MARIANNE McANDREW (Irene Molloy)
Marianne McAndrew graduated from North Western University and immediately went to New York City to pursue an acting career. She ended up getting a bus and truck tour of Half a Sixpence.
She had a non-singing part. She went the usual route of waiting tables and other odd non theatrical jobs to survive in New York. Half a Sixpence would be her only professional job prior to landing a lead role in the film adaptation of Hello, Dolly!
She had been in New York for two years and then the audition came up for Hello, Dolly!
Her agent called and told her that there was an extensive search going on for the role of Irene Molloy. The casting director had called her agent to see if Marianne could audition.
Marianne’s response to her agent was, “There is no way that I can do that. I don’t sing and I don’t dance and I am totally unqualified and there’s no point.” He called her back and told her the casting director said that she was the “right type” for this role and that there was an awful lot that they could do on film in terms of the singing and dancing that could not be achieved on stage. She reluctantly said OK.
She tried to get over her courage, but got there. She was terrified. It was just a comedy of errors. She got stuck in uptown traffic in a cab.
She ended up getting out and running the last five blocks to the St. Moritz where the auditions were being held. She went in with a piece of music that she had tried to practice.
She arrived in a ballroom to audition and was standing next to a grand piano. The Matchmaker in college. She had a handle on the part and knew what she wanted to do with it. She had an advantage in that regard. She was still truly astounded that they wanted to fly her to Hollywood for a screen test. She had to sign a contract and they had an option that they had to tell her within six weeks if she had the part. They couldn’t make up their minds and did a second screen test of her. With both screen tests, it was just her and Gene Kelly. He did a little choreography for her and staged the scene in the hat shop. She did a little bit of Ribbons Down My Back. She then shot an intimate scene of her talking to Cornelius (Gene) across a table. He just gave her the cues.
They were concerned that she was a stage actress and might not be able to “bring it down” for film. Marianne did see bits of her screen test years later in a documentary on Twentieth Century Fox’s history. Ann-Margret also screen tested for this role. Marianne beat out Ann-Margret! Ann-Margret had a very sexy contemporary quality. They were going for more of a turn of the century look which Marianne definitely had.
She started to sing and she couldn’t hear the accompaniment. By her admission, she was just dreadful. Gene Kelly stopped her and said, “Miss McAndrew, I can see your legs shaking from here. Now, stop and start over again and just relax.” She started over again. She still didn’t do very well, according to her. He asked her to do a polka in her winter boots. Then he asked her to read. She read. She knew she had done a good reading, but as far as her singing and dancing were concerned, she thought this was insane. She had done her best. A few weeks later, she was asked to fly out to the coast to do a screen test. She was totally in shock!
Again, she knew she had read well because she is a good comedienne. She had also played Irene Molloy in
They still couldn’t make up their minds and went off to London to see if they could find someone there. Her agent at the time eventually told them they couldn’t keep her hanging on.
This was two months later. Her agent worked out a deal for her to be on a paid retainer. They paid her $500.00 a day until they made up their minds. They decided rather quickly after that! They told her she had the part and after that, she had to go to dance classes for she knew from the get go that her singing would be dubbed. Melissa sang Marianne’s solo spots and Gilda sang in her ensemble spots.
Three months prior to starting filming, she practiced with a click track. A record they had made of the voices that were going to be used for the film, Melissa Stafford, who was one of Dean Martin’s Golddiggers, and Gilda Maiken dubbed Marianne’s singing.
The process of dubbing is both interesting and difficult. The timing has to be precise and Marianne had to time her breath intakes, etc, and initiation of the phrases to Melissa’s vocals. Everybody else was singing to their own tracks. Marianne had to accustom herself to someone else’s voice and rhythms. On the set they insisted that everyone sing full voice to their own tracks because it looked phony if they didn’t.
There were problems with the look of the throat muscles, otherwise.
with Barbra Streisand
Audrey Hepburn, when she filmed My Fair Lady, doesn’t look natural in her singing in some instances. It was a very tricky process.
