Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Thornton Wilder's 1938 stage play The Merchant of Yonkers was based on an old British stage farce by John Oxenford (which in turn served as the basis of an Austrian farce by Johann Nestroy). Merchant of Yonkers was a bomb, but Wilder was quite fond of the piece, so he revised it as the considerably more successful The Matchmaker in 1955. The 1958 film version stars Shirley Booth as 19th-century matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi (a character not found in the Oxenford or Nestroy versions; Wilder "borrowed" Dolly from Moliere's The Miser). Dolly is currently trying to arrange a marriage between Yonkers dry-goods merchant Horace Vandergelder (Paul Ford) and hatmaker Irene Molloy (Shirley MacLaine)-though she secretly harbors a desire to march Horace to the altar herself. Meanwhile, Vandergelder's chief clerk Cornelius (Anthony Perkins), celebrating a recent promotion, decides to head to New York for a "good time". Though he's supposed to be minding the store, Cornelius abandons the shop, with fellow-clerk Barnaby (Robert Morse, repeating his stage role) in tow. Inevitably, Cornelius and Barnaby wind up escorting Irene Molloy and her co-worker Minnie Fay (Perry Wilson) to a fancy restaurant, where Horace and Dolly are also dining. As the many plot twists wend their way through the proceedings, the camera occasionally pauses to allow the character to speak directly to the audience, expressing their innermost desires and philosophies; this purely theatrical device works quite well on screen, especially the monologue about honesty delivered by handyman Malachi Stack (played with alcoholic whimsy by Wallace Ford). While the name "Malachi Stack"may not be familiar to you, the other characters-and the basic plot-will be instantly recognizable to fans of Hello Dolly, the 1964 musical comedy version of The Matchmaker.
boss [employer], grouch, matchmaker, middle-age, plans, remarriage, romance, shopkeeper, widow/widower