A few words about…™ Mame — in Blu-ray

As a disc, it is perfect Warner Archive quality. 4 Stars

I’m a huge fan of the original Broadway production of Mame, which I saw was with Angela Lansbury – she was on stage, I was in a seat.

It was a extraordinary and vibrant entertainment.

In 1974, WB which owned the rights to the original Auntie Mame (available on Blu-ray from WB, in all its wonderful Technirama beauty), decided to make a film version of the musical play.

To this day, I don’t understand why they didn’t use Ms Lansbury for the lead, and in her place, went with Lucille Ball.

Ms Ball couldn’t sing. They didn’t use voice replacement, and at that age was no longer the dancer she may have been when a Goldwyn Girl.

They did use Bea Arthur, and she’s wonderful, along with Robert Preston.

There is a large and resolute audience for this disc, and Warner Archive, has released a gorgeous Blu-ray.

Presumably derived from a very high quality interpositive of reasonably recent production, all of the color, especially the vibrancy of reds is fully intact. Blacks are perfect.

It’s a beautifully shot film – highly resolved when need be, and heavily veiled (Ms Ball was 63) when necessary, which was virtually every shot in which she was included.

All of the history aside, Mame, as a representation of the original musical, is an important release, and the quality here, is superb.

I wouldn’t be honest, if I opined that Lucy is terrific in the lead role.

As a disc, it is perfect Warner Archive quality.

Image – 5

Audio – 5 (monaural)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from earlier Blu-ray – You betcha!

RAH

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

105 Comments

  1. So glad to hear it looks great but monaural sound makes me sad. The soundtrack album is in vibrant stereo and it shows off Ralph Burns fantastic orchestrations beautifully. Oh well, looking forward to the blu. (And I already know the arguments WB made about not doing it in stereo for the previous DVD – hoped they had changed their stance on that).

  2. Mono tracks are capable of sounding good or even great. Is the track itself at least lossless? Even the laserdisc had that going for it, technically. And believe it or not, this film actually got a widescreen laserdisc before Blazing Saddles*, which only got a less bad-looking pan-and-scan version and had to wait to get an OAR LD release from Image Entertainment until after it got a DVD.**

    *Disney united the two movies when they cast Slim Pickens and John McGiver in The Apple Dumpling Gang.
    **See also: Annie (or any girl-centric Columbia movie), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

  3. A flawed but highly entertaining movie and less stagey than the 1958 film. In interviews at the time, Lucille Ball stated that Lisa Kirk (who dubbed most of Roz very well in GYPSY) had recorded the songs but the studio had opted to go with Miss Ball's (inadequate) voice. A pity. At times, she is passable but this score deserved better Would love to hear Miss Kirk's tracks if they survive.
    Otherwise, I like Lucy as MAME. Not in the same league as Roz, but she brought her considerable comic talents to the fore and is quite touching in the dramatic scenes. Bea Arthur is terrific, as are Doria Cook (as Gloria Upson), Jane Connell, Robert Preston, Audrey Christie (Mrs. Mullins in CAROUSEL) and the rest of the supporting cast. Marvellous editing, orchestrations and costumes and one of the best title sequences ever, in my opinion. The pluses outweigh the minuses. (Also, Lucy has stated that Miss Lansbury was in Ireland with a family crisis related to her son and was unavailable for the role. If it couldn't be a box office hit with Lucy, who was still very popular due to her tv show, I doubt it would have been a hit with Lansbury at that time .)

  4. lionel59

    (Also, Lucy has stated that Miss Lansbury was in Ireland with a family crisis related to her son and was unavailable for the role. If it couldn't be a box office hit with Lucy, who was still very popular due to her tv show, I doubt it would have been a hit with Lansbury at that time .)

    The first comment is not true. Lansbury has stated that she was never asked and has no idea why Ball said what she did, "I didn't get the movie because Warner Bros. didn't believe that I could bring the audience in.". I agree with your second comment but for different reasons. It's simply not a good movie and even if Lansbury had played in the film version, it wouldn't have made it any better. I suspected the film of Mame wouldn't be a hit when (I lived in San Francisco at the time) the trailer was greeted with hisses and derisive noises.

  5. It would have been SOME better because the musical elements involving the title character would have been given the lyrical acting talents that Miss Lansbury brought to the table, something Miss Ball never was able to muster. Notes would have been sustained (and thus rhythms adjusted more appealingly because someone who could sing wouldn't have to be helped with altered cadences), pitches would have been truer, and the emotional depths would have been far deeper and richer.

  6. I certainly find it the most enjoyable of the “non-singer” musicals so prevalent in the day: Paint Your Wagon, Man of La Mancha, At Long Last Love and the hideous Lost Horizon being the main ones that come to mind.

    And I actually prefer Bea Arthur and Jane Connell over their Auntie Mame counterparts of Coral Browne and Peggy Cass, both of whom are great though.

  7. WB lied to Lucy to make her feel better about Angie not getting the part. They told Lucy that Angie didn't want to do it when they never even asked her. True or false, she believed it. But Angie did have a family crisis at the time; her daughter Deirdre got involved with drugs and almost got recruited into the Manson family. That's why they left for Ireland: for her recovery.*

    Similarly, what was the excuse for keeping her Court Jester co-star, Glynis Johns, out of the film of A Little Night Music? That begs the question of who would have gotten the part of Mame Dennis if Lucy had turned it down.

    JohnMor

    I certainly find it the most enjoyable of the “non-singer” musicals so prevalent in the day: Paint Your Wagon, Man of La Mancha, At Long Last Love and the hideous Lost Horizon being the main ones that come to mind.

    And I actually prefer Bea Arthur and Jane Connell over their Auntie Mame counterparts of Coral Browne and Peggy Cass, both of whom are great though.

    Since the musical combines the characters of Norah Muldoon and Agnes Gooch, Connell is also replacing Connie Gilchrist as well as Peggy Cass.

