The Matchmaker (1958)

100-101 mins | Comedy | August 1958

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HISTORY

After the opening Paramount and VistaVision logos, the film begins with an old-fashioned portrait of a street scene, labeled “Yonkers, NY, 1884.” The camera zooms in on the portrait, which then becomes a live-action scene of Shirley Booth looking at a statue. After Booth’s name and character name, "Dolly 'Gallagher' Levi," appear superimposed over her, she turns to the camera and says, “Oh hello there. Are all of you people married? Oh, that’s nice.” The camera then pans to Anthony Perkins, who, as “Cornelius Hackl,” is ogling pretty girls walking by. Perkins peers at the camera as if looking into the movie theater and asks, “Are you alone? He’s out getting you popcorn? Oh, well,” before shrugging and walking away. Shirley MacLaine’s credit then appears as she steps out of a carriage and the camera zooms in to show her revealed ankles. MacLaine states, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Pretty, aren’t they?” The camera then moves up to the top floor of “Horace Vandergelder’s” general store, where Paul Ford is cooing at a caged bird outside his window. He glares at the camera and gruffly demands, “Haven’t you any better way to spend your money?” When Ford closes the blinds, the camera draws back and the live-action scene again becomes a portrait, over which the remaining credits appear.
       Characters talk directly to the camera numerous times during the film, commenting on the action or explaining their motivations. Critics were mostly positive about the device, and especially praised the soliloquy given by Wallace Ford, as “Malachi Stack,” when he reveals that he is ... More Less

