A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hello, Dolly! is a 1969 romantic comedy based on the classic Broadway musical. There's some drinking at a fancy dinner (wine, champagne), and one of the characters talks of wanting to drink a rum toddy. "Damn" is used twice. It's a movie set in New York in 1890, so many of the characters reflect the beliefs and attitudes of the time concerning gender roles. For instance, the abrasive rich man Horace Vandergelder (played by Walter Matthau) sings a number called "It Takes a Woman" in which he expresses his opinion that women are best suited for, among other chores, "lovingly set(ting) out the traps for the mice." For families watching this movie, it's a great opportunity to discuss "traditional" gender roles, how they're presented in the movie, and how Dolly, by force of her personality and character, seems to transcend these prevailing attitudes.
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What's the story?
Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) is a matchmaker in turn-of-the-century Yonkers, outside of New York. She's hired by Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) to find him a wife. He also hires her to take his niece Ermengarde (Joyce Ames) to New York City to encourage her to forget about marrying her artist beau, Ambrose (Tommy Tune). Instead, Dolly makes matches for his two clerks (Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin), advises them on how to get promotions from Horace, and helps Ermengarde get permission to marry Ambrose. Finally, after a series of intricate maneuvers, Dolly makes a match for herself, with Horace.
Is it any good?
This is one of the last of the big-time, old-fashioned musicals, with lavish production values and a dozen hummable tunes. The very slight story is bolstered by terrific singing and dancing -- staged by two masters of the genre: Gene Kelly, who directed, and Michael Kidd, who choreographed. The elaborate sets, costumes, and musical numbers make this movie a treat for the eyes and ears.
Dolly is almost a magical figure, yet with all the confidence it takes to transform the lives of everyone around her, she still hesitates when it comes to herself. She still mourns her late husband Ephraim, but she wants more out of life "Before the Parade Passes By." Yet when Horace finally proposes, she waits for a sign of Ephraim's approval. What she gets is a sign that Horace has the qualities she is looking for -- that, as she suspected all along, his gruff exterior conceals a warm heart and a wish to help others.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Dolly doesn't just tell Horace the truth about what she thinks is right for him and for Ermengarde. How does she help the people in the movie to think differently about themselves, and how does that help them change?
How does the movie address gender roles? How do these expressions mirror the time in which the movie was set?
Why do you think that musicals have such an enduring appeal? What would be the challenges in adapting a hit Broadway musical into a movie?
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