    *Another David Tomlinson co-star, Petula Clark, who appeared with him in a 1952 English film called Made in Heaven before "Downtown" and associated chart hits led to Finian's Rainbow, a WB musical where she played a witch, also gave up a potential ABC variety show because her children didn't want to live in LA.

  8. MatthewA

    …co-star, Glynis Johns, out of the film of A Little Night Music? That begs the question of who would have gotten the part of Mame Dennis if Lucy had turned it down.

    Re: Glynnis Johns in A Little Night Music. It was a money issue. The German money men wanted a star of international stature to play the lead and Liz Taylor was that person at the time. Johns was a name, but far from being a "star". This was also the reason why the story location and the character names went Swedish to German.

  9. MatthewA

    Similarly, what was the excuse for keeping her Court Jester co-star, Glynis Johns, out of the film of A Little Night Music?.

    The obvious answer is the same as Lansbury's "I didn't get the movie because X didn't believe that I could bring the audience in." That's why Audrey Hepburn got My Fair Lady and not Julie Andrews, why Madonna got Evita and not Patti Lupone, why Natalie Wood got West Side Story and not Carol Lawrence, why Peter O'Toole got Man Of La Mancha and not Richard Kiley, why Doris Day got The Pajama Game and not Janis Paige, why Janet Leigh got Bye Bye Birdie and not Chita Rivera, why Barbra Streisand got On A Clear Day and not Barbara Harris, why Carol Burnett got Annie and not Dorothy Loudon, why Diana Ross got The Wiz and not Stephanie Mills, why Burt Reynolds got Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and not Henderson Forsythe etc. I could go on and on but you get my point.

    Oh sure, there are occasions when the original star gets to repeat their role on screen (Robert Preston in The Music Man, Robert Morse in How To Succeed In Business, Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees) but that's not the norm.

  10. Some of those casting decisions are defensible. Others are questionable but must have looked good on paper. Even original Broadway cast members won't guarantee a hit. One word: Rent. They brought back as many originals as they could for the movie and still flopped.

  11. MatthewA

    Some of those casting decisions are defensible. Others are questionable but must have looked good on paper. Even original Broadway cast members won't guarantee a hit. One word: Rent. They brought back as many originals as they could for the movie and still flopped.

    But what makes Lansbury getting passed over such a huge oversight is that she also had had a film career for 30 years that included musicals. She wasn't exactly an unknown who had just got off the turkey truck, or someone who had more stage experience than film. Those SF moviegoers who hissed the trailer weren't hissing the material, just the miscasting. A more vocally inclined lead might have gotten a warmer reaction and probably would not have had nearly as much negative word of mouth poisoning the well before it even came out. Even Lucy herself might have been better if she hadn't broken her leg. To anyone who feels her dancing lacks energy, that's probably why; she's holding back because she's afraid of doing it again. That's why it was hard to laugh at her falling down on Life With Lucy*: your first instinct after seeing a woman of that age doing a pratfall isn't to laugh, but to call 911.

    Tell that to Mary Martin.

    *Animals on the Chinese Zodiac run on a 12-year cycle, so 1974 and 1986 have the same symbol: the tiger.

    Yes, Angela Lansbury had a film career for 30 years but she was not a star. She was a character actress. She finally became a Broadway star with Mame and a TV star (as in household name) with Murder She Wrote. If Murder She Wrote had debuted on TV in, say, 1971 then Lansbury just might have been allowed to play Mame.

  12. Box office success and a well made movie do not always go hand in hand. A movie can be well made and still fail at the box office . A terrible movie can make a lot of money ( Streisand In " A Star is Born.") Lansbury as "Mame" probably would have made a better film but it may not have made a much of a profit. Musicals were pretty much out of step with the times in 1974 and this was an old fashioned musical that would not appeal much to most teenagers, who made up a large portion of the movie going audience.

    As to what Lucy believed about why Lansbury didn't get the role, the only one who can answer that is Lucy and she isn't talking. I can just as easily speculate that the story about Lansbury not being available could easily been thought of by Warner Bros, with the full knowledge of Lucy, to combat the possible negative publicity the film might get because Lansbury was not cast. Warner Bros. was also the studio that cast Audrey Hepburn over Julie Andrews in " My Fair Lady" so this was most likely something Warner Bros. was sensitive to. Lucy also said during publicity for the film that her version of "Mame" had more heart than Rosalind Russell as " Auntie Mame". Something to the effect that she loved Rosalind Russell as "Auntie Mame" but we put more heart into the story. She also talked about the necessity of getting the family to go to the film at a time when films were not really a family experience. Mom and Dad weren't taking the kids to the movies so much in 1974.

  13. Thomas T

    Yes, Angela Lansbury had a film career for 30 years but she was not a star. She was a character actress. She finally became a Broadway star with Mame and a TV star (as in household name) with Murder She Wrote. If Murder She Wrote had debuted on TV in, say, 1971 then Lansbury just might have been allowed to play Mame.

    Angela Lansbury did a revival of "Mame" on Broadway in the early to mid 1980's which was not a financial success. She has stated this lack of success was why she choose to do TV as a way to become more of a household name.

  14. Thomas T

    Yes, Angela Lansbury had a film career for 30 years but she was not a star. She was a character actress. She finally became a Broadway star with Mame and a TV star (as in household name) with Murder She Wrote. If Murder She Wrote had debuted on TV in, say, 1971 then Lansbury just might have been allowed to play Mame.


    The Brady Bunch
    didn't do much to salvage the box office take of Song of Norway, which ABC produced all by themselves, and that film's failure likely knocked Florence Henderson out of consideration. And though The Partridge Family got the better ratings of the two Friday night sitcoms when they were new, Shirley Jones' movie musical successes (and the Oscar that came between them) were more than a decade past by this point, despite one of them being at WB with Onna White choreographing it, so I doubt she was in mind for it. Doris Day had a TV show at the time that was on the same night as Here's Lucy, and she was WB's top box office draw throughout the 1950s and had also done With Six You Get Eggroll, a film about a large family around the same time as Lucy's similar Yours, Mine, and Ours. All of them were more musically inclined, too.

