Anyone who knows me well will tell you: one of my all-time favorite movies is Hello, Dolly!, starring Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, and Michael Crawford. (My other favorite movies may have to be discussed at a later date… otherwise this post will become abominably long and you will immediately unsubscribe from my email list in retaliation for subjecting you to so many spins of your scroll wheel.)
In honor of this brilliant piece of cinematic splendor, let us take a stroll down the beautiful streets of Yonkers and enjoy a few of the ways that Dolly Levi and Company have entertained for 47 years.
Two words: the costumes
In my humble opinion, if a movie doesn’t star people in beautiful costumes, it’s not worth watching. Hello, Dolly! is definitely worth watching. Gorgeous, brightly-colored Edwardian fashion fills the screen, with enormous feathery hats predominating. In fact, our first glimpse of Dolly’s face comes from around the wide brim of her red-feathered hat. The clothes are almost characters themselves, especially in the case of her famous golden dress of the Harmonia Gardens sequence (which cost, like, more than any other movie dress ever made.)
Even the men in this movie are dressed to the nines. Why did straw boaters ever go out of style?? Maybe they’re not great sun protection, and maybe they won’t keep a guy’s ears warm in a blizzard, but still, they’re better than any modern headgear when it comes to looks.
Dolly Levi was way, way ahead of her time
While 1890s fashion can hardly be held up as a harbinger of things to come, Dolly herself certainly had a few futuristic ideas when it came to her unusual accessories. In the first quarter of the movie, she carries a massive carpetbag-like purse that definitely stands out among the little drawstring pouches most women of the movie carry. Obviously Dolly understood the importance then, as we do now, of always keeping a large collection of life necessities at the ready in a fashionable oversize bag. However, it is doubtful whether she actually carried anything beyond the numerous business cards that she distributes to the population of New York.
As everyone around Yonkers and 14th Street knows, Dolly Levi has “more businesses than a dog has fleas.” In fact, she seems more like a business woman of today than one of the 1890s. As her business cards and her sales spiel suggest, she can provide anyone with lessons in dance or mandolin, plan their weddings, breed their collies, invest their money, reupholster their furniture, bribe their jury, or even find them a suitable marriage partner. And not only is she shamelessly self-promoting, she has her ideal customers nailed—whenever someone protests that they cannot dance, she just whips out a card that says: “Mrs. Dolly Levi–28-and-three-quarter-years-old chief clerks taught how to dance.” Now that’s what I call niche marketing!
The characters are beyond quotable
“The room’s simply crawling with [quotes]. Irene darling, congratulations!”
You really can’t take a walk through the world of Hello, Dolly! without tripping over an insanely apt quote for any situation.
If you have ever wondered why it’s so hard to make a living making art, here is your answer: “A living … is made by selling something that everybody needs at least once a year. Yes sir, and a fortune is made by producing something that everybody needs every single day. You artists, you painters, produce nothing, that nobody needs, never!”
If you’re trying to figure out how to support yourself and your creative business, just remember, “If you have to live from hand to mouth, you better be ambidextrous.”
If you’re ever going to New York City, be sure and remember Barnaby Tucker’s bucket list: “The parade, the statue of Liberty, the stuffed whale at Barnum’s Museum, I could die a happy man right now!”
And of course, anytime somebody disagrees with you about where to go for dinner or what to watch on TV, just remind them, “It’s no use arguing, I’ve made up your mind.”
What’s your favorite movie?