When Marianne first got the call to audition, she did not know, at that time, that Barbra Streisand would be Dolly. Marianne does not remember precisely when she found out that Barbra would be playing Dolly. Filming began on April 15th, 1968. The film version of Funny Girl had not even been released yet and would not be released until principal work on Hello, Dolly had finished filming on August 23rd. Funny Girl opened September 19th, 1968. Marianne does recall thinking at the time that Barbra was an odd casting choice.
Marianne had never seen Barbra in person prior to filming but had heard her and had seen one of her specials and thought she was brilliant.
Barbra and Marianne were BOTH twenty-five when they were cast. Marianne does consider Barbra a genius and brilliant but feels that Dolly should have been older.
Marianne had not seen a production of Hello, Dolly on stage until years after doing the film.
She caught one Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
When Marianne saw Gower Champion’s choreography on stage, she said, “Oh My Goodness! That is rich. That elegance was what was required.” The whole thing was amazing to see what it was on stage.
It was interesting to Marianne to have done the movie and then see it on stage.
It is very hard to transfer a stage production to film successfully. When Marianne saw Hello, Dolly on stage, it was a revelation. Michael Kidd’s choreography was brilliant in a different way from Gower Champion’s. Kidd had an exuberant athletic style that was perfect for the medium of film.
Marianne had heard that there was dissension between Barbra and Walter Matthau but she never felt or saw anything overt on set. The hat shop scene was the only real scene that actively involved Marianne with both of them. Yes, she has heard the rumors. One “rumor” is that Walter considered Barbra an “upstart”. She had this enormous trailer and a gold cart to get around the sets and to and from her trailer. They asked her what she wanted, she told them, and she got it. Her trailer was decorated in a Victorian style that must have been sixty feet long! It was huge!! 20th Century Fox literally rolled out the red carpet for her. It was a magical film shoot because everything was done in an old fashioned way. Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox had a habit of spending exorbitant amounts of money as they did with Cleopatra. They did that with Hello, Dolly and practically went broke immediately. Everything was done first class.
In addition to filming in Hollywood, three weeks were spent filming in Garrison, New York. They built an
entire street and set renovating a train station and building around it. Marianne was utilized mostly on rain days, and there were many of them, because they could shoot interior scenes. It was a bit boring for Marianne. She would try and watch other filming when she could. It was hard for her to get into New York City, which she desperately wanted to do. She had to be in Garrison in case the weather changed in which they would go inside and shoot something.
She was sent back to LA earlier than the rest of the cast. Her doctor thought she might have a retinal detachment, which, thank God, she did not. She, therefore, was in LA on June 5th, 1968, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
Marianne worked a total of five months on the film, from April to August 1968. Once filming was complete, Marianne was not called back for any additional work.
The first time Marianne saw the completed film, she was a bit disappointed, she has to admit. She didn’t think she was that good. She also didn’t feel that Walter and Barbra had a good on screen chemistry. As far as a comedic performance, Marianne thought Barbra was wonderful. Marianne also thought the film was “heavy”.
Marianne did see it all the way through about ten years ago. Hello, Dolly was one of the first films to be released on VHS tape. Marianne saw what was not a very good print of the film. Looking back, it didn’t seem to be as bad as she remembered. On a repeated viewing, she felt much better about it. People do enjoy it. The film premiered in New York at Rivoli Theater on December 16, 1969 and at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on December 19.
The Hatshop Scene with Crawford, Streisand, Danny Lockin, and EJ Peaker
Production had wrapped more than a year earlier, but release was significantly delayed for legal reasons. A clause in the 1965 film sale contract specified that the film could not be released until June 1971 or when the show closed on Broadway, whichever came first. In 1969, the show was still running. Eager to release the film to recoup its cost, Fox negotiated and paid an “early release” escape payment to release the film “Dolly” at an estimated $1–2 million dollars.
In the interim, Midnight Cowboy had opened and Hollywood was releasing grittier films. The movie business had changed. There was a new on the edge counter culture low budget film being made. When Hello, Dolly came out, it was considered so old fashioned.
It was such a behemoth and the reviews were not good. Box Office business was not so great either, especially compared to the cost of the film. It was an astronomical difference. All of that had some bearing on how everyone connected with the film felt about it as well.
