A long, long time ago, John Oxenford wrote a British farce called "A Day Well Spent." That served as the inspiration for Johann Nestroy, a Viennese playwright who penned a work using the same subject matter. While on a trip to Austria, Thornton Wilder happened to see a revival of
Nestroy's play (or so the legend goes, as related by Viennese Otto Preminger, who saw that play in the 1920s) and appropriated it as the 1938 flop "The Merchant of Yonkers." It was then revised and presented as "The Matchmaker" in 1955 and became a hit, with Robert Morse repeating his original
Broadway role in the film. The picture was made later as the musical play and movie HELLO DOLLY. It is 1884 and Yonkers matchmaker Booth (in just about her only comic role) is trying to unite Ford, a shopkeeper/merchant and MacLaine, a Manhattan hatmaker. Her plan is actually to nab Ford for
herself, but she must first pretend to be doing a job for him. Ford and Booth venture to the city and leave his two clerks, Perkins and Morse, behind to watch the store. Both young men are very naive and, with the boss gone, they make a pact to go to New York and kiss a pretty girl, any pretty
girl. In a weird turn of events, Morse and Perkins meet MacLaine and her pal, Wilson, and squire them to one of the city's poshest restaurants. They then discover that they do not have enough money to pay the bill. But Perkins conveniently finds the wallet of Ford, who is in the next private
dining room with Booth. Ford discovers them and fires the hapless youths. Booth is about to lose a commission and, worse than that, lose Ford. She helps Perkins open a shop across the road from Ford's, and Ford must acquiesce; he'll marry Booth and take Perkins in as a partner.
There were some changes in Hayes' script from the play, none of which improved the piece. The actors had the annoying task of speaking directly at the camera with their comments, something that works on the stage from time to time but breaks the mood in a film. The one weak link in the excellent
ensemble was the casting of Wilson as MacLaine's friend. Further investigation of that flaw reveals that she was married to the director.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A long, long time ago, John Oxenford wrote a British farce called "A Day Well Spent." That served as the inspiration for Johann Nestroy, a Viennese playwright who penned a work using the same subject matter. While on a trip to Austria, Thornton Wilder happ… (more)