On a break from filming, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford visited a nearby racetrack and saw a horse named Hello Dolly. Matthau refused to place a bet on it because it reminded him of Barbra Streisand, whom he detested. Crawford placed a bet on the horse. It won the race, and Matthau refused to speak to Crawford for the rest of the shoot unless absolutely necessary.
This was the very first film released on home video (VHS and Betamax) in the US. It was released in fall 1977 by the Magnetic Video Corporation, the first of the 50 original films it licensed from Fox. Its catalog number was CL-1001.
Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau fought bitterly during filming. He disliked her so intensely that he refused to be around her unless the script required it. He is famously quoted as telling Barbra that she "had no more talent than a butterfly's fart". Interestingly, he is clearly in the audience at Barbra's One Voice (1986) concert at her Malibu ranch, where invitation-only guests paid $5,000 per couple to help establish the Streisand Foundation, which supports numerous charitable organizations. Apparently, he did not hold grudges.
When director George Roy Hill heard about the turn-of-the-century New York set constructed for the film, he wanted to use it for a brief sequence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) in which Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place visit the Big Apple. The producers didn't want it to appear in another movie. However, 20th Century-Fox allowed Hill to take still photographs of his stars Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross on the set, surrounded by the extras, who appear in the old-time, tinted photos as city crowds. They were used in a montage sequence that served as a transition between the U.S. West and Bolivia sections of the movie.
The set for the Harmonia Gardens filled an entire sound stage at Fox Studios and occupied three levels: a dance floor, a main section that surrounded the dance floor and an upper mezzanine. The Harmonia Gardens sequence took an entire month to shoot.
In the original musical, Cornelius Hackl and Irene Molloy sing "It Only Takes a Moment" in the courtroom during Horace Vandergelder's trial. In the movie, they sing the song in Union Square Park. The entire arrest and trial sequence was dropped for the movie version.
Barbra Streisand's gold-beaded gown in the Harmonia Gardens scene weighed 40 pounds, and cost $8,000. The original design included a 2-1/2-foot train, which was removed after she and other dancers tripped over it during rehearsals. The train is visible when Streisand starts down the stairs, then disappears.
The film grew out of a massive attempt by Twentieth Century-Fox to duplicate its earlier, unprecedented success with The Sound of Music (1965) by producing three expensive, large-scale musicals over a period of three years, Doctor Dolittle (1967) and Star! (1968) being the others. Unfortunately, film attendance as a whole was down and all three films' box-office performance reflected this. All were released amid massive pre-release publicity and all lost equally massive amounts of money for the studio (though "Dolly" was in the box-office top five for the year of its release). The result was that several top studio executives lost their jobs, and the studio itself fell into such dire financial straits that it only produced one picture for the entire calendar year of 1970. In truth, Fox would never recoup its losses until a highly successful theatrical reissue of "The Sound of Music" in early 1973.
Leading UK DVD retailer HMV sold more copies of this film from July-September 2008 than it had for the previous ten years. It was attributed to the popularity of WALL·E (2008), which features clips from this film at several key points.
The original stage production of "Hello, Dolly!" was adapted from "The Matchmaker", a non-musical play by Thornton Wilder, which premiered on Broadway in 1955. "The Matchmaker" was a revised version of Wilder's 1938 play, "The Merchant of Yonkers," which Wilder based on "Einen Jux will er sich machen" ("He'll Have Himself a Good Time"), an 1842 three-act Austrian play by Johann Nestroy, with music by Adolf Müller. Nestroy's play was adapted from "A Day Well Spent", an 1835 one-act farce by English playwright John Oxenford. It also has similarities to "L'Avare" ("The Miser"), a 1668 play by Molière, derived from the ancient Roman play "Aulularia" ("Pot of Gold") by Titus Maccius Plautus. Plautus' play was partially based on an earlier Greek play by Menander called "Dyskolos" ("The Grouch"), first performed around 317 BCE. "Einen Jux will er sich machen" was the basis for the 1981 play "On the Razzle" by Tom Stoppard. The plot of "Hello, Dolly" is also similar to "A Trip to Chinatown," an 1891 3-act musical comedy by Charles Hale Hoyt, with music by Percy Gaunt and lyrics by Hoyt. That play was revised as "A Winsome Widow," a 1912 musical produced by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., featuring music by Raymond Hubbell.
Danny Lockin, who played Barnaby in the movie, played the same role live on the St. James Theatre stage in New York while the movie was in first-run theaters. Sadly, he was murdered a few years later in LA.
The scenes set in turn-of-the-last-century Yonkers, New York, were actually filmed a few miles up the Hudson River, in Garrison, NY. Yonkers was recreated by putting false fronts on the existing buildings of the small village. The final wedding scene and reprise were shot at the Trophy Point monument and overlook of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
The original Broadway production of "Hello Dolly!" opened at the St. James Theater on January 16, 1964 and ran for 2844 performances, setting a Broadway longevity record. "Hello Dolly!" also won the 1964 Tony Award for the Best Musical and Best Score. The original Broadway production is the nineteenth longest running show ever as of February, 2013.
Many of the taller building facades constructed on the Los Angeles front lot of 20th Century-Fox as part of the outdoor sets (representing 1890 New York City) concealed the towers of then-new Century City--constructed on the former back lot of the studio..
