Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??

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Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#0
Posted: 11/27/05 at 2:54pm
I haven't seen a stage production of MAME (musical) yet. And I always hear terrible things about the Lucy Movie Musical version.

Is it worth checking out for someone who has never seen the musical version of MAME yet?


Updated On: 11/27/05 at 02:54 PM
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I don't think it's THAT bad. I used to watch it a lot as a teen. Lucy's no Angela, but I enjoy her spunk. Bea Arthur and Jane Connell get to preserve their stage work. I think it's worth checking out, and I don't think it'd ruin a stage Mame for you. I'm a big Lucy fan, and I think she's sort of a hoot. Her singing isn't good, but her scenes are fun.
Updated On: 11/27/05 at 02:56 PM
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Yes.
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Yes, it's THAT BAD. AWFUL. It's one of those films so bad that they've become camp -- I've shown it to friends as part of a so-bad-it's-good film festival.

Lucy's way too old for the role and to compensate the cinematographer shoots her through so much gauze and vaseline you can barely see her in some shots. Her constipated-looking "If He Walked into My Life" is laughably terrible. Really, she's miscast and embarassingly bad throughout. And the production numbers are overblown and endless. Bea Arthur and Jane Connell emerge with their dignities in tact.

You're much better off renting the original nonmusical film with Rosalind Russell and then playing the Lansbury cast album at the appropriate moments (the book of the musical follows the play very closely and is word-for-word at some points).
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I just found it dreary. I saw it before I'd seen any stage production of Mame, and I found myself just pitying Mame most of the movie. Lucy's Mame seemed more like a downtrodden victim than a vivacious firebrand.

I once read a review that said Lucy's Mame was the ultimate vanity project, what Norma Desmond's movie would have been like if she'd gotten it made. I wouldn't go that far, and I don't think it would ruin it for you, but it's pretty bad.
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I'm a die-hard Lucille Ball fan. And I truly think even Lucy wished she hadn't done the film. It's just bad.

Updated On: 11/27/05 at 03:17 PM
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It's really, truly, that. bad.
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Bea Arthur's make-up and costumes make her look like a linebacker for the NY Jets.

Robert Preston is the only spark of life in the film.
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Updated On: 11/28/05 at 05:20 PM
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To say that the film version of Mame is bad, is wrong, sure it's not a great musical like "Victor/Victoria", "Singin in the Rain" or "Gigi" but it's watchable, all the songs, except "How Young I Feel" are still there, Lucy may not be the right age, but she looks like an Auntie Mame, Bea Arthur, Robert Preston, and Jane Connell are wonderful as well. Lucy may not have a great singing voice but neither did Roz Russell in "Gypsy" but that is still a wonderful film. The song sequences have fun staging. I wish the tempos of the songs were faster. But overall it's a *** out of **** movie, not a BOMB as people make it out to be, so far the reasons I get for it being a BOMB are "Lucy is too old" That isn't a good enough excuse to make a film a "BOMB".
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It may be *** out of **** to you, but to the rest of us, it's bomb and a laughably bad one. It's not just that she's way too old, she's miscast as well. She doesn't have that ease of sophistication and slight hauteur that Russell and Lansbury exuded which made it so funny when they did some of the kooky things the character does. They somehow manage to be madcap, but still exude class. Ball is too down-to-earth for that.

She's a common everyday person -- which is part of the appeal that made her one of the most popular entertainers of the century -- and can't convincingly convey being "to the manor born." She can play it, but you don't believe it -- it's like she's back on a sitcom pretending to be a duchess or something.

She's also just too old to be doing slapstick anymore. You can see the struggle and effort she goes through trying to do physical comedy and at her age it's more sad than funny and you end up worrying for her safety than being able to laugh at the character's antics.

She also overplays the comedy. SO many of the laughs are purely verbal, almost drawing room style -- something that wasn't Ball's strength. It was Russell's bread and butter and she was a master of rapid fire word play and not only nailed the main laughs, but found humor and created funny stage business that wasn't anywhere in the script. Ball lost laugh after laugh, because her verbal timing was off or she played moments too big, like she was still in front of a studio audience waiting for the laugh to kick in.

Ball was simply miscast in the role (and would have been wrong for it if she had been 20 years younger). It's only entertaining for the large number of unintentionally funny moments in it, which is too bad.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#10
Posted: 11/27/05 at 6:32pm
Ball redeemed herself by playing the Scarecrow in The Wiz and giving a beautiful performance.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#11
Posted: 11/27/05 at 6:39pm
What a shame Lansbury did not do it
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#12
Posted: 11/27/05 at 6:44pm
I am partial to the Roslind Russell version. That woman was HOT! I love all her movies.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#13
Posted: 11/27/05 at 9:32pm
I thought Lucille Ball was shot through linoleum for that film. The title song looks like it was choreographed by the Marx Brothers, awful.

Poor Jerry Herman, his two biggest hits are filmed badly. Dolly isn't that bad, just over produced and Mame comes off as a sitcom thanks to his movie Mame, Lucille Ball. You feel you are watching The Lucy Show. I agree with Margo play Auntie Mame and play the cast album at the appropriate moments.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#14
Posted: 11/27/05 at 9:42pm
I was actually listening to the OBC recording of Mame in my car the other night, and I found myself thinking, "I want to go home and watch Auntie Mame with Roz Russell." I agree with Margo. Watch the 1958 non-musical version and then listen to the OBC recording. You'll appreciate the heart that both Roz and Angela give the roles.

