|Directed by||Gene Saks|
|Produced by||James Cresson
|Written by||Paul Zindel
by Jerome Lawrence
Joyce Van Patten
|Music by||Jerry Herman|
|Cinematography||Philip H. Lathrop|
|Editing by||Maury Winetrobe|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release dates||March 27, 1974|
|Running time||132 minutes|
Mame is a 1974 musical film based on the 1966 Broadway musical of the same name and the novel by Patrick Dennis, directed by Gene Saks, written by Paul Zindel, and starring Lucille Ball in her final film performance.
Warner Bros. executives were concerned that Angela Lansbury, who had originated the title role on Broadway, had not yet captured the attention of the general public since she was mainly a Broadway star at this point (although she had starred in Disney's live-action/animated musical "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" in 1971 and was a three-time Oscar nominee for "The Manchurian Candidate", "Gaslight", and "The Picture of Dorian Gray").
The film focuses on eccentric Mame Dennis, whose madcap life is disrupted when her deceased brother's son Patrick is entrusted to her care. Rather than bow to convention, Mame introduces the boy to her free-wheeling lifestyle, which includes his nanny Agnes Gooch and Mame's husband Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, a Southern aristocrat with a Georgia plantation called Peckerwood.
At the reading of the will of young Patrick Dennis's (Kirby Furlong) late father by a trustee, Mr. Babcock (John McGiver), it is revealed that Patrick is to be left in the care of his aunt, Mame Dennis (Lucille Ball), as well as his nanny, Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell). The two take a train to New York City (Main Title Including St. Bridget). When they arrive at Mame's home, they walk into a wild party that Mame is giving for a holiday she herself created (It's Today). Patrick asks if he may slide down her banister, then reveals his true identity. Mame introduces the boy to her friends, including aspiring stage actress (and famous lush), Vera Charles (Beatrice Arthur).
The following morning, Patrick awakens a hungover Mame with his bugle. After the child tells Mame what Mr. Babcock has said about her, she decides that she wants to fill his life with adventure (Open a New Window). She decides to enroll him in "the School of Life," a very non-traditional school. But when Vera inadvertently leads the trustee, Babcock, to the school, Patrick is taken from Mame's custody.
In that same moment, Mame gets a phone call and learns that the stock market crash has left her without any money. She can't even hire a lawyer to regain custody of the boy. Vera offers her a very small role as The Man in the Moon in her newest operetta about a lady astronomer. Mame flubs her one line and causes the play to be a disaster, which puts a major rift in her friendship with Vera. Patrick, who was in the audience, reassures Mame that she's not a failure and that he still loves her (My Best Girl).
Now broke, Mame works a string of jobs, including one selling shoes. In the department store, a customer wants a gift to send to someone back home. Mame coaxes him to buy a pair of roller skates by trying them on. The customer tells her his name - Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Robert Preston). Mame's inability to write up a cash order as opposed to a C.O.D. order gets her fired.
Mame roller skates home, dejected because she's unable to pay manservant Ito (George Chiang) or Agnes, who promise to stay with her. Even though it's only a week from Thanksgiving, Mame decides to lift everyone's spirits by decorating the house for Christmas and giving everyone their Christmas gifts (We Need a Little Christmas), which include Patrick's first pair of long pants. Agnes and Ito surprise her with the news that the butcher bill has been paid.
This is followed by another surprise. Beau, who's been looking for Mame since she was fired, appears at her front door. He invites everyone to dinner, and it's obvious that the two are meant for each other. (She says to Agnes that he looks like Rhett Butler, even though neither the movie nor the book had been released yet ... 1936 and 1939, respectively.)
Beau is in love, so he brings Mame and Patrick to his family's plantation in Peckerwood, Georgia, where they're immediately greeted by Sally Cato (Joyce Van Patten). However, a number of Beau's relatives, especially Mother Burnside (Lucille Benson) and Cousin Fan (Ruth McDevitt), are unhappy about Beau marrying a "Yankee."
Sally decides to invite Mame to a foxhunt. Despite not knowing a thing about riding a horse, Mame accepts. The following day, Mame accidentally captures the fox, despite not knowing what she was doing. All of Beau's family and friends (except for Sally) now sing her praises (Mame).
