life to its fullest, and it's staged as a giant parade that is perhaps the last great gasp of the traditional Hollywood musical, taking up a vast swath of the 20th Century Fox backlot. Director Gene Kelly really goes for it. Lots of ladies are lifted up into the air by strapping young men, and their skirts flutter and fly.
Unfortunately, the parade ends, and we're back to lots of Streisand's nervously delivered snappy patter, wondering What Would Carol Channing Do? The movie creaks along to its happy ending, ultimately suffocating under way too many layers of brocade, velvet, and ostrich feathers.
Kick harder, kick higher.
Run time: 146 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 16th December 1969
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 20th Century Fox
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Gene Kelly
Producer: Ernest Lehman
Screenwriter: Ernest Lehman
Also starring: Ernest Lehman