Twentieth Century-Fox had agreed to theatrical impresario David Merrick's stipulation that its film could not be released while the Broadway production was still running. As the show was nearing its fourth year on stage by the time filming got under way, it was assumed that it would have closed by the time the movie was ready for release. However, Merrick then replaced his stage actors with an all-black cast led by Pearl Bailey, an acclaimed move which invigorated the theatre box-office considerably. As a result, the finished film spent a year gathering dust in Fox's vaults, and only got released after Fox had come to a lavish financial arrangement with Merrick so that he would waive his stipulation. This added to the film's already huge cost and helped make it an even bigger flop. The stage show ran for some seven years, long after the film's original release.
Choreographer Michael Kidd liked pairing tall girls and short guys together for sex appeal and energy in his works. He got just the opposite with Tommy Tune, who stood 6' 6" and Joyce Ames (Ermangarde), who was 4' 10", a near 2 foot height difference. Kidd was disinterested with them as a couple, but Gene Kelly stepped in to help.
The ornate glass windows in the background of the Harmonia Gardens were recycled and used in the main dining room skylights of the SS Poseidon in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Egyptian hieroglyphic backgrounds from Cleopatra (1963) completed the Poseidon's dining room, even though the ship's design theme was of the Greek god Poseidon.
The song "Love Is Only Love," which Barbra Streisand's Dolly sings in her bedroom before the Harmonia Gardens scene, was not in the stage production of "Hello, Dolly." "Love Is Only Love" was written by Jerry Herman for the Broadway musical "Mame" but was cut before the show's opening. The song occurred in the story as Mame Dennis tries to explain falling in love to her pre-teen nephew, Patrick. 20th Century-Fox executives had asked Herman to write a new song for the film so they would have a candidate for the Academy Award for Best Song, and they were upset that instead of giving them a new song, he palmed them off with a discard from "Mame" that, because it had been performed publicly during "Mame"'s out-of-town tryouts, was not eligible for the award.
In the parade scene the YWCA marching unit was the award-winning California High School Drill Team, under the direction of Ms. Jackie McCauley. The group was selected by Twentieth Century-Fox based on their performance in the Hollywood Santa Claus Lane Parade on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving Day, 1967. The marching band in white uniforms was the UCLA Marching Band. The band in red and black uniforms was the San Fernando Valley Youth Band.
To save costs, Fox reused the Grand Central Station and Harmonia Gardens sets for the mutants' city in the ruins of New York City in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). They were redressed to serve as the mutants' tribunal room in the remnants of Grand Central Station and their church in the ruined St. Patrick's Cathedral respectively.
Although Gene Kelly won Golden Globe and Directors Guild nominations for best director, and although Hello, Dolly! (1969) won an Oscar nomination for best film, Kelly was furious when he did not get an Oscar nomination for direction.
Carol Channing had originally played Dolly in the Broadway production, and won a Tony Award for it. The same year Barbra Streisand was nominated for the same award for Funny Girl (1968). Streisand eventually played both parts, and won an Academy Award for "Funny Girl."
One of the horse-drawn buses used in the New York scene in the beginning of the movie (Dolly is briefly seen descending from one) is still in use. It is part of the Krewe of Orpheus parade in New Orleans and can be seen every Lundi Gras, still drawn by horses. A calliope has been installed on the upper deck.
The film only managed to gross $33.2 million (with $26 million in theatrical rentals) against a $25 million budget. Adjusted for inflation those numbers amount to a $216 million gross on a $164 million budget in contemporary dollars.
Though the role of Dolly is usually cast closer to the age of her love interest, Horace Vandegelder, and indeed it is implied that Dolly, a widow, is some years older than Cornelius Hackl and Irene Malloy, Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford, and Marianne McAndrew are all the same age, born in 1942.
In the original musical, Vandergelder was supposed to crash a dance number called "Be My Butterfly," after which he was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. Dolly visits him in his holding cell at the courthouse, and this is where she sings "So Long, Dearie." For the movie, that number was dropped, and Dolly sings "So Long, Dearie" at the train station.
When she appeared on Inside The Actors Studio, Barbra Streisand was reluctant to discuss the film other than to acknowledge that she had been far too young for the part of Dolly and should never have accepted it.
Among those who originally tested for the role of Gussie Grainger/Ernestina Simple were Jo Anne Worley and Peg Murray. Among those who tested for Ambrose Kemper was Ron Rifkin. Worley had been a stand-in for Carol Channing in the original 1964 Broadway production. In 1973 she played Dolly in a stage production performed in Sacramento, California.
Two songs from the original Broadway production, " I Put My Hand In" and "Motherhood", were not used in the film version. Two songs in the film version, "Just Leave Everything To Me" and "Love is Only Love", were not in the original Broadway production.
Prior to playing Minnie Faye in this film E.J. Peaker had starred with Robert Morse in a short-lived (one season) sitcom called That's Life (1968). Morse had played Minnie Faye's suitor, Barnaby, in the 1955 stage production of "The Matchmaker", which "Hello, Dolly!" is based on. Morse repeated his role in the film version of The Matchmaker (1958).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
As Walter Matthau and Barbra Streisand had notoriously feuded on the set of the film, when it came time to film the ending where Horace and Dolly kiss at their wedding, because he hated her so much Matthau had effectively refused to kiss her. A variation of clever angles and long distance camera shots were able to create a convincing kiss where Matthau and Streisand's faces come close together without actually touching their lips.
The songs "Out there" from Hello, Dolly - as sung by Michael Crawford & Walter Matthau - and "Put on your Sunday clothes" - as sung by Michael Crawford, Walter Matthau, Barbara Streisand and Company - feature in the 2008 Disney film Wall-E. Scenes from Hello, Dolly are also included in the film. They appear on the tape that Wall-E has in his truck/ home, he practices dancing while watching it and shows it to EVA, who also tries to dance to it and accidentally breaks some of Wall-Es possessions.