Happily married, she and Beau go on an extended honeymoon, traveling all over the world (Loving You). While they're away, Patrick goes from a young child who pulls in a B+ average to a high school senior (Bruce Davison) flunking many classes (The Letter). When an avalanche in the Alps kills a careless Beau, Mame returns home to be reunited with a now-grown Patrick, who is dating a very snobby conservative girl named Gloria Upson (Doria Cook-Nelson).
Mame decides that she's tired of looking like she's just come from a funeral, so she meets Vera for a drink. The two enjoy cocktails and snippy comments, which they insist are not being made out of hatred, but simple honesty, as that's what Bosom Buddies do. The two come home and reminisce about men they've dated. Agnes, who is listening to the conversation, admits that she's never had a date. Mame and Vera decide to give the uptight, frumpy Agnes a makeover and send her out to live, because "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." After Agnes comes out of her bath with her new image, she goes off in a taxicab.
Six months later, Agnes returns home, visibly pregnant. As soon as Patrick gets a look at Agnes, he decides it'd be a better idea for Mame to go visit Gloria's parents at their Connecticut home, rather than have the Upsons see an unwed, pregnant woman living in Mame's home. Agnes then describes what she did while living it up (Gooch's Song).
Mame visits the Upsons (Don Porter and Audrey Christie) at their home, Upson Downs. She learns for the first time that Patrick and Gloria are engaged. After spending several hours with the Upsons and finding them insufferable boors and bigots, Mame is asked to help pay for a piece of property next door to Upson Downs so that Patrick and Gloria could live there, as opposed to "the wrong kind of people."
She is candid with Patrick about her disdain for the family. He admits that he's ashamed of her and her "crazy" friends. A heartbroken Mame wonders what she did wrong with this boy she raised (If He Walked Into My Life).
Mame and Patrick apologize to each other off-screen and are dressed for company—the Upsons. Mame promises to behave. Patrick, still embarrassed by Agnes's condition, begs Agnes to stay in her room while the Upsons are there, while Mame reminds her to take her calcium pills. Patrick talks to Mame's new maid, Pegeen (Bobbi Jordan), for a moment before the Upsons arrive. After arriving, Mr. and Mrs. Upson announce to Mame that the property they'd wanted had been bought, complaining about being outbid by "some Jew lawyer."
Suddenly, Vera and several men barge into Mame's house, singing (It's Today reprise). Vera toasts to the new couple, mistaking Pegeen for Gloria. At that moment, Agnes comes downstairs because her calcium pills are in the kitchen. Mame invites her to sit with everyone. When Mrs. Upson asks Agnes what Mr. Gooch does, she says "My father's passed away." When Mrs. Upson states that she meant her husband, Agnes declares that she's unwed and that her baby's going to be a little bastard (in the film, she's cut off after "ba..."). Suddenly, a large group of unwed pregnant women barge in, singing. (Open a New Window reprise) Mame reveals to the Upsons that she bought the property next door so she could build the Beauregarde Burnside Memorial Home For Single Mothers. This is the final straw, and the Upsons leave, angry that Mame isn't "one of them." Patrick, visibly upset, leaves the house.
Years later, Patrick and Pegeen are married and have a child, Peter. Mame, who is going on a trip to Siberia, requests that Peter be allowed to go with her. Although Patrick and Pegeen resist at first, once Peter quotes Mame's "life is a banquet" line, they relent. The two get onto a plane, and Patrick states that Mame has not changed and that she's "the Pied Piper." Mame and Peter wave goodbye and go into the plane. The plane takes off, followed by clips of Mame embracing Vera, Agnes, Beau, adult Patrick, and young Patrick (Finale: Open a New Window/Mame).
- Lucille Ball as Mame "Auntie Mame" Dennis, an eccentric, bohemian, and wealthy woman whose free-spirited and carefree life is interrupted by the arrival of her nephew Patrick after the death of her brother. Placed in charge of Patrick, she immediately comes to love him as her own son, promising to show him the world and teach him to live life to the fullest.
- Beatrice Arthur as Vera Charles, a successful stage star, eccentric lush, and Mame's dearest friend.
- Robert Preston as Beauregard Jackson Pickett "Beau" Burnside, a well-to-do Southern gentleman who falls in love with Mame after encountering her quirky personality.