  15. Agree that Lucy's explanation for why Lansbury did not do the film, is untrue. As for whether it would have been a better film with Lansbury, the answer is 100% YES! As for box-office draw, I can't imagine what moron thought Lucy would be box-office draw, when people could watch her for free, every single day of their lives, and twice on Mondays.

  16. Yours, Mine, and Ours grossed $25 million against a budget of $2.5 million, and WB thought they could guarantee a similar rate of return. If they thought Lucy was box office, then that's probably why.

    Garysb

    Angela Lansbury did a revival of "Mame" on Broadway in the early to mid 1980's which was not a financial success or at least not as big as anticipated. She has stated this lack of success was why she choose to do TV as a way to become more of a household name.

    I heard they taped it for TV but no one's come up with audiovisual proof yet, so it remains apocryphal until further notice. In addition to having apparently been scaled back significantly from the original production, it was probably not the wisest of ideas to have it running concurrently with La Cage Aux Folles, which opened about a month later, and thus have two Jerry Herman shows cannibalizing each other; this obviously worked to the newer show's advantage simply because it was new.

  17. Angela Lansbury has been on both sides of the dubbing issue, having been dubbed herself in The Harvey Girls and having been hired to redub Ingrid Thulin's dialogue in the 1961 version of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

  18. The original Broadway version of A Little Night Music was, and remains, the best musical I've seen. The film version goes off the rails in so many directions, and the casting of Elizabeth Taylor is only one of many mistakes made along the way. The recent revival of the show with Zeta-Jones was very problematic, with major things missing (the chorus), and the part of the father dreadfully miscast. Angela Lansbury was almost the equal of Hermione Gingold, but not quite. And it lacked a full orchestra, which was a catastrophe for the score. Hopefully, but unlikely, it should be made into a tremendous film. It could be done,

  19. Richard Kaufman

    The original Broadway version of A Little Night Music was, and remains, the best musical I've seen. The film version goes off the rails in so many directions, and the casting of Elizabeth Taylor is only one of many mistakes made along the way.

    Poor Elizabeth Taylor gets the brunt of the blame for the failure of the film version of A Little Night Music. While I agree the film is a failure, I place it firmly on the shoulders of Harold Prince who should never be allowed behind a movie camera ever again. Prince directed the stage version (which I saw with the lovely Jean Simmons as Desiree) which was wonderful but the film is clunky and heavy handed as the stage musical is magical. Prince's only previous experience in film was the godawful Something For Everyone (coincidentally starring Angela Lansbury) which should have clued the powers that be that the man, while a fantastic stage director, simply knows zilch about cinema. Thankfully after the film of ALNM, Prince stayed away from movies. With the right director (a Minnelli or a Cukor), I think Elizabeth Taylor (or Audrey Hepburn) would have been just fine. I agree it needs to be remade into a film again in the right hands. However, like the 1977 film, the chorus needs to be eliminated. It's too theatrical a device for film.

  20. Thomas T

    Poor Elizabeth Taylor gets the brunt of the blame for the failure of the film version of A Little Night Music. While I agree the film is a failure, I place it firmly on the shoulders of Harold Prince who should never be allowed behind a movie camera ever again. Prince directed the stage version (which I saw with the lovely Jean Simmons as Desiree) which was wonderful but the film is clunky and heavy handed as the stage musical is magical. Prince's only previous experience in film was the godawful Something For Everyone (coincidentally starring Angela Lansbury) which should have clued the powers that be that the man, while a fantastic stage director, simply knows zilch about cinema. Thankfully after the film of ALNM, Prince stayed away from movies. With the right director (a Minnelli or a Cukor), I think Elizabeth Taylor (or Audrey Hepburn) would have been just fine. I agree it needs to be remade into a film again in the right hands. However, like the 1977 film, the chorus needs to be eliminated. It's too theatrical a device for film.

    I saw Glynis, but would have loved to have seen Jean Simmons, one of my favorite actresses (and voices).

  21. bujaki

    I saw Glynis, but would have loved to have seen Jean Simmons, one of my favorite actresses (and voices).

    Jean Simmons did both the London cast production and the national touring company. I was living in San Francisco at the time and saw the national touring production when it played in SF. In a strange bit of casting, Margaret Hamilton (Wizard Of Oz) played Simmons mother (the Gingold part) and it was difficult to believe she had once been a great beauty and mistress to kings.

  22. Lucille Ball was known to tell tall tales. Her longtime writer, Madelyn Davis, was amused when Ball told stories like how dunking her nose in a a cup of coffee in the William Holden episode was unscripted.

  23. Getting back to the movie Mame..
    Two questions—
    1. Who would go skiing, knowing that they would be going through vigorous dance routines, needed for a multi million dollar musical?
    2. Why was the ping pong ball story removed from this musical or movie?

  24. I saw this opening night in March 1974 at the Mann Theater in Minneapolis. I was 19. Sold out house and everybody loved it. Lucy was wrong, but worked hard. Of course Angela Lansbury should have done it. At the time Lucy was filming “Mame,” Lansbury opened the 1973 Oscar show with a song & dance number that must have made the Warners suits suicidal. Although flawed, I love the film. It’s such a great show that it survives a mis-cast star. In recent years I’ve thought a really great person for the part in early seventies would have been Jane Fonda. That ought to ruffle some feathers.

  25. Panavision70

    In recent years I've thought a really great person for the part in early seventies would have been Jane Fonda. That ought to ruffle some feathers.

    Acting wise, she would have been fine but I don't believe Ms. Fonda has shown any capacity for singing and dancing. I distinctly recall an interview where Rosalind Russell was asked who could play Auntie Mame today (today meaning whenever the interview was given) and she said Cher. Cher would have been an inspired choice for Mame compared to Lucy and she can sing!

  26. Matt Hough

    After Bette Midler scored such a major success with Gypsy on television, there was serious talk of a made-for-TV film of Mame starring Cher. I don't know whatever became of those plans.

