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Hello, Dolly!

Here's the film that, joined by DOCTOR DOOLITTLE and STAR!, sounded the death knell for the film musical, a stroke it still hasn't recovered from. It's also the film where Streisand allegedly slapped Matthau, and he slapped her back. But she had no problem bullying director Kelly: it's an exercise in star turns, surrounded by elephantine blandness. The supporting cast look, and act, like refugees from Disney or Oral Roberts University, handpicked not to ruffle the star. Whatever terrific future lay ahead for Tune and Crawford, you've no inkling of it from all the too cute mugging here. Not only is Streisand far too young (and it makes one weep to think of all the marvelous ladies who should have been considered), but her Dolly Levi arouses no affection. Without the dose of healthy sentiment the character arouses to balance her machinations, she's just a nasty bitch on the make. Furthermore, this exposes how pallid Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (the play on which the musical is based) really is. There are two good songs in Jerry Herman's score: "Before the Parade Passes By" and the title tune, here an exercise in star wrestling between Streisand and the irrepressible Louis Armstrong, who connect not one whit.