- Bruce Davison (Kirby Furlong, young) as Patrick Dennis, Mame's nephew and only living relative who is entrusted to her care upon the death of his father. Furlong portrays 10 year-old Patrick upon his arrival at Mame's home and through their subsequent adventures. Davison portrays a grown Patrick years later, who later falls in love with a snobby young woman with whom Mame disapproves.
- Jane Connell as Agnes Gooch, Patrick's prudent and timid nanny who brings him to Mame's home. Although initially shocked by Mame's eccentricities, she recognizes her as a loving woman and stays with them, later being convinced to branch out and live life.
- Joyce Van Patten as Sally Cato, Beauregard's snobby cousin who disapproves of Mame and seeks to sabotage her impression on the Burnside family.
- George Chiang as Ito, Mame's loyal house servant.
- Doria Cook as Gloria Upson, a snobby, wealthy girl with whom Patrick falls in love and proposes to, much to Mame's disapproval.
- Don Porter and Audrey Christie as Mr. and Mrs. Upson, Gloria's wealthy, bigoted father and snobby mother.
- John McGiver as Mr. Babcock, executor of Patrick's inheritance, who attempts to have Patrick's late father's wishes of a strict, formal upbringing seen through.
- Bobbi Jordan as Pegeen
- "Main Title Including St. Bridget" - Agnes, Orchestra
- "It's Today" - Mame, Orchestra
- "Open a New Window" - Mame, young Patrick
- "The Man in the Moon" - Vera, Chorus
- "My Best Girl" - Mame, young Patrick
- "We Need a Little Christmas" - Mame, Agnes, Ito, young Patrick
- "Mame" - Beau, Chorus
- "Loving You" - Beau
- "The Letter" - young Patrick, adult Patrick
- "Bosom Buddies" - Mame, Vera
- "Gooch's Song" - Agnes
- "If He Walked Into My Life" - Mame
- "It's Today" (reprise) - Mame
- "Open a New Window" (reprise) - Mame, adult Patrick
- "Finale (Open a New Window/Mame)" - Mame, Chorus
Filming, scheduled to begin in early 1972, was postponed when Ball broke her leg in a skiing accident. Owing to the delay, original director George Cukor was forced to withdraw from the project. The assignment went to Gene Saks, who had helmed the Broadway production, and his influence resulted in his then-wife Beatrice Arthur reprising the role of Vera Charles she had created on stage, a role that had been actively sought by Bette Davis.
Production began in January 1973. Ball, who had casting approval, was dissatisfied with Madeline Kahn's interpretation of Gooch and had her replaced by Jane Connell, another member of the original Broadway cast. Cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop made a valiant effort to draw attention from Ball's age by filming her with special lens filters, but the contrast between her soft-focus close-ups and the clarity of everyone and everything else was noticeable and jarring. Furthermore, despite extensive rehearsal sessions with Jerry Herman, who had composed the score, there was nothing that could be done to disguise her lack of singing ability.
Radio City Music Hall selected the film to be its Easter attraction. The film broke box-office records in its run at Radio City, but many reviews, particularly those for Ball, were brutal, and the movie has 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. Time Magazine said, "The movie spans about 20 years, and seems that long in running time . . . Miss Ball has been molded over the years into some sort of national monument, and she performs like one too. Her grace, her timing, her vigor have all vanished."  Time Out London declared she "simply hasn't the drive and steel of a Rosalind Russell, an Angela Lansbury or a Ginger Rogers, all of whom played the part before her," and said of Saks, "When he's not ogling his star in perpetual soft focus and a $300,000 fashion parade, [he] fails to get enough retakes, match his shots, or inject the essential vim."  Pauline Kael in The New Yorker wondered, "After forty years in movies and TV, did she discover in herself an unfulfilled ambition to be a flaming drag queen?" The New Republic's Stanley Kauffman, though he pointed out that Ball would have made a perfect Mame had she played the role "fifteen years earlier," described her as "too old, too stringy in the legs, too basso in the voice, and too creaky in the joints." Virtually every critic took notice of the heavy-handedness in photographing Ball out of focus, Rex Reed going so far as to suggest, albeit jokingly, that chicken fat was put over the lens. Some regarded this as evidence that those executives responsible for signing Ball, and Ball herself, knew from the outset that she was too old for her role. In her defense in regards to her lack of singing ability, Ball told one interviewer "Mame stayed up all night and drank champagne! What did you expect her to sound like? Julie Andrews?"