    I'm sure she's been replaced … By Ariana Grande, Cardi B or Bhad Bhabie (Danielle "Cash Me Ousside…" Bregoli) … 😉

  27. Matt Hough

    After Bette Midler scored such a major success with Gypsy on television, there was serious talk of a made-for-TV film of Mame starring Cher. I don't know whatever became of those plans.

    They had a bunch of people attached to it before her, including but not limited to Bette Midler and even Whoopi Goldberg! But apparently, they just never came up with a script that Jerry Herman approved.

  28. Sad to say that the reason Angela Lansbury was passed over for “Mame” was because of the relative box office disappointment of Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” — WB could have also recast “Mame” when in pre-production when Lucy broke her leg in a skiing accident and they put the production back an entire year, but didn’t.

    Also regarding the mono soundtrack and the stereo soundtrack album — when the movie was being prepared for dvd release, Warners admitted they tried everything to to bring the movie out in some kind of stereo but couldn’t as Lucy’s vocal tracks were patched together after many takes and they could not bring these out in 5.1 stereo (but survive in 2.0 stereo on the soundtrack album….but is it really stereo?)

    When “Mame” came out in 1974 it ran head-on into “The Exorcist” and that was pretty much it for the movie — but it was a huge hit internationally notably here in Australia where it was in theatres for nearly a year.

  29. I was the projectionist 4 the opening night @ the Arcade theatre in Balto. City, we only had one guy show up. They still had carbon arc lamps,and had the best looking picture in town!

  30. Brian McP

    Sad to say that the reason Angela Lansbury was passed over for "Mame" was because of the relative box office disappointment of Disney's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" — WB could have also recast "Mame" when in pre-production when Lucy broke her leg in a skiing accident and they put the production back an entire year, but didn't.

    Also regarding the mono soundtrack and the stereo soundtrack album — when the movie was being prepared for dvd release, Warners admitted they tried everything to to bring the movie out in some kind of stereo but couldn't as Lucy's vocal tracks were patched together after many takes and they could not bring these out in 5.1 stereo (but survive in 2.0 stereo on the soundtrack album….but is it really stereo?)

    When "Mame" came out in 1974 it ran head-on into "The Exorcist" and that was pretty much it for the movie — but it was a huge hit internationally notably here in Australia where it was in theatres for nearly a year.

    The soundtrack album is definitely true stereo. If you listen through earphones you can easily hear that the orchestra has a very wide stereo spread.

  31. Ethan Riley

    Sample of the title song. This was posted on youtube by Warners themselves, from the soundtrack album.

    Thanks for posting this. Interesting to listen to but I MUCH prefer the version on the Broadway cast album.

  32. And you can see this on YouTube. Someone has put the stereo track to Bosom Buddies. What I don't understand about all this is if the songs were recorded in stereo, and they would have been lip synching to those recordings, I don't really understand why the film couldn't be in stereo. I guess I am just being dense.

  33. The music sounds richer, and pumping the surrounds up could help make Lucy's singing voice less harsh on the ears, but the lack of foley effects made it seem weird. The actresses talk, there's background music, but nothing else makes a sound. Spoons and teacups don't clink when put down, shoes don't make any noise when people get up and walk. That's why it's not as simple as looping album masters over it.* There's also underscore that didn't make the cut onto the LP. They need to find those, too. When they made those comments here, that was more than a decade ago. Audio technology advanced since then. I guess they thought it was worth a remastering as is with existing DVD extras but not anything else. That's better than Disney would have done. At least you got the whole movie, even if it is in mono.

    Brian McP

    Sad to say that the reason Angela Lansbury was passed over for "Mame" was because of the relative box office disappointment of Disney's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" — WB could have also recast "Mame" when in pre-production when Lucy broke her leg in a skiing accident and they put the production back an entire year, but didn't.

    Angie left the country to get her daughter away from Charles Manson, and WB lied to Lucy and said she didn't want the part. With Bedknobs, a more complete film might have done better; we will never know because even if you can restore a film, you cannot do so retroactively. Even the obviously truncated 117-minute theatrical cut eventually out-grossed the 131-minute Mame anyway, yet Disney still didn't stop there. I'm not sure WB would have changed their minds regardless, but without it, there was no chance of her even being considered for it, and the second half of her career might have taken a decidedly different path. And her daughter's real-world safety overrode every other concern.** Even so, Lucy had enough clout that she could have sued WB for breach of contract if they'd tried to fire her while she was infirm. There was already enough bad word of mouth spreading simply because they'd passed Angie over so blithely. Imagine the bad press they'd get over headlines that screamed "60-YEAR-OLD LUCY FIRED FROM MAME OVER BROKEN LEG".***

    *Along with the second half of "Eglantine" that included Miss Price standing up to Mr. Browne's ladies' man act, the one part of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks restoration that had to resort to this was the added lyric to "Portobello Road" with a female vendor who vaguely resembles Connie Gilchrist, who appeared in three other Disney movies after Auntie Mame, but whose last credit was in 1969. I want to say it's her, but I can't for sure. Although the LP whittled about 80 minutes of score down to 32 minutes to fit on a single disc, Disney saved all or most of the three-track pre-records to remix the film. That makes it all the more disappointing that some of their other 5.1 remixes just sounded like mono spread out to every speaker. And don't get me started on the early years of stereo TV and how some key shows are misrepresented on DVD in that respect.
    **She admitted she never actually watched Mame.
    ***Here's Lucy wrote it into the plot of the concurrent season, their fifth.

  34. GlennF

    And you can see this on YouTube. Someone has put the stereo track to Bosom Buddies. What I don't understand about all this is if the songs were recorded in stereo, and they would have been lip synching to those recordings, I don't really understand why the film couldn't be in stereo. I guess I am just being dense.

    If you are dense so am I. I also synced up several other songs with no problem. I suppose it is possible that a separate foley track no longer exists. I still am of the opinion it could have been done. That being said, I am sure I will enjoy the typical high quality of a Warner blu-ray.