After the opening Paramount and VistaVision logos, the film begins with an old-fashioned portrait of a street scene, labeled “Yonkers, NY, 1884.” The camera zooms in on the portrait, which then becomes a live-action scene of Shirley Booth looking at a statue. After Booth’s name and character name, "Dolly 'Gallagher' Levi," appear superimposed over her, she turns to the camera and says, “Oh hello there. Are all of you people married? Oh, that’s nice.” The camera then pans to Anthony Perkins, who, as “Cornelius Hackl,” is ogling pretty girls walking by. Perkins peers at the camera as if looking into the movie theater and asks, “Are you alone? He’s out getting you popcorn? Oh, well,” before shrugging and walking away. Shirley MacLaine’s credit then appears as she steps out of a carriage and the camera zooms in to show her revealed ankles. MacLaine states, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Pretty, aren’t they?” The camera then moves up to the top floor of “Horace Vandergelder’s” general store, where Paul Ford is cooing at a caged bird outside his window. He glares at the camera and gruffly demands, “Haven’t you any better way to spend your money?” When Ford closes the blinds, the camera draws back and the live-action scene again becomes a portrait, over which the remaining credits appear.
       Characters talk directly to the camera numerous times during the film, commenting on the action or explaining their motivations. Critics were mostly positive about the device, and especially praised the soliloquy given by Wallace Ford, as “Malachi Stack,” when he reveals that he is returning the found wallet because it is best to nurture only one vice at a time, and his chosen vice is whiskey. At the end of the picture, Dolly assembles the leading characters and, after she instructs them to compose a moral for the story, they relate their ideas to the audience. Upon Cornelius’ wish for the audience that they have both adventure and quiet, Dolly urges them to go out immediately and fulfill their hearts’s desires, but not to tell anyone that she told them to do so.
       As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was taken “from the play by Thornton Wilder.” While the credits refer only to one play, Wilder’s hit play The Matchmaker was based on his 1938 production The Merchant of Yonkers , which had been a commercial failure. In turn, The Merchant of Yonkers was based on two earlier plays. The first, A Day Well Spent , was written by John Oxenford and was produced in 1835, according to information in the Paramount Collection, located at the AMPAS Library. Oxenford’s play was then adapted as a “Viennese farce,” written by Johann Nestroy in 1842 and entitled Einen Jux will er sich Machen . The play The Matchmaker first opened in the Edinburgh Festival in 1954, and after a successful run in London, moved to Broadway on 5 Dec 1955. On the Razzle , a 1981 off-Broadway play by Tom Stoppard, was also based on Oxenford's and Nestroy's works.
       According to a Mar 1956 HR news item, producer Don Hartman originally intended to star Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in the picture, which would have marked their first re-teaming since the 1952 M-G-M production Pat and Mike (see above). The character of “Ernestina Simple,” invented by Dolly, is never seen in the film, although the photograph of Ernestina is actually actress Peggy Connelly, according to a studio press release. Actress Perry Wilson, who portrayed "Minnie Fay," was married to director Joseph Anthony, and according to a press release, their two children, Ellen and Peter, were to have bit roles in the picture. Studio publicity and HR news items also include Anita Ross and Richard Bailey in the cast, but their appearance, as well as that of the Anthony children, in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Wilson, primarily a television and stage actress, made only one other picture beside The Matchmaker , the 1957 Paramount release Fear Strikes Out (see above), which also starred Perkins.
       Although some contemporary sources reported that The Matchmaker marked the film debut of Robert Morse, the only member of the original Broadway cast to reprise his role for the movie, he had previously appeared in a bit role in the 1954 Paramount release The Proud and the Profane (see below). The picture did mark the first comedic roles of Booth and Perkins, both noted for their dramatic performances. The Var reviewer called Booth’s performance “no less than superb” and stated that Perkins’ “switch to farce is also a bright experience.” The picture was the last film of producer Hartman, who died in Mar 1958. Hartman, the head of production at Paramount from 1950 to 1956, formed his own independent production unit in Aug 1956. His first picture was the Paramount release Desire Under the Elms (see above).
       Wilder’s play was also used as the basis for the Tony Award-winning musical Hello, Dolly! (New York, 16 Jan 1964), with a book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Directed by Gower Champion, the musical featured Carol Channing in what was to become her most famous role, one that she revived on Broadway in both 1955 and 1978. The musical was also revived in 1975, featuring an Africa-American cast headed by Pearl Bailey as Dolly and Billy Daniels as Horace. In 1969, Twentieth Century-Fox made a movie of Hello, Dolly! , which was directed by Gene Kelly and starred Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford (see AFI Catalog of Featue Films, 1961-70 ). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 May 1958.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1956.
---
Daily Variety
7 May 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
17 Feb 1956.
---
Film Daily
8 May 57
p. 11.
Harrison's Reports
10 May 1958.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
24 Jul 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1956
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1957
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1958
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 58
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1958
p. 1, 8, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1958
p. 1.
Life
28 Jul 1958
pp. 65-66.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 May 58
p. 824.
New York Times
13 Aug 58
p. 22.
New Yorker
23 Aug 1958.
---
Newsweek
18 Aug 1958.
---
Saturday Review
16 Aug 1958.
---
Time
25 Aug 1958.
---
Variety
7 May 58
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
The Don Hartman Production of
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Asst cam
Asst cam
Cam op
Grip
Gaffer
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Painter
Props
Props
COSTUMES
Cost
Women's cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus adv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hair style supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial coach
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Scr supv
Casting dir
Casting dir secy
Prod secy
Dir secy
Rhubarb's trainer
Craft service
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Matchmaker by Thorton Wilder (London, 4 Nov 1955), which was based on the play The Merchant of Yonkers by Thornton Wilder (New York, 28 Dec 1938).
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1958
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 23 Jul 1958; San Francisco opening: 6 Aug 1958; New York opening: 12 Aug 1958
Production Date:
5 Aug--19 Sep 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Don Hartman Productions, Inc. & Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
13 August 1958
Copyright Number:
LP11919
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
100-101
Length(in feet):
9,068
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18757
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1884, middle-aged widow Dolly “Gallagher” Levi ekes out a living as a matchmaker, thereby indulging her passion for “rearranging” other people’s lives. One morning, she goes from New York City up to Yonkers to visit wealthy merchant Horace Vandergelder, who desires to remarry after many years as a widower. Although Dolly has introduced Horace to Irene Molloy, a much-younger milliner, she intends to marry Horace herself. Dolly goes to Horace’s general store, at which he employs the overworked and underappreciated Cornelius Hackl and Cornelius’ young assistant, Barnaby Tucker. There, Horace confides in Dolly that he intends to propose to Irene that afternoon in New York, and to distract him, Dolly shows him a photograph of a well-endowed young woman. Concocting a fake name, Ernestina Simple, Dolly describes the girl’s many virtues, and Horace agrees to meet her at the lush Harmonia Dinner Gardens. Horace still insists on seeing Irene, however, and leaves the store after refusing to give Cornelius and Barnaby even a single night off. Frustrated that life is passing him by, Cornelius tells Barnaby that they are also going to New York, and will not return until they have had a good meal, been in danger, almost been arrested and kissed a girl. After blowing up two rows of canned tomatoes, so that the resulting odor will force them to close the store, Cornelius and Barnaby set off on their adventure, even though they have only ten dollars. A few hours later, after fulfilling most of their requirements, Cornelius and Barnaby lament the fact that they have not even met any girls. They happen by Irene’s ... +