Not all the reviews were bad. Vincent Canby in the New York Times, for example, expressed "great reservations" about the film and Ball's close-ups, but noted that the film is "as determined to please in its way as Mame is in hers" and that the opening credits, "which look like a Cubist collage in motion, are so good they could be a separate subject." Canby went on to praise Ball as well: "When the character of Lucy, an inspired slapstick performer, coincides with that of Auntie Mame, the Big-Town sophisticate, 'Mame' is marvelous. I think of Lucy's turning a Georgia fox hunt into a gigantic shambles, or of her bringing the curtain down on a New Haven first-night when, as a budding actress, she falls off a huge cardboard moon. I even treasure her prying loose the fingers of a sloshed Beatrice Arthur who won't give up her martini glass." Variety reported that the film is "why movies were invented" and added that "Lucille never looked lovelier." Molly Haskell in the Village Voice was "pro-Ball but anti-'Mame'" and felt that Lucy made the character of Mame—someone "you'd walk a mile to avoid" in real life—palatable. In the March 18, 1974 issue of New York Magazine, Judith Crist was similarly displeased with the film but supportive of its star: "Lucille Ball is--and no 'still' about it--a first-rate entertainer, supplementing her superb comedic sense with a penetrating warmth and inner humor. She is without peer in making a hung-over stagger from bed to bathroom an exercise in regal poise, in using her slightly crooked smile to vitiate the soppiness of an overly sentimental sequence, in applying her Goldwyn Girl chorine know-how to a dash of song and dance." Milton Krims, the film critic for The Saturday Evening Post, wrote (in the magazine's March 1974 issue) a breathless paean to Lucille Ball and the film, concluding that "Mame is Lucille Ball and Lucille Ball is Mame."
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarded Ball a Golden Globe nomination (Arthur received one as well) but, disheartened by its reception, she swore she never would appear on the big screen again, and the film proved to be her last theatrical film (not counting Stone Pillow, her 1985 made-for-TV film).
Beatrice Arthur later called her involvement with the film a "tremendous embarrassment" and expressed regret at having participated. Although she enjoyed working with Lucille Ball, she made no secret of her opinion that Lucy was "terribly miscast".
Mame was released on pan-and-scan VHS and pan-and-scan and letterbox laserdisc editions in the 1980-90s. While these official editions have long since been out-of-print, bootleg DVDs taken from the widescreen laserdisc or widescreen TV broadcasts on AMC and TCM have been known to exist.
On June 19, 2007, Mame was officially released on DVD both separately and in a special DVD collection of Lucille Ball's films. The DVD includes a remastered version of the film in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound, the original theatrical trailer, and the featurette Lucky Mame.
Although Warner had intended to give the film a 5.1 stereo remastering, they were unable to do so due to several factors. The main factor was the fact that Ball's vocals in her songs often had to be pieced together line by line in order to get a more pitch-perfect performance (this method is a lot more obvious on the soundtrack CD, where you can often hear a difference in fidelity in each individual line as well as the occasional line that sounds like two Lucys singing.) This and the varying conditions of the original masters caused Warner Bros. to simply restore the original release's mono soundtrack and remaster it in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono and use it for the DVD's audio track.
- Auntie Mame, the novel by Patrick Dennis
- Auntie Mame (film), 1958 non-musical film starring Rosalind Russell
- Mame, Broadway musical
- "Sons of bitches" in the musical was changed to "suckers" in the film version. Weaver, David E. "Mame’s Boys: Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee", Ohioana Quarterly, Fall 2006, Ohioana Library Association, accessed September 5, 2012
- Maltin, Leonard, ed. (2007). Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide. New York: Signet. p. 857. ISBN 978-0-451-22186-5.
- Amazon.com - Lucille Ball Film Collection
- Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz by Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert, published by William Morrow & Company, 1993, pages 336-340
- Showtune, A Memoir by Jerry Herman with Marilyn Stasio, published by Donald I. Fine Books, 1996, pages 209-211
- Mame at the Internet Movie Database
- Mame at the TCM Movie Database
- Mame at allmovie
- Mame at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Shelf: Review of Mame