(1958 b 101')
Adapted from the play by Thornton Wilder, two store clerks working for a miserly boss go to New York looking for romance, meet two women, and take them out to dinner while a matchmaker connives to marry the boss.
At Yonkers, New York in 1884 Dolly Levi (Shirley Booth) asks a jeweler about a wedding ring and says she is to arrange a marriage for Horace Vandergelder. She says she will not get married but tells the audience she was lying. She needs money and says she re-arranges things. She wants Horace’s money to circulate.
Malachi Stack (Wallace Ford) asks Horace Vandergelder (Paul Ford) for a job and shows him a reference letter. Malachi says he does not drink. Horace hires him and sends him on an errand. Horace tells Cornelius Hackl (Anthon Perkins) he is going to New York and will promote him to chief clerk. He may also promote Barnaby Tucker (Robert Morse), but he won’t pay them any more. Horace gives the barber Joe a tip and asks to make him look good. Horace says he is thinking of getting married again and shows him a picture of Irene Molloy. Joe declines and leaves. Horace talks to the audience about foolishness, but he is rich and has sense. He wants a wife to run his house well.
At the store Dolly asks Cornelius about Horace and goes into his office. Dolly reads his palm and says he has a long lifeline. Horace says he is going to ask Irene to be his wife. Dolly wishes him well and shows him a photo of a beautiful woman. He asks who it is, and Dolly says Ernestina Simple is the ideal wife. Horace says he is not engaged yet. Dolly says this woman has money, can cook, and is only 20. He asks if she is extravagant and about her family. Dolly tells how frugal she is, and she knows the best people. Dolly asks if he can come to New York, and he asks her to arrange a dinner. She asks for $50, and he gives her $25. Horace says he wants to meet Irene also.
Horace tells Cornelius and Barnaby he is thinking of marrying. Cornelius asks if he will get one night off per week, and Horace gets angry and goes out. Cornelius tells Barnaby they are going to New York to spend their money and kiss a girl. Cornelius says they will use cans of tomatoes to close the store. They use candles to make the cans explode.
In New York City the two clerks consider going in a millinery store. Inside Irene Molloy (Shirley MacLaine) tells Minnie Fay (Perry Wilson) that she would like to marry Horace. The clerks see Irene in her bloomers. Cornelius tells Barnaby what they will say to show they are rich. Irene smiles from the window, and they go in. They meet Irene who asks them to sit down. Cornelius says they are looking for hats. She learns they are from Yonkers, and Cornelius offers to show it to her. He learns she is not engaged. She puts on a hat and asks how he likes it. She asks if they know Horace, and they say no. She says she is expecting him any moment. Barnaby warns that he is near. They hide. Horace and Dolly come in. Irene has them go into her workroom and closes the door, but Cornelius says they are not leaving. Barnaby says he used to hide from his mother when she was going to whip him. Cornelius tells the audience how wonderful women are. Cornelius says they have to kiss a girl before they leave. Dolly comes back and sees Cornelius and Barnaby. They hide again before Irene and Horace return. Horace advises Irene that she pays her girls too much. He invites her to Yonkers and hands her a gift. Irene asks if he knows Cornelius, and Horace says he is his chief clerk. He asks how she met him. Irene says he is well liked in New York. Dolly agrees. Horace says Cornelius never comes to New York, but Dolly says he is famous in New York. Horace says Cornelius has no money except what he keeps in his safe. Dolly advises Irene not to marry Cornelius. Minnie comes in and finds a man in a closet. She runs out, and Dolly says no one is in there. Cornelius sneezes, and Irene says she will explain. Horace discovers Barnaby under the table and tells Irene he will not trouble her again. He takes his gift back and goes out, followed by Dolly. Irene introduces the clerks to Minnie and says they are going out to dinner at the Harmonia Gardens.
The four arrive at the Harmonia Gardens in a carriage and go inside. Cornelius tries to make them leave, but Irene gets a private room. Irene says they will forget their troubles. They look at the expensive menu, and Minnie and Cornelius order little; but Irene orders pheasant, turtle soup, salad, and wine. Cornelius adds more with champagne. Irene says Cornelius always tips at least $10.
Horace arrives, drops his wallet, and is taken to a reserved room.
Barnaby proposes a toast, and Irene gives him a kiss. Minnie asks Cornelius to dance. He says he does not dance, but Barnaby dances with her. Irene dances with Cornelius. Barnaby sees Horace and returns to the room, warning Cornelius who speaks softly as a game.
