Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Auntie Mame and Patrick on the Statue of Liberty!
MAME (1974). Director: Gene Saks.

The story of madcap Auntie Mame was turned into the musical Mame, starring Angela Lansbury. Although Lansbury, who could sing and had appeared in a great many movies, could certainly have essayed her screen equivalent, the role was instead given to Lucille Ball, who couldn't sing a lick. Remember the classic "Operetta" episode of I Love Lucy? When Ricky remarks that Lucy on occasion hits a flat note, Ethel reassures him that "every time she opens her mouth the entire cast will join in." If only they had followed that policy in this movie, because dear Lucy's croaking pretty much devastates all of her numbers. However, that being said, Mame is not a bad movie. Ball is not up to Russell's level, but she's hardly terrible as Mame Dennis, although the picture is completely stolen by Bea Arthur as Vera Charles (Coral Browne was great as Vera in the original, but she didn't steal the picture from Russell). "The Man in the Moon" is a funny number, as is "Bosom Buddies," and "My Best Girl" is a pretty tune. There are other good songs, but Lucy butchers all of them, except when Jane Connell repeats her Broadway role as Agnes Gooch and adroitly delivers her one big solo. [There's also a new song, "Loving You."] Kirby Furlong and Bruce Davison [Stolen: One Husband] are fine as the young and older Patrick, respectively, and Doria Cook-Nelson scores as Patrick's fiancee, Gloria, as does Patrick Labyorteaux as Mame's little grandson, Peter. Lucille Benson is funny as the mother of Robert Preston's Beauregard Burnside, who marries Mame and travels the world with her. The sub-text of the film substitutes racism for anti-Semitism. Say what you will about Mame, when the whole troupe breaks into the title tune the movie certainly plays. Jerry Herman did both music and lyrics, including the snappy "Open a New Window," an anthem to having new life experiences.

Verdict: Not in the league of Auntie Mame, but not bad on its own terms. *** out of 4.


angelman66 said...

What a shame--you are so right, this could have been pretty decent but is totally wrecked by Lucy's singing voice, once famously described by costar William Frawley as a barrel of gravel on baked Alaska!!!

Pity, because if this had been a min musical version, she could have pulled it off, because Lucy really can act, and her tough characterization of Mame Dennis could have worked.

The Theodora Van Runkle costumes, excellent period production design and supporting performances are all notable, too, it's just that damn voice that sinks the whole ship!

Now you've made me want to see this again!!

William said...

You'll find that it has its charms in its own way, and some very good performances, and there's always Bea Arthur!