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|Index||121 reviews in total|
Yes, Lucille was filmed in soft focus. No, Lucille did not play Mame
exactly like Rosalind Russell. Yes, Warner Brothers was foolish in
rejecting Angela Lansbury. But if you are willing to look past that, you
will find a WONDERFUL motion picture.
Although Paul Zindel perhaps changed more than necessary in his script rewrite, this is still some GREAT material. And one could not have asked for better direction or supporting cast. Gene Saks did a wonderful job on all counts...the cinematography is marvellous (if you can find the wide-screen version) and the whole film is delightfully theatrical. The art direction is to die for; Ball's singing notwithstanding, the musical arrangement is superior to the Broadway recording (possibly excepting "It's Today" and the title number [although it's still very much enjoyable]); and Wayne Fitzgerald's title sequence is one of the best in film history. Although there are a few notes here and there that may make one wince, Ball's singing is really NOT THAT BAD.
Folks expecting a musical duplicate of AUNTIE MAME, however, are in for a surprise. Rosalind Russell's performance, which I love, was outrageously campy; Ball interprets Mame quite differently, and plays her much less flamboyantly. Her portrayal is not as inherently funny as Russell's, but Ball is still a grand actress, and she shows real human emotions very well in MAME. Did Angela Lansbury deserve the film role? Most definitely. Lansbury, of whom I am an enormous fan, devoted years of her life to perfecting the role on Broadway (and she DID perfect the role), and she was more than willing to do the film. It is indeed a tragedy that we have no film record of her performance, but that should not be a factor in judging the quality of this film. Ball was perhaps older than the role called for, but she was an able Mame. Everyone around her, especially the great Bea Arthur and the superb Jane Connell (undoubtedly one of the most underappreciated comic actresses alive), is brilliant.
What was Ball doing in this picture in the first place? Although she had wanted the part badly ever since AUNTIE MAME was released, it was NOT her financial backing that took this part away from Lansbury. Initially she avidly pursued the role (not even her confidante Desi Arnaz could talk her out of it), but after she broke her leg in 1973 she had a sort of reality check. Realising that she was not in any kind of shape for the part, she told the producers that she was backing out of the movie. Warner Brothers promptly flew a representative out to see her and insist on delaying production for her, saying that she was the only reason the picture was being made in the first place. Lucy was a somewhat insecure person, as well as a person always concerned about others' jobs; feeling that dropping out of the picture would leave everyone else working on it out of a job, she acquiesced. Even when the director begged for Angela Lansbury, Warner Brothers refused on the basis of "star power." It was balderdash, of course, but the business side of show business unfortunately is always in the way of the artistic side.
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Mame', though I admit to being a biased Lucille Ball
Set during the late 1920's and early 1930's, an orphaned nine year old boy goes to live with his wealthy and highly eccentric socialite aunt (Lucille Ball), who delights in teaching him to live life to the fullest. A repertoire of spirited, memorable songs accompany a complex story chronicling the relationship between a boy and his aunt.
Unfortunately, the darker side of human nature dominated within the hostile critiques of 'Mame' at the time of it's release... offensive reviews which deeply hurt Lucille Ball personally. Indeed, 'Mame' was maimed by the critics in 1974.
Had 'Mame' been released in the 1940's, 50's or even the 1960's, (with Lucille Ball in the leading role), this delightful musical would have been a major success and Lucy would have won critical acclaim. Unfortunately, by the 1970's the golden era of the Hollywood movie musical was over (in my humble opinion, the film musical died not long after 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' in 1966 ... hopefully, ' Moulin Rouge' will bring it back, or at the very least restore it's dated image, fingers crossed!).
Techniques and tastes had changed by the time 'Mame' hit the screen. Audiences were no longer accustomed to leading characters bursting into song spontaneously, ('Cabaret' in 1972 being the only memorable success of this period, complete with it's own different musical style). Therefore, 'Mame' was doomed from the very beginning.
