THE MATCHMAKER (1958) is significant for several reasons. It is the first film version of the play by Thornton Wilder that was made into the musical smash HELLO, DOllY!. It is also one of the too few movies made by Shirley Booth in the 1950s after she won the Oscar for Best Actress, and gives her versatility a chance to shine with COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA and ABOUT MRS. LESLIE. Booth usually was in movie dramas, and this is a rare chance to see her handle a comedy.
This version sticks closer to Wilder's original version of THE MATCHMAKER, for there were more "Strange Interlude" style asides by the various characters talking to the audience. Also more of the characters (in particular Wallace Ford's "Malachi Stack") are used. The only major change is in what would be the concluding act of the play: Wilder had Vandergelder's niece Ernestine run off with Ambrose (and followed by Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby, and Minnie - and then Dolly and Horace) from the Harmonium Gardens to Vandergelder's sister's home in Manhattan. The sister is very sensible and kindly, but she is also dull. Her loss from the movie is no loss.
Little bits of biography about Dolly and Horace are in this version and not in the musical. Dolly, for example, has a long standing law suit that she is pursuing (Horace is not deeply impressed about it) concerning her claims to land ownership of a large chunk of Long Island (presumably Nassau and Suffolk counties). Horace, in his first "strange interlude" soliloquy to the audience ("Ninety percent of the human race are fools, and the rest of us are in danger of contagion!") he explains his willingness to wed. It seems he was married once, when he was poor. Ford is fairly pompous in the speech, until he reaches a moment when Horace's humanity comes out - he mentions his first wife's death ("Which was foolish of her", he says with a sad look in his eyes). He is not just a money-making machine. But he does believe in hard work to be able to afford to live comfortably. Even at the end of the film he is telling the audience to save their money.
Anthony Perkins normally did not appear in comedies, but he is Cornelius here - opposite Shirley MacLaine as Irene. Her early gamin style is at work here, mixed with a bit of urban common sense (unlike Marianne McAndrews in HELLO, DOLLY! she does remember to bring the money from work with her to the Harmonium Gardens - ironically in time to bail out Vandergelder who has lost his wallet). Perkins is a pleasing juvenile in this film - one wishes he had tried more comedies. Within two years he'd be typecast forever as Norman Bates. Robert Morse, at the start of his career, played Barnaby with his typical bashful, winsomeness. In only four years he'd achieve Broadway fame in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, using the same winsomeness as Finch. The most interesting addition in this film was Wallace Ford. Malachi Stack (a new employee hired by Vandergelder) was dropped in the musical - but he too plays an important role in the play as a philosophical type - a reformed thief who is trying to make good at the new job for a difficult, demanding boss. He finds the wallet Vandergelder loses, and turns it over to the wrong person (an important plot twist). Ford makes us like this kindly wreck of a man, who ends up beating his new boss as well as the others do.
Lines of dialog in the film make us realize we are hearing song cues (MacLaine mentioning how ribbons on a hat are the in-thing this year is an example). But this film has such a good rhythm on it's own we do not need the great Jerry Herman score here. THE MATCHMAKER stands up pretty well on it's own feet.
Comedy / Romance
Comedy / Romance
It's 1884 in Yonkers, New York. Dolly Gallagher-Levi is a Jane-of-all-Trades, but her latest and most lucrative venture is as a matchmaker, setting men up with women with the intention of matrimony. This job is ironic as she was previously married herself, not enjoying the experience. Her latest client is older penny-pinching retail store owner, Horace Vandergelder, who works his two young meek clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, to the bone. As Horace won't give them a day off, Cornelius and Barnaby plot to close the store and sneak into New York for the day, their mission to meet and kiss a girl. In New York, Cornelius spots Irene Molloy, a young female milliner upon who he sets his sights. On their meeting, Cornelius is unaware that she is also one of Horace's possible brides. Beyond what happens between Horace, Cornelius and Irene, Dolly herself may be ready for matrimony again despite her words to the contrary.—Huggo
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