This is the one reason why the movie version of Hello, Dolly! is worth it. That's not to say the movie is bad and shouldn't have been made. It's an okay movie, some things in it are very good -- and it was a massive hit on stage, so of course it was going to be made, and deserved to be. But it was massively miscast, and so that throws the movie off, a story that exists in large part of because of its charge has only a minimum of it. But this one moment in one scene explodes with charm. And it's because they had the good sense to put Louis Armstrong in the "Hello, Dolly!" title song number. And in a way that fits perfectly and actually make sense.
Louis Armstrong's recording of "Hello, Dolly!" was one of the biggest selling songs in the history of singles. I think at the time it was the #3 best-selling songs ever. It knocked the Beatles out of first place on the Billboard list. It's called one of the reasons the Broadway show became the hit show it did. It was massive. In fact, I've told the story that when I saw Louis Armstrong at the Ravinia Music Festival the summer that his recording was released, the response from the crowd was SO wildly enthusiastic that he had to sing SIX encores of it!!! Really. No exaggeration. (It may have even been more.) He sang the song all the way through in its entirety three times. The other times he just sang reprises. But still Six encores.
So, when they made the movie of Hello, Dolly!, he was so indelibly associated with the song, even having nothing to do with the show, that the filmmakers were smart enough to try and get Satchmo in the film -- and in the title song. And they way they did so was really smart. One of the plot points of the scene is that there's a dance contest at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant where Dolly is returning to for the first time in years. Which means there must be a band there, to play for the contest. And so...they made Louis Armstrong the bandleader. Really smart.
And they do a great job hiding his appearance. He's in the scene throughout the number in a few places, but you just see a bandleader from the back, and give it no thought, it's just natural. And then, finally, when Dolly -- played by Barbra Streisand -- came by the band, he finally notices her and turns around...and to the joy of the audience, it's -- wait, oh, my God, it's Louis Armstrong!! And better still, without changing a single word, the lyrics he sings welcoming Dolly back fit perfectly. Including the line, "It's Louis, Dolly," which he sang on his famous recording.
I wish the clip had more of the lead-in, to set up the wonderful moment of reveal. And I also wish Barbara Streisand would have been more comfortable when sharing the moment to Louis Armstrong and letting him have the spotlight, rather than taking some of the attention. But to her credit, she did agree to share it with him, I'm sure she could have said she didn't want anyone else in the scene, knowing that the moment absolutely would be his. And ultimately, it is his moment and there's nothing anyone can do to distract from that, and at least the two performers do work lovely together.
And most of all, this is pure charm, down to his final, joyous, endearing wave at the end, my favorite part in the number. An appearance beautifully done that makes the film totally worth it for this moment alone. Recording Satchmo so smartly on film in The Song for posterity.
(Note: When their scene ends, with that final wave, the video continues with the rest of the number. Your choice whether to keep watching.)
I just love this. For how good it is, and just that they had the wisdom to do it, and do it so properly.