To make matters worse, Lucille Ball had been (and remains) solidly typecast as a comedienne [albeit a highly talented one], and would always encounter difficulty in winning over hostile critics who refused to positively endorse her as anything else. Yet Lucy could act, (as had been proven within her touching portrayal of a homeless woman in 'Stone Pillows'), and despite being judged from her somewhat deeper, slower vocal renditions within 'Mame', she **could** sing (her musical talent was showcased within 'Sorrowful Jones' in the 1940's). I personally believe she would have been awarded a 'lifetime achievement' academy award had she survived past 1989, (also, I believe she would have done justice to the portrayal of the older 'Rose' character in 'Titanic', but I digress)...
The sets and costumes are sumptuous. In fact, after viewing the film I decided to re-decorate my home in the art-deco style which was the height of fashion within the period in which 'Mame' was set.
I first viewed 'Mame' late at night, when I was half asleep, on the ABC (that is, the Australian Broadcasting Co-operation) about three years ago and mistook it for a much earlier production owing to the filming techniques. Of course, a much older Lucille Ball gave the age of the film away, but the filming technique gives this film an 'authentic' feel. Because Lucy happened to be in her 60's at the time of production (somewhat older than Angela Lansbury, who starred in the Broadway stage production and, to her credit, would have also made a *great* Mame), the 'soft' lens was used in some of her close-up shots to make her appear younger. While criticised from time to time, I found the lighting and image texture to closely imitate similar techniques commonplace within the 1920's and 1930's. The film comes across 'authentic', complimenting the art-deco sets and flamboyant costumes.
In short, I **love** this film. Don't let the critics rain on Mame's parade. Even the stuffiest cynics *must* concede that the film has it's moments...
The 'moon lady' sequence had me in stitches, (as Lucy ascended upon a stage before a theatre-going audience clumsily perched on a cardboard crescent moon). And who can forget Mame's demands for "straight scotch" when shocked by her nephew's [proposed] in-laws and her revolting, belching Southern 'mother-in-law'!? Bea Authur (a one-time 'golden girl'), also steals a number of scenes before the memorable finale.
A must see... indeed, let Lucy's Mame "coax those blues right out of your heart"
It has been a puzzlement to me ever since seeing Mame in it's premiere run
way back in 1974, that so many people have so many different views of this
movie. It is either absolutely loved or positively hated by the people who
see it. I believe Lucille Ball is, and always will be Mame. She plays the
character exactly the way she should be played, hard, tender, funny, bitchy,
loving, sophisticated and free-spirited.
This film has a bright cheery look and feel with big splashy production numbers which lovingly look back at the grand old Hollywood Musicals of the past. The production values are stunning, with beautiful sets and costumes that are truer to the period than the ones in Auntie Mame. The supporting cast is great, with Bea Arthur as Vera Charles and Jane Connell as Gooch. And concerning the complaints about the filming of Lucy through gauze, just go back to the MGM Musicals of the 40's and 50's and you'll see almost every major female star, young and old, filmed through heavy gauze.
I've come to the conclusion that this movie has been labeled a bomb for so long that some people already have their minds made up not to like it before the opening credits have ended. And the ones who see it for the first time without any idea of it's troubled history, end up loving it!
I love this movie from start to finish, always have. I think those who have heavily criticized this film are either anti Lucille Ball (oh my) or have first impressions of the Auntie Mame character by Rosalind Russell and Angela Lansbury. When I watch a movie, I want to be entertained. The first time I saw "Mame" back in the Seventies I just loved it. It's a great story, the songs are memorable, and Beatrice Arthur almost steals the show as Vera (she should have received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress). I am not looking for perfection as so many of the reviewers here seem to. Lucy does a fine job as far as I'm concerned. She has me totally enthralled for three hours and I am sure that's exactly what Miss Ball set out to do. Way to go, Lucy!
Nearly 40 years later, this musical looks better than ever.
First off, the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman make this one of the great Broadway musicals, which happens to be based on a great play. The 1950s play and film version starred Rosalind Russell in one of the great roles of her estimable career.
The 1960s Broadway musical was a smash hit for Angela Lansbury, but Lansbury wasn't a big enough name to star in a lavish film version of the musical. In 1974 there were probably a lot of "middle-aged" stars who could have put this over, but Mame was a role Lucille Ball chased for years.
At the end of her long film and TV career, MAME should have been her crowning achievement, but nothing could mask the fact that she couldn't really sing, although in the final version they were able to piece a vocal performance together, Ball doesn't do Herman's music justice.