  35. I watched it last evening and thought it was a splendid presentation. The color and clarity were absolutely superb- pure inky blacks, red reds, and most importantly white whites. No blooming- visually stunning.
    The movie never worked for me before but does now with this presentation with one exception. The “If He Walked into my Life” torch number is a big fat dud where it should fly. The decision to not have her lip sync but thinking while this song is playing is weird- it loses all dramatic effect. Not to mention that they could have dubbed this song if her lips weren’t even moving. It threw me out of the film. It’s definitely requires a voice that can sustain holding a note.
    Also the child actor couldn’t sing either- I wonder if this was to make her not seem so bad. Lol
    But still highly recommended!

  36. I watched it last night also (projected on 110" screen) and I thought it looked great. It also gave me an odd deja vu sensation – I think it is because after having seen it only in standard def on video for so many years, the filmic quality now possible with blu-ray took me back to 1974. The last time I felt that way was when the blu of Mary Poppins came out – the filmic quality of that one also transported me back in time to a childhood viewing. I will always wish for stereo sound which so nicely showcases the great Ralph Burns orchestrations on the soundtrack album, but this is a high quality presentation and I am very pleased with this disc.

  37. noel aguirre

    The movie never worked for me before but does now with this presentation with one exception. The “If He Walked into my Life” torch number is a big fat dud where it should fly. The decision to not have her lip sync but thinking while this song is playing is weird- it loses all dramatic effect. Not to mention that they could have dubbed this song if her lips weren’t even moving. It threw me out of the film.

    But all the songs not sung to others were treated that way in the film. “St. Brigit” and “The Letter” were also voice overs. No one in the film sings to themselves when they’re alone. It would be weird if Mame DID imo.

  38. noel aguirre

    […] It’s definitely requires a voice that can sustain holding a note.[…]

    I believe that "Mame" became the only film that have both the MPAA rating, along with the Surgeon General's warning.
    I'm almost 90% Proof-positive.:lol:

  39. JohnMor

    I certainly find it the most enjoyable of the “non-singer” musicals so prevalent in the day: Paint Your Wagon, Man of La Mancha, At Long Last Love and the hideous Lost Horizon being the main ones that come to mind.

    And I actually prefer Bea Arthur and Jane Connell over their Auntie Mame counterparts of Coral Browne and Peggy Cass, both of whom are great though.

    I agree re Bea and Jane, although Coral Browne – a fellow Aussie- has an acidic tone to her voice which adds something to the part.
    Interestingly, Peter O'Toole was DUBBED in LA MANCHA. He sings for himself in GOODBYE, MR CHIPS which I think was/is underrated and better than LA MANCHA. Most of the cast in LOST HORIZON were dubbed. Sally Kellerman and Bobby Van are the only ones who do their own numbers. Peter Finch's voice double no doubt toned down his singing prowess to make it more plausible that it could be Finch. I think I read Lisa Kirk did this for Roz in GYPSY and the singer who dubbed Liz in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC must also have subdued her voice (one critic thought it was Liz singing and likened her to Minnie Mouse).
    Lucy had clout and I suspect she insisted her tracks be used. She sounds faux surprised in the interview with Phil Donahue that Warners elected to not use Kirk's tracks. Her one Broadway musical (WILDCAT) failed and her limited singing talent was often made fun of in her tv sitcoms. If Lisa's tracks are in the vaults, they would make an invaluable special feature on cd or blu ray. By the way, there was an unusual HERE'S LUCY episode in the final season promoting MAME in which Lucy Carter meets Lucille Ball and enters a lookalike contest. Costumes from MAME are utilized. Weird but entertaining.

  40. I love that Here's Lucy episode where Lucy meets Lucille. It was a fun teaser for the movie back when it aired. And Mame is never mentioned in the episode; I have heard it was because ABC was a producing entity of the film.

  41. A couple of clarifications about Lionel's post above:

    Wildcat was a flop, but not because of Lucy's voice or the lack of an audience. It was SRO from the time it opened (Lucy's mega TV fame assured that), but Lucy hadn't counted on the tedium of a long Broadway run performing the same material eight times a week, and it was she who closed the show after about six months.

    Elizabeth Taylor sang "Send in the Clowns" in A Little Night Music and the talking parts of "You Must Meet My Wife," but she was dubbed by Elaine Tompkinson in the opening number "Love Takes Time." The misguided movie, however, also used Miss Tompkinson to dub Chloe Francks in "The Glamorous Life" AND Lesley Anne-Downe in her numbers – the same singer for three different characters! Unbelievable!

  42. Matt Hough

    A couple of clarifications about Lionel's post above:

    Wildcat was a flop, but not because of Lucy's voice or the lack of an audience. It was SRO from the time it opened (Lucy's mega TV fame assured that), but Lucy hadn't counted on the tedium of a long Broadway run performing the same material eight times a week, and it was she who closed the show after about six months.

    Elizabeth Taylor sang "Send in the Clowns" in A Little Night Music and the talking parts of "You Must Meet My Wife," but she was dubbed by Elaine Tompkinson in the opening number "Love Takes Time." The misguided movie, however, also used Miss Tompkinson to dub Chloe Francks in "The Glamorous Life" AND Lesley Anne-Downe in her numbers – the same singer for three different characters! Unbelievable!

    Lucy also missed quite a few performances of Wildcat due to illness because she didn’t have the physical stamina to keep up the rigors of a Broadway run.

    Elaine Tomkinson’s recording of “The Glamorous Life” is marvelous and a particular favorite of mine. I love Sondheim’s revision of the song for the film much more than the stage original.

  43. JohnMor

    Elaine Tomkinson’s recording of “The Glamorous Life” is marvelous and a particular favorite of mine. I love Sondheim’s revision of the song for the film much more than the stage original.

    I agree!

  44. JohnMor

    Elaine Tomkinson’s recording of “The Glamorous Life” is marvelous and a particular favorite of mine. I love Sondheim’s revision of the song for the film much more than the stage original.

