Barbra Streisand had stars in her eyes when she began filming Hello Dolly with Gene Kelly, but her excitement quickly faded once she realized he wasn’t the man she imagined him to be.
Streisand landed the lead as Dolly in the Oscar-winning musical in the late ’60s. The role was only her second on-screen project—and her first hadn’t even hit theaters yet—which was obviously a huge achievement. So she felt grateful to have immediate success as an actress.
Going into filming, the songstress was excited to work under Kelly and alongside Robert Matthau, who also had a lead role. Kelly had been her childhood crush, and Matthau was one of Hollywood’s most popular A-listers. But it wasn’t long before she was disenchanted by their celebrity egos.
In her recent memoir, My Name is Barbra, the actress detailed her experiences with the two, starting with Kelly, who turned out to be the opposite of who she dreamed he was.
“I was disappointed when the reality of the man didn’t live up to the fantasy I had from watching him on‑screen,” she wrote. “One day, he was so rude to a female dancer that I asked him privately, ‘Why were you so mean to her?’ And he basically laughed it off and said, ‘Yeah, I was pretty tough on her, but that’s okay. I used to yell like that at another dancer, and she became my wife.’”
Barbra Streisand ‘Couldn’t Figure Out Why’ Robert Mattau Was ‘Hostile’ With Her
Robert Matthau, however, took it a step further. Barbra Streisand recalled the Odd Couple actor treating her with overt hostility, and she “couldn’t figure out why.”
Matthau was outraged whenever Streisand offered her opinion or spoke up as the leading lady. When she did, he’d make it a point to publicly shame her. In her book, Streisand remembered one particular instance where she suggested a scene tweak. And the cast and crew loved it. Matthau didn’t appreciate her point of view or the praise she earned.
“He closed his eyes and yelled, ‘Who the hell does she think she is? I’ve been in this business thirty years. And this is only her second movie . . . the first one hasn’t even come out yet . . . and now she’s directing?’” he asked. “And then he looked at me with pure venom and said, ‘You may be the singer in this picture. But I’m the actor! I have more talent in my farts than you have in your whole body!’”
Hello, Dolly went on to earn three Oscars in 1970, setting Barbra Streisand up to become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stars. It came after she took home the coveted Best Actress in a Leading Role award in 1969 for Funny Girl.
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