Hello, Dolly! (1969): Gene Kelly’s Oscar Nominated Musical, Starring Streisand

Though not as bad as Fox’s previous big musical, “Doctor Dolittle” (1967), Gene Kelly’s version of the popular Broadway musical “Hello, Dolly!” is a major disappointment, a dull, bloated production with very few good tunes, sung by Streisand. 


The yenta Dolly Levi was memorably played on stage by Carol Channing, who later reprised what became her signature role in numerous productions.  The source material goes back to Thornton Wilder’s straight stage play, The Matchmaker,” which in 1958 was made into a movie starring Shirley Booth, Paul Ford, and Anthony Hopkins, before it became a Broadway musical, in which many different stars, including Ginger Rogers, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Grable, and Pearl Bailey (in all-black production) played the titular role. Too young for the part, Barbara Streisand was only 27, but she was at the height of fame and popularity (after winning the Best Actress Oscar for “Funny Girl.”


It’s the last musical to be directed by Kelly, who had helmed or co-helmed better movies, such as “Singin’ in the Rain.”   Unfortunately, he falters in opening up the stage play for the big screen and thus, the choreography, the performances, and the sets are all too stiff and theatrical. 


Even so, Streisand’s rapid-fire delivery of lines and belting out some of Jerry Herman’s songs is fun to watch, or rather listen. Herman’s score is peppered with show tunes like “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” and of course the title song in a big production number that teams Streisand wit the great Louis Armstrong.


The movie was not only artistic failure but also a commercial flop—despite or maybe because of—the presence and singing of Streisand, whose paycheck accounted for a large portion of the budget.


Oscar Alert


Oscar Nominations: 7


Picture, produced by Ernest Lehman

Cinematography: Harry Stradling

Art Direction-Set Decoration: John DeCuir, Jack Martin Smith, Herman Blumenthal; Walter M. Scott, George Hopkins, Raphael Bretton

Film Editing: William Reynolds

Costume Design: Irene Sharaff

Sound: Jack Solomon, Murray Spivack

Score: Lennie Hayton, Lionel Newman

Oscar Awards:  3


Art Direction




Oscar Context:


In 1969, “Hello Dolly! nominated for seven Oscars but wining three, competed with “Midnight Cowboy,” which won the Oscars for Picture, Director John Schlesinger, and Adapted Screenplay to Waldo Sal, based on the 1966 novel of James Leo Herlihy. Though tough and gritty, the movie, with the help of the Oscars, was quite successful commercially.


The year’s biggest loser was “Anne of the Thousand Days,” which received the largest number (ten) of nominations, but won only one. Awards-wise, George Roy Hill’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” got more Oscars (four) than “Midnight Cowboy,” though both were nominated in 7 categories.  The fifth Oscar nominee was Costa-Gavras’ foreign-language film, the political thriller “Z.”

Fox  (Chenault Productions)