    I agree completely. It's a wonderful number and far surpasses the original stage version of the song. In the London revival with Judi Dench as Desiree, they tried to combine the two versions of the song, but I much prefer the film version incarnation. Sadly, in the Catherine Zeta-Jones revival, they reverted to the original song.

  45. JohnMor

    Elaine Tomkinson’s recording of “The Glamorous Life” is marvelous and a particular favorite of mine. I love Sondheim’s revision of the song for the film much more than the stage original.

    Great song. My favorite line is "Someday she'll come galloping over the green".

    Audra McDonald made a great recording of it also on her "Go Back Home" album.

  46. It looks very nice — a bit soft, but nice color and saturation. Sadly, in mono, but mono so good you forget it’s mono. Apparently, it was recorded in stereo but released in mono. Sadly only a trailer as an extra and the trailer is super blurry for some reason.

  47. KPmusmag

    Great song. My favorite line is "Someday she'll come galloping over the green".

    Audra McDonald made a great recording of it also on her "Go Back Home" album.

    And did an incredible rendition of it on “Sondheim: The Birthday Concert.”

  48. About twenty years ago, Bruce Kimmel put out a CD called Sondheim at the Movies (highly recommended, by the way), and on it "The Glamorous Life" was sung by Cassidy Ladden. If Elaine Tomkinson's version is my favorite, that one runs it a close second. She is simply magnificent. I LOVE Audra, and she's a brilliant artist, but I think the song has more emotional power sung by a talented youngster.

  49. Thanks for the corrections Matt.
    All I knew was WILDCAT did not have a long run, so I assumed it did not do well. Maybe the fact Lucy had starred in a Broadway musical had something to do with her vocals being used.
    I met Elizabeth Taylor after a performance of THE LITTLE FOXES in
    L.A. in 1981. A warm and funny lady. I had thought it was her voice singing 'Clowns' but saw in a long list of screen dubbing that she had a voice double. As it did not specify that only some of her singing was dubbed, I assumed the vocal double had tried to limit her talent and sound as close to Miss Taylor as possible. I wish I could have seen Jean Simmons in the role. Was she thought of for the movie? She gets by in GUYS AND DOLLS, but not really known as a singer. Terrific actress who sadly never won an Oscar despite many worthy performances.
    If you bring up the NY Times for a review of MAME, an ad comes up from the same page with quotes from two glowing reviews, so some critics must have liked it. I also like the way the musical treats the death of Beau with a serious tone. AUNTIE MAME takes a 'black comedy' approach. In the play, a reprise of 'My Best Girl' is sung. In the movie, it underscores the scene between Patrick and Mame. Was 'Loving You' written for another show and utilized in the film of MAME? A cast off from MAME- 'Love Is Only Love'- found its way into the movie of HELLO DOLLY. I think putting a new number in is often done for publicity purposes and in the hope of a Best Song nomination.

  50. lionel59

    Thanks for the corrections Matt.
    All I knew was WILDCAT did not have a long run, so I assumed it did not do well. Maybe the fact Lucy had starred in a Broadway musical had something to do with her vocals being used.
    I met Elizabeth Taylor after a performance of THE LITTLE FOXES in
    L.A. in 1981. A warm and funny lady. I had thought it was her voice singing 'Clowns' but saw in a long list of screen dubbing that she had a voice double. As it did not specify that only some of her singing was dubbed, I assumed the vocal double had tried to limit her talent and sound as close to Miss Taylor as possible. I wish I could have seen Jean Simmons in the role. Was she thought of for the movie? She gets by in GUYS AND DOLLS, but not really known as a singer. Terrific actress who sadly never won an Oscar despite many worthy performances.
    If you bring up the NY Times for a review of MAME, an ad comes up from the same page with quotes from two glowing reviews, so some critics must have liked it. I also like the way the musical treats the death of Beau with a serious tone. AUNTIE MAME takes a 'black comedy' approach. In the play, a reprise of 'My Best Girl' is sung. In the movie, it underscores the scene between Patrick and Mame. Was 'Loving You' written for another show and utilized in the film of MAME? A cast off from MAME- 'Love Is Only Love'- found its way into the movie of HELLO DOLLY. I think putting a new number in is often done for publicity purposes and in the hope of a Best Song nomination.

    I have fond memories of seeing Elizabeth Taylor on stage in London in THE LITTLE FOXES.

  51. As far as I know, "Loving You" was written specifically for the movie Mame. I don't believe it was pulled from Jerry's trunk like "Love Is Only Love." Frankly, "It's Today" was a song from Jerry's off-Broadway show Parade with a different lyric.

  52. PMF

    Went to do a phone order through Best Buy, last night.
    "Mame" was Out-of-Stock.
    Hopefully that's a good sign for sales vs. a replication issue.

    BBY website says "Sold OUT" … Target doesn't seem to have it on their website at all DD is nearly $2 more and on backorder …

    I suspect it's the replicator issue …

  53. It's funny how memories connect up and find their way back into our lives; as I look forward to my eventual copy of "Mame".

    This particular memory came back to me, last night;
    and I wondered how the years had almost made me forget.

    This story doesn't concern "Mame" per se;
    but it does speak to the joys of a Jerry Herman score.

    The year was 1983 and I was training as an actor in NYC.
    One of my teachers was in the original Broadway cast of "La Cage aux Folles". This specific course of hers would commence early evenings in the fall semesters. During that period, I was without a dwelling in the city; so I had many a long chilly walk to the Bus Station in Times Square, in order to catch my final coach out of town – with little wiggle room to make it in time. It wasn't long before my teacher learned of my days-end jaunts and eventually we found ourselves walking briskly together; twice a week; as I escorted her from the City Center Building on West 56th Street to the backstage door of the Palace Theater. Yup, she always made it to the theater on time; and I always caught my bus.

    In equal measures, she was both grounded as well as being very upbeat; yet, as the blocks grew fewer towards the theater, I had always noticed how an extra energy and zeal came into her step and self.