That aside, the 63-year-old Ball looks great and easily carries the comedy of the role, and she's in nearly every scene. The sets and costumes are lush and loud, and Ball gets great support from Beatrice Arthur and Jane Connell (Vera and Gooch from the Broadway show) and Robert Preston as Beau.
The rest of the cast is serviceable if not memorable. Don Porter and Audrey Christie as the Upsons, Bruce Davison as the grown Patrick, John McGiver as Babcock, Doria Cook as Gloria, Joyce Van Patten as Sally Cato, Lucille Benson as Mother Burnside, and George Chiang as Ito.
Ball and Arthur won Golden Globe nominations. Te film earned no Oscar nominations. The film opened to big numbers but fell off after a few months. Usually considered a bomb, the film did not lose money.
Like the glorious cinematography from beginning to end, "Mame" sparkles in true silver-screen opulence and is to the embarrassment of 1950s/1960s musicals and films represented by "Auntie Mame" that 1970s "Stars Wars" is to the embarrassment of 1950s/1960s science-fiction films. On par with 1970s "The Black Stallion" and "The Godfather," the unsurpassed cinematography during a time when silver was still used in film-making, with every shot of Lucy a photographic masterpiece, the lush orchestrations and arrangements of the masterfully-reworked songs brought to shimmering life by the 1970s characteristic most monstrous orchestras in history, the seamless dance numbers and unparalleled choreography, and some of the most touching scenes in all of film, with young-Patrick singing to Lucy after her cameo stage number, all come together in a chef d'oeuvre that elevates this "Queen of Television" to her throne as "The Queen of Film" too. The intellectual and artist apex of this civilization represented by the 1970s is in blazing contrast against the campiest and most kitschy time-period in history represented by 1950s/1960s film, television, and music. And this film, Lucy's most revered trophy, stands as that symbol.
I saw this film when it was originally released in the theatre and I was too young to know that Lucy wasn`t exactly a great choice for Mame. I only knew that the music (Lucy`s singing aside) was wonderful. I`m talking about the orchestrations and the arrangements of the score. From the opening title when the firts strains of MAME are played I was hooked. Over the years I have come to realize that Lucy was miscast as far as the singing goes but having seen a video of Angela Lansbury in the role, I have to say that as far as acting the part, Lucy did an admirable job. Some things about the play were changed for the film but that happens in almost all transfers from stage to screen. It worked well for Cabaret and the Sound of Music and for the most part works well here. No, Lucy can`t sing like Angela Lansbury (who I think is one of the most accomplished actresses of film, theatre and television) but she has her moments, such as MY BEST GIRL with Kirby Furlong and BOSOM BUDDIES with the wonderful Bea Arthur and she brings all her years of experience to the role. She also has a wonderful cast around her to help the film along. My favorite part is the title song sung by Robert Preston and the plantation crowd. A great arrangement of the music and a wonderful adaption of the stage choreography (and Lucy dances wonderfully as well). All in all, if you like musicals and can get past Lucy`s minimal singing talent, then I think you`ll love Mame
For those who enjoyed seeing this lively piece in the 1960s, or who liked
the novel thirty years ago, Mame could be not only an entertaining
sentimental journey, but an interesting view of how times have
Lucille Ball is an interesting if not entirely right choice for the main role. She shows Mame Dennis's vivacious personality beautifully, accenting - naturally - the comic aspects of the character. It is a demanding role, covering eleven years from the heyday of the twenties until the start of the forties. Among the character developments are a period of job-hunting, the Southern-belle wooing of a second husband, and the growth involved in raising a child. Her acting is ideal. However, the role asks for a singer equal to the actor, and Ball is not up to it. Her low, aging voice has some depth, especially in the elegiac "Boy with the Bugle," but not the force and clarity of a good singer. The music and lyrics give her a hand, however, with an especial highlight in "Bosom Buddies," the scathing and hilarious duet with Bea Arthur as Vera Charles, "the first lady of American theater." Other catchy tunes you might remember are the title song ("You coax the blues right out of the horn,) Mame," and the romantic, "My Best Girl."