The Lucy version is unwatchable. (Sorry, but for me, it's not even "so bad it's good." It's just plain bad. It doesn't even approach camp for me. It makes me cringe.)

I was really, really lucky and got to see Mame when I was like 8 years old and Angela Lansbury was still starring in it on Broadway. So that's my standard of comparison. The film Auntie Mame is wonderful, too, and it's fascinating to see such a different take on the role. (The film is so engaging and colorful, you kind of think it is a musical. Herman wisely saw the potential in "musicalizing" it.)

I am looking forward to the Kennedy Center production this summer with Christine Baranski, Emily Skinner and Harriet Harris. Ijay889, I suggest you wait for that (if you can get to DC). But protect yourself with a crucifix or clove of garlic if you even pass by the Lucille Ball version in the store.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#15
Posted: 11/27/05 at 9:50pm
Yep, I have to throw in with the "Yes, it's THAT BAD" camp. Ball was a wonderful physical comedienne, but she did not have the skills or subtle timeing needed to play Mame. And the singing is just atrocious. There is no positive way to discuss it. It simply cannot be described kindly. There is just no favorable way to spin it. There is nothing nice to say about it. I cannot think of words bad enough to describe it. Ummm...well, you get the idea....

BTW, I love Margo's idea of "renting the original nonmusical film with Rosalind Russell and then playing the Lansbury cast album at the appropriate moments." In all seriousness, you should do this.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#16
Posted: 11/27/05 at 10:31pm
In regards to Margo's comment on "the book of the musical follows the play very closely and is word-for-word at some points"...

it seems like a lot of Jerry Herman musicals do this. A lot of lines in "Hello, Dolly!" (especially the monologues) are taken right out of Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" and the same is apparently true for "Mame" and "Auntie Mame".

Does "La Cage" follow this too? (and is "Mack and Mabel" based on any other previously existing play that might apply to this?)

Just a thought.

and a complete threadjack. :)
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#17
Posted: 11/27/05 at 10:54pm
Lucy was probably miscast to begin with, but it certainly didn't help that just prior to filming her leg was badly broken in a skiing accident. This insured that she was weakened and stiffened to such an extent that she was unable to come through with her usual brilliant physical comedy. Other than that, she simply was never a singer (even a character singer) and as others have said, she was always known and beloved as an "everywoman" type--not as a sophisticate. The movie version of Mame is yet another tragically missed opportunity.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#18
Posted: 11/28/05 at 12:22am
You have to wonder just why the costume person hated Bea Arthur that much, to put her in those awful costumes.

And why the director Gene Saks (her husband at the time) allowed it to happen.

As for Lucy, the only part of her performance that impresses me is her dancing, basically because she was 65 at the time she made that film.

Robert Preston is wonderful and I've always thought that the song that Jerry Herman wrote for him to sing in the film, "Loving You", is an underappreciated gem.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#19
Posted: 11/28/05 at 2:17am
No reason to carry on with the things already mentioned. I'll just add my vote of 'yes'.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#20
Posted: 11/28/05 at 9:29am
Bad? Oh, yes.
Unwatchable? No, not really.
Lucy is godawful but the film is so stiff I don't know if it would have worked with Lansbury or anyone else in the lead.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#21
Posted: 11/28/05 at 9:56am
Bad, bad, bad film, but always worth watching for me...Bea Arthur is wonderful...even better than the great Coral Browne in Auntie Mame.

"I was never in the chorus...I was NEVER in the chorus!"

Auntie Mame, tho...is perfection....watched it the other night for the umpteenth time.

Not that it is of particular note, but both Ball and Arthur were nominated for Golden Globes for the film.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#22
Posted: 11/28/05 at 10:00am
~ yes. on every level.
it's not even valley of the dolls bad.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#23
Posted: 11/28/05 at 10:09am
Ah, Borstalboy, you just brought up the question I always truly wondered, "Would the film have worked with Lansbury or anyone else in the lead?" Whenever I'm channel surfing and run into the film on tv I always wonder how the film would have fared with Angela in the lead since I saw her do the role on Broadway three times as a kid and view her performance as one of the best I've ever seen. As soon as Mame Dennis makes her film entrance I know there's major trouble just by the horrible pizzaz free tempo of "It's Today". The song is as wooden as the star and its staging is pedestrian at best bringing to mind "elevator music" renditions of Broadway songs at their worst. For me it just goes downhill from there. Though I loved Connell, age wise I still would have preferred a young Madeline Kahn as Gooch (Did Lucy really nix her due to her insecurities? Was Kahn fired even before filming began?) Yet once again I can't help wondering what this misguided BORING musical film travisty would have been with its original stage star repeating her role on film. Of course it would have been better with Lansbury but could even she have saved the movie? I kind of go through the same thing watching Roz in "Gypsy",always wondering how much better the film would have been with Merman repeating her signature role. However "Gypsy"'s film incarnation shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as the atrocious film adaptation of "Mame" since I feel the Merm could have turned "Gypsy" into a classic film musical.
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re: Is The Lucy MAME Movie Really That Bad??#24
Posted: 11/28/05 at 10:23am
But the question is, even if Angela Lansbury had been in the title role would it have been a better film?? According to those who say MAME is unwatchable, the answer would probably be NO. It still would have been staged the same way, and edited the same way, Bea Arthur's costumes would have still been the same, so it maybe might have gone from a BOMB to a * 1/2 or ** star film.
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