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Case Number 26756: Small Claims Court

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The Matchmaker (1958)

Warner Bros. // 1958 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 29th, 2013

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All Rise...

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The Charge

A light hearted romp that will leave you laughing until the very end!

The Case

Dolly Levi (Shirley Booth, Hazel) is a matchmaking widow who has eyes for the cantankerous Horace Vandergelder (Paul Ford, The Music Man), a wealthy merchant from Yonkers, New York. Vandergelder has hired Ms. Levi to help find him a wife, but what he doesn't know is that Dolly is determined to become the new Ms. Vandergelder. At the same time, Horace's head clerks, Cornelius Hackel (Anthony Perkins, Psycho) and Barnaby Tucker (Robert Morse, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), have taken off for a trip to New York City and find themselves falling head over heals for a couple of shop workers, including the irresistible Irene (Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment). Will Cornelius and Barnaby find true love? And can the irascible Dolly finally get her hands the difficult Horace?

1992 was a banner year for me: during my sophomore year in high school I was given the chance at a speaking role in the musical "Hello, Dolly." My memories of the show are slightly clouded (it's now been well over twenty years), but what I do recall is how much fun I had on stage. I met lifelong friends there and loved being a part of a theater show. Since then I've performed in dozens of productions and (usually) enjoyed every minute. Yet "Hello, Dolly" holds a special place in my heart as my first show (even if I was terrible at singing and an even worse dancer).

As I sat through the film, memories flooded back to me. Although this is more or less a bare bones version of Hello, Dolly, it still reminded me of my days on that high school stage. Based on Thornton Wilder's hit Broadway show, The Matchmaker falls flat when compared to Hello Dolly. This isn't a bad movie, it's just missing the magic and lavishness of a classic Hollywood musical. Although the music and production numbers are absent, the story is still mostly the same: a couple of guys head off to New York and meet up with a couple of beautiful women while the rascally matchmaker Dolly Levi tries to woo Horace Vandergelder. There aren't a lot of surprises here, as it chugs along to its obvious—if affable—conclusion.

The performances range from good to mediocre. Shirley Booth is deviously fun as Dolly Gallagher Levi, always scheming to get both her and others into a romantic entanglement. Hound dog faced Paul Ford is sufficiently pompous and blustering as the gruff Horace Vandergelder. Casting an impish Anthony Perkins as the flailing Cornelius Hackl is the movie's biggest misstep; it could be that Perkins is just too well identified with his iconic role of Norman Bates (his stuttering doesn't help separate the dance from the dancer). Although Perkins isn't terrible, he still doesn't work half as well in his role as his cohort Robert Morse, who is far more adept at pratfalls and comedy. Rounding out the cast is a very young Shirley MacLaine as Cornelius's love interest, Irene. MacLaine is her usual breathless self, adorable and sexy all in the same moment.

The Matchmaker is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Warner's transfer of this black and white film is good (most likely ported over from the original DVD release by Paramount). The image is mostly free of any defects or imperfections and looks pleasing for a standard DVD. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. There isn't a lot to report about this audio mix; this is a mostly front heavy presentation without any directional effects or surround sounds. Overall the mono mix features clear dialogue, music, and effects work. Also included are English subtitles. There are no bonus features.

Directed in a straightforward manner by Joseph Anthony (All in a Night's Work), The Matchmaker is passable classic entertainment with some genuine laughs (Perkins and Morse in the old age cross-dressing bit was pretty amusing), a few nice smiles (mostly from MacLaine), and a large shadow cast by the much loved Hello, Dolly. Classic movie fans will find this a cute curiosity, but there's a reason why it's not considered one of Hollywood's shining greats.

The Verdict

A pleasant time filler.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Classic
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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