“Hello, Dolly!” Filming Locations
& Production Design
Then ... and Now
Hello, Dolly's production was designed by Academy Award-winning art director John DeCuir (pictured below left, next to director Gene Kelly).
There's no denying the sets and scale of Dolly were quite impressive.
Decuir painted his production designs in gouache and acrylic paints on 30" by 60" boards.
Dolly's 1890 New York street set was a big deal in its day. It reportedly cost $2 million to build, and stretched across the Fox lot between Pico and Olympic Boulevards. John DeCuir spoke to a reporter about it in 1967:
By ordinance you can't hang anything from existing buildings ... That means we have to install 110-foot poles, which have to go 15 feet into the ground where we run into conduits and water pipes." De Cuir went on to describe the massive construction project: "Next to the studio property building will be Fifth Avenue and the Hoffman House, a hotel-restaurant, which had the longest bar in the world and was where Boss Tweed hung out. Stage 14 will become the exterior of a tenement, and next to the administration building we'll build a clubhouse of steel, glass and Victorian flavor. We're bringing 150-foot elm trees from Nevada—they don't grow that big in Southern California—and plastic leaves for them from Japan and Italy. Millions of leaves. We found that it took 3,000 to cover one branch.
(Above) The set, as it appeared in the film; and a shot of the Fox backlot with some of the remains of the Dolly set, circa 1992.
(Below) An amazing overhead shot of the Dolly set while filming the parade scene, plus a thumbnail view of blueprints for that set.
More “Dolly” Sets & Locations ...
(Below) The end scene was filmed at Trophy Point and overlook at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. The chapel was built for the scene.
(Below) The chapel under construction on the West Point bluff. The cast and crew film the scene with a large camera crane. The final shot of the movie, a zoom-out from the chapel to a wide shot, was made from a high platform erected at the location.
(Below) The Dolly train, now (bottom) and then (top). In 1968, four of Strasburg Railroad's coach cars and one locomotive were restored and used in the movie Hello, Dolly!
On Location in Garrison, New York
Below is a reproduction of the July 3, 1969 newspaper story They're Happy to Say Goodbye, Dolly.
The Hudson River hamlet of Garrison doesn't have a movie theater. But it has had its ﬁll of Hollywood since Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau came to town last month for the location filming of Hello, Dolly!
With them came 20th Century Fox set designers who have touched their magic wands to a row of drab, asbestos-shingled bungalows along Main St. The villagers (pop. 60) awoke to ﬁnd Garrison’s identity smothered in a nostalgic restoration of Yonkers (circa 1890).
At a cost of $500,000, gingerbread porches have been artfully mimicked out of wood and plastic. Costumers have rummaged through a thousand attics to ﬁnd enough knickers and celluloid collars to outﬁt the local kids used as extras. The sun-bleached village nestled in the Hudson Highlands has taken on the pastel glow of a scrapbook come to life.
Trouble is, Garrison has grown numb to the glamor of what used to be. The town just wants to be itself again. And yesterday, as director Gene Kelly was packing away a shooting schedule shrunk by constant rains, Mrs. Helen Sgorbissa breathed a resigned farewell to fantasy.
“I don’t even want to see the movie,” said the 47-year-old housewife, whose home has been transformed into “Yonker's Farmers Exchange." For the past month, she said, sightseers have been attracted by the “Saloon” sign over her living room window. “They don't realize that there are people living behind these sets,” she said, twiddling a cigarette and watching choreographer Michael Kidd lead a trainload of sexy-legged girls and pretty-pretty boys through a dance number.
“People walk right in my living room while I'm in my underwear watching television," she went on. “They just stand there gawkin’. One of these days I won’t be wearing anything and they'll really have something to see."
Across the street, Miss Streisand was belting out a ﬁnale number in her role as Dolly Levi, the widowed matchmaker who finds a match for herself in the musical version of Thornton Wilder's comedy hit, “The Matchmaker.” Technicians cooled her off with a giant fan ordinarily used as a theatrical windmaker.
Mrs. Sgorbissa and the other womenfolk in Garrison have come to think of Miss Streisand as a flossy, alien creature in their midst. “She’s just a little too snooty for all of us,” said the housewife, whose shower sandals and short- shorts were in gaudy contrast to the Streisand petticoats and peacock feathers.
There’s enough surrealism in Garrison these days to re-title the movie “Hello Dali!" A rustic river-boat landing called “Ben Franklin’s River Freight" has several ﬁberglass yachts moored up in back. Inside the ramshackle river house is an air-conditioned suite of dressing rooms for Walter Matthau, who is breaking away from his hangdog comedy roles to play Miss Streisand’s leading man in the ﬁlm.
Not all the towns folk are disenchanted with Hollywood's intrusion into their work-a-day world. Mrs. Margaret Guinan, whose shopkeeper husband has been doing a prosperous business in popsicles and salami sandwiches, say that Streisand & Co. are “all wonderful folks." She adds, “Why Barbra and my little Jimmy were out there playing frisbee the other day."
William Galligan, who reproduces antique wallpaper in his village studio, says he once nurtured an ambition to become a Hollywood director and that his artistic sensitivities had given him an “infamous” reputation in town—before the Ernest Lehman production company for Hello, Dolly! arrived.
Hi neighbors look upon him more respectfully now, he said, adding “my favorite period is the 1820's so I'm right at home now. Garrison has a phony facade of wonderment, sure, but it's an improvement over the old town.”
Twentieth-Century Fox has agreed to leave intact any of the restoration for buildings and parks which the villagers might want.
That's fine with Col. Taylor “Steamboat” Belcher, an 84-year-old, hotel proprietor whose antique building has been made over to “Vandergelder's Hay and Feed Store.” He wants the “restoration” to go.
“I think the place can be sobered down a little when these actor people get out of here,” said the colonel, twisting up the volume on his hearing aid. “I think I could do without that new waterwheel they put on back, for instance, and all those fancy signs and silos.
“You know,” he added, “this village hasn't changed much over the years except for an occasional coat of paint. But I wouldn't care to have it any other way.”
(Below) Vandergelder's was a location in Garrison, New York. It is currently known as the Golden Eagle Inn in Garrison. (Photo by Don Camp; courtesy of Mark Boyce)
(Below) Filming “Sunday Clothes” in Garrison with dance extras on break.
(Below) The huge Todd-AO cameras film Barbra Streisand and company as they dance to “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.”
(Below) The opening song in the railroad station, where Dolly boards the train for Yonkers, was filmed in the glass-roofed train terminal at Poughkeepsie, New York. [See the wonderful Barbra Memories blog for comparison shots from the movie to the actual, modern-day location.]
Dolly Sets on Soundstages
(Below) One of the fountains from the Harmonia Gardens set is now located at Fox Studios in Baja, Mexico. The Harmonia Gardens set was also cannibalized for Fox's Beneath the Planet of the Apes movie (where the mutants lived underground).
(Below) Two of DeCuir's paintings of the Harmonia Gardens restaurant ...
(Below) An interesting ad from Gulf Oil explaining how they had to erect oil pumps under the Hello Dolly set!
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