    So, if you think upon the Jerry Herman joy that "Mame", "Hello, Dolly!" and "La Cage aux Folles" had brought to you own life…well, get this…it was also the same for this one particular actress, as well.

    It all came back to me, last night; really just sitting quietly; as I reflected on the ways in which she spoke of just how much she loved performing his music; night after night. This wonderful woman, teacher and actress was Elizabeth Parrish; who originated the role of Jacqueline and had the most personal of joys in singing "The Best of Times".

    Ironic how my student days, schedules, nightly commutes and finances had prevented my ever being able to see Ms. Parrish in this show; as she was my teacher, my winter walking companion and joy to listen to on her vinyl cast recording. She understood the circumstances of that semester. But, once again, I thought it to be an insightful share for HTF and fans of Jerry Herman to learn another of his attributes; insomuch that his infectious music reached not only to his audiences, but also to a performer who always remained spirited by his uplifting songs.

    Indeed, Elizabeth Parrish had told me that singing "The Best of Times" was like a nightly gift.

  54. JohnMor

    But all the songs not sung to others were treated that way in the film. “St. Brigit” and “The Letter” were also voice overs. No one in the film sings to themselves when they’re alone. It would be weird if Mame DID imo.

    In that case then bring on Eydie Gormé !

  55. PMF

    I believe that "Mame" became the only film that have both the MPAA rating, along with the Surgeon General's warning.:lol:

    Right? She should have been swiggin bourbon and chuggin on a cigarette during the “Mame” number where all she did was strut around watchin her admirers.

  56. noel aguirre

    Right? She should have been swiggin bourbon and chuggin on a cigarette during the “Mame” number where all she did was strut around watchin her admirers.

    I'm not clear how these objects would have been held … she already had a riding crop in one hand …

    View attachment 52961

    Costume inspired by The Night Porter ;)?

  57. bujaki

    I saw Glynis, but would have loved to have seen Jean Simmons, one of my favorite actresses (and voices).

    I saw Jean Simmons and Margaret Hamilton in the LA. They were wonderful! A memorable evening>
    It important to remember that Sondheim did not write the role of Desiree for a singer. Desiree was not a musical actress.
    It was written for Glynis….I saw Jean and more recently Greta Scacchi with Lambert Wilson and Leslie Caron in Theatre Chatelet in Paris and it also a wonderful production.

  58. B-ROLL

    I'm not clear how these objects would have been held … she already had a riding crop in one hand …

    View attachment 52961

    Costume inspired by The Night Porter ;)?

    That's simple. The props department could have designed a riding crop that would also serve as an extended cigarette holder; thus freeing Lucy's left hand for the bottle.:D

  59. Ken Koc

    It important to remember that Sondheim did not write the role of Desiree for a singer. Desiree was not a musical actress.
    It was written for Glynis….

    Yes! Which is why both "You Must Meet My Wife" and "Send in the Clowns" have such narrow range. Sondheim wrote them that way for Glynis Johns to sing.

  60. B-ROLL

    Of course … though I'm not sure it shouldn't have been a flask or mint julep cup …
    View attachment 52964

    Judging by their size, this amount wouldn't get her through one bar of the song.
    Try a stylish canteen with a strap; as there's bound to be less spillage.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  61. Matt Hough

    You beat me to it. Judging by reviews at the time, her acting was not considered adequate.

    William Goldman, in his blistering book about the 1967-1968 Broadway Season, called the show washed garbage. Paraphrasing from Goldman, the problem with washing garbage is no matter how much you wash it and how pretty it looks, at the end of the day it's still just garbage!

    I love her, though! (and it DID run a year!)

  62. Will Krupp

    William Goldman, in his blistering book about the 1967-1968 Broadway Season, called the show washed garbage. Paraphrasing from Goldman, the problem with washing garbage is no matter how much you wash it and how pretty it looks, at the end of the day it's still just garbage!

    I love her, though! (and it DID run a year!)

    AND the score is a lot of fun to listen to. I have it on a stereo LP.

  63. I also never tire of re-reading The Season. It is the most intelligent book ever written about the Broadway theater. Things have changed along the Great White Way in the decades since it came out, but there are still many truths to be unearthed in that book.

  64. Matt Hough

    I also never tire of re-reading The Season. It is the most intelligent book ever written about the Broadway theater. Things have changed along the Great White Way in the decades since it came out, but there are still many truths to be unearthed in that book.

    I agree ….. if you can stomach the book's rampant homophobia.

  65. Matt Hough

    I also never tire of re-reading The Season. It is the most intelligent book ever written about the Broadway theater. Things have changed along the Great White Way in the decades since it came out, but there are still many truths to be unearthed in that book.

    Ditto for Adventures in the Screen Trade, Which Lie Did I Tell: More Adventures in the Screen Trade and Hype & Glory.

  66. MatthewA

    When did she ever act outside of the 1980s TV version of Alice in Wonderland, whose teleplay was written by Paul Zindel?

    Edit: her IMDb listing.

    I meant using her voice recording of “If He Walked into My Life” while Lucy acts/thinks it out- afterall isn't hers the definitive recording? Could she belt or what?

  67. I always thought Paul Zindel was an unusual choice for the screenplay, sort of like Edward Albee trying his hand at Breakfast at Tiffany's on Broadway. He was better known for dark subjects, especially his Pulitzer-winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little.

  68. There has been so much written about the Lucy vs. Angela debate, as well as a heck of a lot of analysis as to why this film failed. Here's a series of very interesting short articles about Mame in general:
    Mame Facts from I Will Regret This Later

    And here's some discussion on Lucy's take on the part:
    Is the Lucy Mame movie really that bad?

