Bil’s rating (out of 5): 0. USA, 1974. American Broadcasting Company, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Paul Zindel, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee, and the novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. Cinematography by Philip H. Lathrop. Produced by James Cresson, Robert Fryer. Music by Jerry Herman. Production Design by Robert F. Boyle. Costume Design by Theadora Van Runkle. Film Editing by Maury Winetrobe. Golden Globe Awards 1974. Podcast: Bad Gay Movies.
Musical version of the Jerome Robbins play (and subsequent film by Morton Da Costa) is miscast and badly scored with painful songs and lackluster dance numbers. Lucille Ball gives a lifeless performance as the Manhattan matriarch who takes in her recently orphaned nephew and grows to love him as her own. When he grows up, he picks an annoying eastern seaboard snob to marry and Mame must step in to save him from himself no matter what the cost. Turning this story into a musical seemed an inevitable idea: the original film (in which Rosalind Russell sparkled) was so colourful, opulent and funny that it was odd that the characters didn’t break into song. The music and lyrics here, however, are totally threadbare in quality and Ball’s performances of them (you’ll notice they cut out most of her dancing to accommodate her age of 783) are often painful to watch. Bea Arthur brings some life to her scenes as Mame’s best friend and archrival Vera Charles, but the tacky sets and gaudy costumes overwhelm even her efforts.