The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker ★★★½

'The very young are almost as smart as the very old... It's in the middle that you get in all the trouble..' (Shirley Booth as Dolly Levi)

Before Thornton Wilder's play was musicalised as Hello, Dolly! in 1964 and then made into a Barbra Streisand-starring film of the same name, it was first brought to the attention of movie audiences in 1958 for a thoroughly delightful 'straight' interpretation with the great theatre actress Shirley Booth in the role later immortalised by Carol Channing on stage and 'Babs' on screen. Director Joseph Anthony was a very bland and 'uncinematic' director if this, The Rainmaker and All In A Night's Work - the only other films of his that I've seen - are anything to go by. No, the 'star' here is the script of John Michael Hayes and its interpretation by a very perky cast: Booth - Oscar-winner for Come Back, Little Sheba and starring in her fifth and final film - is endearing as the scheming matchmaker, as is her fellow Shirley, MacLaine, who was just beginning to hit her stride in Hollywood. Critical acclaim and Academy Award nominations for Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running and Billy Wilder's The Apartment were just around the corner for Warren Beatty's big sis! More surprising, perhaps, is a sterling comedic effort from the usually earnest Anthony Perkins who doesn't expose any sign of the 'dark' side of his persona which would instead be revealed to a captivated world in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho just a couple of years' hence. Having said that, there is one disconcerting moment here where Perkins dons female attire in a strange foreshadowing of his more sinister 'dragging up' in the Hitch movie. Great writing, solid performances, fine period detail, a whole heap of charm and a lot of laughs add up to a match made in heaven!

Trivia Note: Hayes wrote four Hitchcock movies in the '50's, including Rear Window and The Trouble With Harry (MacLaine's debut).

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