Plans underway to mark 50th anniversary of Philipstown filming
By Alison Rooney
In 1969, when Christopher Radko was growing up in Scarsdale, there wasn’t an overabundance of kid-friendly movies. So, when a film version of the Broadway musical Hello Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau opened over the holidays, his family jumped at the chance to go to the movies together.
Radko loved every minute. Even as a child, he says, he “had a fascination for the Victorian era: men in hats, horses and buggies — such a contrast to torn blue jeans and mini-skirts. In a kid’s imagination it evoked an easy-going time when the idea of community really meant something.”
His affection for the material was rekindled as a young man when a college friend who happened to be a niece of Dolly’s composer and lyricist Jerry Herman appeared in a production of the show starring Carol Channing.
“I thought, Wow, what a classic Broadway production, especially at a time when all the new musicals were British,” he says. “With Hello Dolly! you could sing along to every song. It reminded me of My Fair Lady, the classics.” (A Broadway revival of Dolly is planned for 2017 starring Bette Midler.)
What Radko didn’t learn until later was that a good part of the movie was shot in Garrison and Cold Spring between May and September 1968, where he now hopes to make his home. The number Put on Your Sunday Clothes was filmed on Garrison’s Landing, standing in for Yonkers. Radko estimates the filmmakers injected the equivalent of $3 million into the local economy.
In an homage to the 50th anniversary of the filming, and to the sense of community Radko says he felt when attending the Made in Philipstown event last year, the entrepreneur is organizing a community-wide celebration for 2018. Radko has already enlisted a number of cultural institutions, as well as luminaries connected with the film, which won three Oscars.
The steering committee for the anniversary events, dubbed “Dolly Returns!,” is documentary filmmaker Steve Ives; Davis McCallum, artistic director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival; Amy Dul and Nancy Swann of the Philipstown Depot Theatre on Garrison’s Landing; John Maasik of the Philipstown Recreation Department; and David Lilburne, co-owner of Antipodean Books, Maps & Prints, also on Garrison’s Landing.
Among the activities being planned:
- A flash re-enactment parade, sung and danced live (with the help of surround sound) over the bridge to Garrison Landing, to Put On Your Sunday Clothes, in the same spot the number was filmed.
- A performance by Patricia Kelly of her one-woman show about her late husband, Gene Kelly, who directed the film.
- A screening by the Cold Spring Film Society at Dockside Park.
- A live conversation with key talents from the film.
- A West Point Band concert of Hello Dolly! songs at Trophy Point, the setting of the film’s — spoiler alert — grand finale wedding.
- A Putnam History Museum exhibit of material related to the film and the filming, including Kelly’s original script, set-design illustrations and original costumes.
- A documentary short by Ives tracking the story of a Hollywood studio setting up camp in tiny Garrison.
- A jazzy cabaret-and-cocktails performance of songs by Broadway couple Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley.
- An HVSF staged reading of Thornton Wilder’s 1953 farce, The Matchmaker, which was the basis for the Broadway production.
- A Depot Youth Theatre summer camp production of the musical for grades 8-12, including — another spoiler alert — cameos by Garrison residents who appeared in the film as kids.
- Hat-making at the Garrison Art Center on parade day.
- A Garrison’s Landing renewal with restored carpentry details, repainting buildings, garden plantings and Victorian signs.
- A book by Radko about the making of the film with anecdotes, rare photos and memorabilia. He’s already spoken with longtime Garrison residents such as members of the Guinan family who recalled being driven to school on occasion by Kelly’s chauffeur. Anyone with stories to tell should email Radko at [email protected] or visit dollyreturns2018.com.
Radko, well known as a designer of glass holiday ornaments, says he volunteered to organize the anniversary as a “gift to the neighborhood.” Any profits will be distributed to HVSF, the Depot Theatre and Philipstown Recreation for creative arts scholarships.