In 1884, middle-aged widow Dolly “Gallagher” Levi ekes out a living as a matchmaker, thereby indulging her passion for “rearranging” other people’s lives. One morning, she goes from New York City up to Yonkers to visit wealthy merchant Horace Vandergelder, who desires to remarry after many years as a widower. Although Dolly has introduced Horace to Irene Molloy, a much-younger milliner, she intends to marry Horace herself. Dolly goes to Horace’s general store, at which he employs the overworked and underappreciated Cornelius Hackl and Cornelius’ young assistant, Barnaby Tucker. There, Horace confides in Dolly that he intends to propose to Irene that afternoon in New York, and to distract him, Dolly shows him a photograph of a well-endowed young woman. Concocting a fake name, Ernestina Simple, Dolly describes the girl’s many virtues, and Horace agrees to meet her at the lush Harmonia Dinner Gardens. Horace still insists on seeing Irene, however, and leaves the store after refusing to give Cornelius and Barnaby even a single night off. Frustrated that life is passing him by, Cornelius tells Barnaby that they are also going to New York, and will not return until they have had a good meal, been in danger, almost been arrested and kissed a girl. After blowing up two rows of canned tomatoes, so that the resulting odor will force them to close the store, Cornelius and Barnaby set off on their adventure, even though they have only ten dollars. A few hours later, after fulfilling most of their requirements, Cornelius and Barnaby lament the fact that they have not even met any girls. They happen by Irene’s shop, and when Cornelius is struck by her beauty, he decides to impress her by pretending to be rich. Meanwhile, inside the shop, Irene’s timid friend, Minnie Fay, asks Irene if she is serious about marrying Horace. Irene replies yes, stating that she never meets any other men and hates making hats. They are interrupted by the arrival of Barnaby and Cornelius, with whom Irene shares an immediate attraction. As Cornelius and Irene flirt, he describes Yonkers’ beauty. Barnaby spots Horace and Dolly coming, however, and Cornelius, telling Irene that he will explain later, hides in the cupboard while Barnaby dives under a table. Hoping to give the young men time to escape, Irene takes Horace and Dolly into her workroom, but Cornelius is determined to stay. Dolly catches Cornelius and Barnaby while they are out of their hiding places, and Cornelius confesses his feelings for Irene to her. As they are talking, Irene asks Horace if he has heard of her other friend from Yonkers, Cornelius, and Horace laughingly reveals that Cornelius is merely a clerk, not a wealthy man. Dolly scoffs, stating that Cornelius leads a double life and is not only rich, but a devil-may-care adventurer famous for pulling practical jokes. Horace’s stunned silence is interrupted by a series of sneezes from Cornelius, but Irene succeeds in keeping his and Barnaby’s identities disguised. Scandalized that Irene is hiding men in her shop, Horace breaks off their relationship and storms out. Determined to enjoy herself now that she is in “disgrace,” Irene orders Cornelius and Barnaby to take her and Minnie to dinner at Harmonia Gardens, and Cornelius, desperate to please her, agrees. An hour later, the boys escort the girls to the lavish restaurant, where they take a private dining room. Even though they are worried about their lack of funds, Cornelius and Barnaby get caught up in the excitement of their adventure and enjoy the girls’s company. Because the curtains to their room are closed, the boys do not see as Horace enters and takes the private room next to theirs. As he arrives, Horace accidentally drops his wallet, but does not notice. Soon after, however, Barnaby spots Horace and alerts Cornelius, who panics. Dolly arrives and joins Horace, calming his impatience to meet Ernestina with an assurance that she will come soon. They are then joined by Irishman Malachi Stack, whom Horace hired that morning. Malachi asks Horace for an advance on his salary, and after Horace gives him a dollar, Malachi finds Horace’s fallen wallet. Malachi spots Cornelius, who is worriedly peering out of his room, and assumes that the wallet belongs to him. When Malachi presents the cash-heavy wallet to him, Cornelius is overjoyed, while in the next room, Dolly receives a telegram, supposedly from Ernestina, saying that she cannot come because she has married someone else. Horace is outraged, but Dolly insists that they eat the lavish meal she has ordered, and intimates that Horace really wants to marry her, but that she is not interested. Meanwhile, Cornelius decides that he cannot keep lying to Irene about who he really is and, after leaving her enough money for the bill, prepares to leave with Barnaby, supposedly to buy the girls a present. Because they spot Horace and Dolly dancing, the boys are forced to don the girls’s coats and veiled hats. They get caught up in the dancing, and Horace is soon waltzing with Barnaby, while Cornelius dances with Dolly and slips Horace’s wallet into her purse. After their escape, Cornelius sends a note to Irene that he will not be returning, but assuring her of his feelings for her. Horace, having realized that “Ernestina” was merely one of Dolly’s schemes, is happy to see Irene, whom Minnie is consoling, and attempts to renew their engagement. Irene agrees to go to Yonkers with him the following morning, although she is really interested in finding Cornelius. As they are leaving, Horace discovers that he has lost his wallet, and Irene pays her bill and his, proving to Horace that while money is valuable, friends are even more so. A few moments later, Dolly goes by Irene’s shop and there discovers the boys, who are attempting to return Irene and Minnie’s clothes. Dolly tells the boys she has a plan, then goes with them back to Yonkers. The next morning, Horace escorts Irene and Minnie to his store, where he is aghast to find the burst tomato cans and learn that Cornelius and Barnaby are missing. He then sees Cornelius, Barnaby and Dolly across the street as they are tacking up a banner announcing the opening of their own store. In reality, they had only enough money to rent the vacant building for one day and are hoping that the threat of losing them will teach Horace how much they mean to him. Thrilled to be reunited with Cornelius, Irene forgives him for his inadvertent subterfuge, and they kiss. With Irene and Minnie making plans to join Cornelius and Dolly’s shop, Horace shushes them all with an announcement that their scheme has worked and he repents his penny-pinching ways. After Dolly coaxes Horace into making Cornelius a partner in his store, Horace proposes marriage to Dolly and she graciously accepts. With their problems solved, the friends ponder the moral of their story, with Barnaby offering that everyone should take a day off now and then, and Cornelius hoping that everyone’s lives have the right mixture of adventure and sitting quietly at home. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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