Beware of what you may get into as you watch it though: Mame is a piece whose message has become dated. Mame Dennis was a hero to a generation of young novel readers some forty years ago, and those who saw her character on the original musical stage were struck by her energy and her view of the world. "Live!" she says. "Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death!" But those viewers were from a different era, when women did not work, were expected to be domestic, and her world-hopping would have been seen as radical: an early expression of women's spirit. She was inspirational in her context.
Today, though, she represents a different notion. Coming from a vantage point of extreme wealth, her admonition, "Live!" is easy for her to say. She did not create her wealth, but inherited it from her first and second husbands. On her own, Mame cannot provide for herself. When her first inheritance is wiped out in the Great Crash of 1929, Mame gets fired from job after job, relying on her former butler and nanny to pay the bills, until she fortuitously manages to marry into wealth again.
So in a modern context, we see Mame not as a freedom-loving feminist expressing herself against the prevailing social constraints, but as a woman who must depend on men to provide her with the necessary element of her freedom: money. In the depression, she could afford to fly around the world and spoil her children on her inherited money, while those who may have wished to be inspired by this spirit could not.
Her heroism was not in how she gained her money, but in what she did with it. Even so, taking a two-year honeymoon and holding thirteen parties in two weeks ("She had to cancel one," the butler explains) is hardly politically correct, today. Even her altruistic gesture at the end, when she buys a plot of land for a home for single mothers, is as much a jab at her nephew's future in-laws as pure philanthropy, and the plight of her beneficiaries is only brought home to her when her secretary becomes one of them.
It is therefore difficult today, to find Mame unambiguously admirable or inspiring. Her spirit comes from wealth; her wealth is unearned; and is used primarily to pump her own spirit. Her charm notwithstanding, the view of her lifestyle has taken a turn in an age when the wealthy can know how to live, while most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death.
Mame, therefore, is worth a second glance, not only for its tuneful exuberance and wonderful comic moments, not only as a vehicle for a sentimental review of an old favorite, but as a historical piece: a view of the admirability that was.
In general, critics have been much too harsh regarding their comments on MAME. It's simply an old-fashioned, entertaining musical that's fun to watch. Lucille Ball does a fine job in the title role. She gives a thoroughly professional performance and looks fantastic in all those wonderful costumes. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy Motion Picture. The rest of the cast is terrific. It makes a delightful addition to your video collection. MAME may not be great art but it is very enjoyable, especially if you are a Lucy fan.
I think Lucille Ball got a very bad rap when "Mame" debuted. Lucy was
carved up by the Press as saying she was too old, a lame dancer, and
had a gravely voice, etc.
I think the real problem with the movie is the direction of Gene Saks who quite clearly could not control or contain the great Lucille Ball. Another director such as Billy Wilder would have made Mame hipper and sharper or Lucy's first choice George Cukor might have taken some real chances with Mame. For example I think Robert Preston, once and always "The Music Man" on paper was a great choice but Cukor might have tried a young, studlier dude like Ty Hardin whom Cukor was infatuated with on "The Chapman Report" and while the affection was not reciprocated by Hardin,George Cukor did throw that film to Hardin anyway. "Mame" would have had a sharp, very sexy, much young boyfriend. Cukor's sets may have been more imaginative too. Or Bob Fosse who would have knocked the ball out of the park with his Dancing and Direction. Gene Saks let Ms. Ball control the show and Ball needed direction, or Lucy fell back on her old and famous tricks ( as do all great stars)
Lucille Ball's Mame still holds the record for the biggest weekly gross in a movie theater in the United States. Warners went with Lucille Ball because it was felt Lucy along had the box office clout to open the picture not only in the USA but also worldwide. There was also the report Lucille Ball, wealthy woman, invested $5 Million in this film. Neither Ms. Ball nor WB ever stated this. It was as Walter Winchell used to say an "untrumor"
Ms. Ball started off as a chorus girl and was a fashion model in New York also before she conquered Hollywood, and Ball looks fine. I especially liked the sequence Loving You with Preston and Ball dancing. Elegant!I am glad Theodora Van Runkle got the job of designing clothes rather than Ms. Ball's first pick Edith Head, and as she once remarked Mame would not have sounded like Julie Andrews, Mame was a hard drinking party gal. I always wondered why Ms. Ball never convinced her best friend Carol Burnett to be Gooch.
I liked the Movie and Ms. Ball.
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