Marianne attended the Hollywood premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on December 19th 1969. It was an old fashioned Hollywood premiere. There were huge tents set up. It was an amazing night. Richard Zanuck always did everything over the top. When she got word that she had been cast, Marianne received a pound of Beluga caviar and a magnum of Dom Perignon. She had never had caviar in her life! She’s not even crazy about it!!
Marianne is no longer in the business. She hasn’t performed in fifteen years. Her husband and she moved up to the central coast of California in 2000. They are both retired. He was also an actor. They are both very happy.
After Dolly, most of the rest of Marianne’s career was spent in TV. It was a different kind of a career
altogether. Looking back at Dolly, it seems like a semi dream. She was so young and so inexperienced. She had never done anything on film. It was also an introduction to the business that was really unreal. It was never going to be that way ever again. It was almost like an out of body experience but it was wonderful.
If she could go back, she would have tried to make a better film performance. Of course, that is coming from the point of view of an older and wiser performer. She feels that she had a kind of projected performance that was better suited for the stage. It is really hard with the energy level that is required in a musical comedy to be toned down enough for film to make it believable. Film is such a literal medium and it is just hard to get the audience to suspend their believe when an actor or actress bursts into song every five minutes.
The filming was a really fond memory and Marianne doesn’t have any negative memories.
There was one number that gave all involved a huge headache (Marianne, Michael Crawford, Danny Lockin, EJ Peaker). It was the Elegance number. They had an all night shoot on that number. It was shot in Hollywood on one of the outdoor NYC street sets. It was only about eight bars of music in which they had to put on and take off a bunch of props from a pushcart that was there. Marianne had to put on an old top hat and an old man’s coat that was pulled off of this push cart of old clothes and junk. It was less than a minute of film but they had to go over that over and over again for seven hours! It was unbelievably exhausting. If she would get the prop timed right at the beat, someone else would screw up, and vice versa.
Elegance took them Seven Hours to Film!
There were four that had to be timed perfectly. She had nightmares after that shoot.
The film took on a new life of its own when Wall-E was released. She made more on her scenes in Wall-E than she did on her original salary on Dolly! An awful lot of people who never saw Hello, Dolly were now telling her, “Oh my God, I saw you in Wall-E!” It was great fun to be the only real human beings in this film.
Looking back over her life, Marianne cannot imagine Hello, Dolly not being part of it. It is one of her fondest memories. She really felt like a movie star. In Garrison, they had a fleet of limousines that would take them every morning from their hotels to the set and back again at the end of each shooting day.
Filming ended in late August and tremendous depression set in for Marianne. Filming had taken up five months of her life and then there was a lull for several months before she got a television show, a Hawaii Five-O episode. She also knew that Hello, Dolly was not going to come out for a long time. After filming ended, it was like starting from scratch. It went from the high of working so consistently basically since January, when she started doing the dance classes at 20th Century Fox, and working with Michael Kidd, and learning the songs with the click track to doing absolutely nothing.
Gene Kelly, as a director, was wonderful to Marianne. She got the role of Irene because he really was in her corner. He later told her that she reminded him of Kay Kendall, who he had starred with in Les Girls.
She saw Les Girls later and saw what he saw, that tall brunette elegance, with a silly streak which she liked. For Marianne, he was enormously patient. She thinks his main concern was the choreography and the music and those aspects of the movie rather than the acting. The actors, however, had a pretty good handle on that from the beginning.
EJ Peaker and Marianne stayed in touch for a while and then eventually drifted in different directions. A couple of years later, Marianne went to London and saw Michael Crawford in No Sex Please, We’re British and he was just so brilliant and hysterically funny. She really appreciated his talent and what and who he had become. When they were doing Dolly, she probably could have beaten him arm wrestling. She thought they were an odd pairing. He of course went on to become the Phantom of the Opera and many great things.
Hello, Dolly in both the film and stage version is such a part of the history of the American musical. It is certainly a high point in that history and also part of Marianne’s history. She adores being part of that legacy. Seeing it today in retrospect, she can appreciate it more than when she did it.