SHOCKtober is over in a big way (yes, I’m a month behind – what of it?). A colorful trifle, with fine music and dancing, and a fluffy plot blown up to double its natural runtime by extending every tune, adding a final verse and chorus at half speed for audience members too dull to get it the first ten times. Individual scenes aren’t poorly paced – the centerpiece restaurant scene is well-timed with a good energy – the movie’s just trying to be elegant by drawing things out.
Katy and I both thought that Streisand was very good and Matthau was a weird choice for a musical. We weren’t sure why Streisand wants so badly to end up with such a stinker as Matthau – though he is a half-millionaire and she seems to have transformed him into her beloved ex-husband by the end. Katy also recognized Gene Kelly’s style in the dancing, though he’s not the listed choreographer. This was the second-to-last feature he directed, not long after his Young Girls of Rochefort role.
Streisand (who had just won an oscar for her debut film role in Funny Girl) is a widowed matchmaker who’s tired of being alone herself. So she sabotages her current job – hired by grumpy feed-and-seed owner Matthau to hook up his niece Ermengarde with a nice boy of higher standing than her chosen sweetheart Tommy Tune (“possibly the tallest dancer in the country”), Streisand instead schemes to keep the two youngsters together, hook herself up with Matthau, and distract Irene, the city hatmaker Matthau has been dating, by foisting his head store assistant (Michael Crawford of a couple Richard Lester comedies) upon her. It all ends up with a hide-and-seek dance competition in a huge fancy restaurant, featuring (for a minute) Louis Armstrong.
A huge hit in 1969, yet also a huge flop because it was monumentally expensive. It had an unexpected resurgence in DVD sales after being featured in Wall-E. The play by Thornton Wilder (Our Town, Shadow of a Doubt) had been filmed before (including in 1958 with Anthony Perkins and Shirley MacLaine), but this was adapted from the mega-hit Broadway musical version.