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned here, however, is that the film would never have been made without Lucy, because Ball put up part of the money to get it produced. Basically, she bought the role for herself; if she wasn't part of the deal, Warners wasn't going to finance the whole thing. Undoubtedly the film would have been MUCH better with Angela, but even with her I'm not sure it would have been a financial success, because musicals were so very unpopular by 1974 that the genre was basically dead at that point. Mame was always an old-fashioned show, even when it premiered in 1966, and old-fashioned Hollywood-type musicals were SO out of style by the early 1970s that the film probably would have failed no matter what. (This was long before nostalgia became such a profitable commodity in both the theatre and the cinema—the audience was focused on the future at that point in time, not interested in looking back at the past as they are now.)

  69. JohnMor

    Lucy also missed quite a few performances of Wildcat due to illness because she didn’t have the physical stamina to keep up the rigors of a Broadway run.

    From Wikipedia:
    Ball quickly realized audiences had come expecting to see her Lucy Ricardo persona and began mugging and ad-libbing to bring her characterization closer to that of the zany housewife she had portrayed in I Love Lucy. It was clearly Ball who was drawing the crowds, and when she fell ill and demands for refunds ran high, the producers announced plans to close the show for a week in late March 1961 to allow her to recover her strength. The closure came sooner than planned when Ball, suffering from a virus and chronic fatigue, departed for Florida on February 8.[3] She returned two weeks later, but on April 22 she collapsed on stage.[4] It was decided the show would close for nine weeks at the end of May and reopen once its star had recovered fully,[5] but May 24 proved to be her final performance, as the musicians' union insisted on members of the orchestra being paid during the shutdowns. This ultimately made it financially infeasible for the production to remain active, forcing it to close permanently on June 3, 1961.

    At one point they were going to do a TV special, "Lucy Goes To Broadway" an "I Love Lucy" type of show where Lucy and Vivian use their real names but act like their "I Love Lucy" characters. The plot was Lucy and Vivian both auditioning for the lead in "Wildcat". Lucy wins, of course, and Vivian is offered a lead in a non musical play. This was canceled due to Lucy's illness.

  70. octobercountry

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned here, however, is that the film would never have been made without Lucy, because Ball put up part of the money to get it produced. Basically, she bought the role for herself; if she wasn't part of the deal, Warners wasn't going to finance the whole thing. Undoubtedly the film would have been MUCH better with Angela, but even with her I'm not sure it would have been a financial success, because musicals were so very unpopular by 1974 that the genre was basically dead at that point. Mame was always an old-fashioned show, even when it premiered in 1966, and old-fashioned Hollywood-type musicals were SO out of style by the early 1970s that the film probably would have failed no matter what. (This was long before nostalgia became such a profitable commodity in both the theatre and the cinema—the audience was focused on the future at that point in time, not interested in looking back at the past as they are now.)

    1974 was also the year "That's Entertainment", the compilation of MGM musicals was released and this was unexpectedly very successful. If a well made "old fashion" musical was released concurrently it may have been successful as there was clearly an audience for that type of movie.

  71. Well now, after reading through this thread I'm quite ready for a re-watch of Mame, though I'll likely wait for the next 4 for $44 Warners sale before purchasing. (I already have the blu-ray of "Auntie Mame" at hand.) In the meantime, I've just ordered a copy of the book But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame!: The Amazing History of the World's Favorite Madcap Aunt, by Richard Tyler Jordan. It was published a while back, and got great reviews—full of stories of all the different productions of the Mame story in every form.

  72. I confess I do find it extremely frustrating that this musical wasn't originally released in stereo; it could have sounded so much better! (As indeed it does on the stereo soundtrack record that was released at the time.) I can't imagine that this decision had anything to do with Ball's pieced-together vocals; when putting together the original mix, her vocal track wouldn't have made any difference as to whether all the orchestrations/sound effects/etc. were in stereo.

    I think it's just that by 1974 the studio simply didn't care about stereo; they couldn't be bothered. Think of, for instance, Cabaret — that was recorded in stereo too, but all the film prints were in mono. (And stupidly—the stereo tracks for that film were later discarded, so that when they wanted to do a stereo mix for video they had to artificially re-create one.)

  73. "1974 was also the year "That's Entertainment", the compilation of MGM musicals was released and this was unexpectedly very successful. If a well made "old fashion" musical was released concurrently it may have been successful as there was clearly an audience for that type of movie."

    Eh, perhaps, but I'm not sure of that, either….. "That's Entertainment" focused on nostalgia for films made many decades in the past, and I think for current releases the audience was really primed for more modern material, rather than anything that could be seen as old-fashioned. There was a huge backlash against traditional/classic Hollywood fare in the late sixties and early seventies; the whole industry was in turmoil, with most of the studios bleeding money and finally being sold off at that general time, to become small parts of big corporations. A few traditional musicals were still being made in the early seventies, though very few were of notable success apart from "Fiddler on the Roof." Edgier shows were getting more buzz and attention: things like "Cabaret" or "Jesus Christ Superstar"—and in the next year or so, "Tommy," "Rocky Horror," "Nashville," etc….

  74. I watched the Blu-ray this afternoon. Color and clarity are superb, and the film is never going to look any better than this. The clarity makes the extreme soft focus for all of Lucy's close-ups piercingly obvious, especially when director Gene Sacks cuts back and forth between Lucy and whoever is sharing the two-shot with her. I think on a projection screen, this might be headache-inducing.

    Yes, it was a lost opportunity for Angela Lansbury who would have been so much more effective, but at least the stage performances of Bea Arthur and Jane Connell were preserved. Audrey Christie who played Mrs. Upson in the film was Vera Charles when I first saw Mame on Broadway with Janis Paige. When I returned a year or two later and Ann Miller had taken over, Anne Francine was back as Vera (she had originally replaced Bea).

  75. Matt Hough

    Audrey Christie who played Mrs. Upson in the film was Vera Charles when I first saw Mame on Broadway with Janis Paige.

    That's ringing a bell. I think there's a story in the Richard Tyler Jordan book concerning Clive Barnes HATING Audrey Christie as Vera and being more than a little nasty about it. I think I'm remembering it correctly but maybe it's time for another flip through that book. It was a lot of fun.

Leave a Reply