Dolly joins Horace who asks where Ernestina is. Dolly implies she is coming. She pours sherry and eats caviar. Malachi asks Horace for an advance on his salary, and Horace gives him $1. Malachi finds a wallet that Horace dropped but assumes it belongs to Cornelius. He sees it has much money and tells the audience why he will return it. He warns against being a drunkard and a thief and suggests one vice at a time. He tells Cornelius who he is and asks if he lost something. He gives him the wallet, and Cornelius says it is a miracle. He shows it to Barnaby and gives Malachi a reward.
They go back in, and Cornelius says he feels great and will tell the truth if he can put his arm around Irene’s waist. He says he is a schemer and advises her to leave him. She will take her chances.
Dolly receives a message and reads to Horace that Ernestina wrote praising Dolly and that she can’t come because she just got married. The waiter tells Horace that the telegram was collect, and Dolly has him put it on the bill. Dolly tells Horace to let women be women. Horace complains to her. Waiters bring in an extravagant dinner, and Horace says he is not a Roman Emperor. She says she has no intention of marrying him. She admits she is a good housekeeper and cook and has money and business enterprizes. She would rather marry Cornelius who overhears her, and he and Barnaby see that Horace is in the next room. Cornelius says he and Barnaby are going out to get them a surprise, and he gives Irene money to pay for the dinner.
Dolly says her husband was a good dancer, and she takes Horace to dance. Cornelius and Barnaby dance past them in the ladies’ hats and coats. The conductor tells them to change partners. Horace dances with Barnaby while Cornelius dances with Dolly and puts the wallet in her purse. Cornelius and Barnaby run out and hide. Cornelius writes a letter to Irene, praising her and apologizing with a P.S. that Barnaby is a fine young man. Cornelius pretends to be a woman and sends the note to Irene with a servant.
Irene receives the message.
Dolly tells Horace that he is charming, but warns he will age faster in Yonkers. She says she might marry him out of pity. They see Irene who lets him join her. Horace warns Dolly not to send herself another telegram, and he leaves her.
Horace joins Irene, hands her the gift again, and asks her to dance. They dance as Dolly leaves the restaurant.
Dolly rides in a carriage alone and tells her late husband she is going to marry Horace because he needs her. She discovers the wallet in her purse and finds a card and money. She tells the audience how she lives alone and was contented for two years. She realized that she had not shed a tear or felt happy. She is going to Yonkers with money. She says money is like manure and is not worth anything unless it is spread around encouraging things to grow.
Dolly leaves the carriage and finds Cornelius and Barnaby returning the coats and hats at the millinery shop. Dolly admits she likes Horace. The clerks are planning to walk, but she invites them to ride with her. She says they must see Irene’s workroom first.
Horace invites Irene and Minnie to see his store in Yonkers. Horace sees the bills for $93.20 and is shocked but says he will pay. He can’t find his wallet and searches. He says he had $300. Irene says she has $100 and pays the bill. Minnie says that is the payroll money. Irene says a man needs his friends.
Dolly and the clerks remove clothing dummies and take the train.
In the morning Horace, Irene, and Minnie arrive at his store. They go in, and he says they have $10,000 worth of merchandise bought with cash. He shows them where Cornelius sleeps at night. He smells the tomatoes and sees them on the floor. He calls his clerks. He looks across the street and sees them setting up their own store with Dolly who says they could only rent it for one day. Horace asks Dolly what this is. Cornelius says hello to Irene and asks if she read his note. She says she liked it. Dolly tells Horace they are all quitting him. Malachi is well dressed and tells Horace he is moving on to Cornelius. Horace says they are all against him. Cornelius says he will make money, and the five plan to help him. Horace admits he is an idiot and agrees to make them his partners. Cornelius appoints Barnaby chief clerk with two nights off. Dolly says Horace has decided to become a human being. She says he always had a heart, but he kept it locked up in his safe. He asks her to marry him, and the two go in his store. Horace on his knees says she is wonderful. Dolly says she found his purse, and he says she can keep it. She says she will marry him. They go out, and he announces they are getting married. Dolly says the movie is over and asks Barnaby what the moral is. He says everyone should take a day off now and then. Irene says life is like a new hat, but one needs to get beyond trying it on before your own mirror. Horace admits love is nice but says you really need money. Cornelius says adventures and sitting quietly at home are both important in the right proportion.
This comedy encourages people to be romantic and have adventures while satirizing a miserly businessman and a scheming matchmaker.