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Archive for the ‘Bruce Davidson’ Category

Mame

04 Nov

Mame — directed by Gene Saks. Musical.  132 minutes Color 1974.

★★

The Story: A free-thinking New York sophisticate suddenly becomes the guardian of her eight year old nephew.

~

This is the musical version of Auntie Mame, a play which Rosalind Russell made her own and which she was too ill to make the musical of. A shame. Because Lucille Ball plays it here, and she is importantly miscast. Rosalind Russell had hidden weapons. Lucy’s weapons are pasted all over her. Auntie Mame is a highball. Lucille Ball is beer.

Lucille Ball is in her early sixties when she does this, which would have been all right, but, because she desired not to look what she is, she is horrible to behold! The plastic surgeons have mummified her. The wigmakers have stretched her skull skin up into a ponytail. The spectacle of her face, a puss which we have all found endearing, and which has been the chief tool of her outer clown, has resulted in Lucille Ball playing the entire part in a Lucille Ball mask. It’s so sad. It’s so unnecessary. And it is unwatchable.

When you look away from the star, which is the only sane counsel, you may notice Bea Arthur playing a sort of Tallulah Bankhead, as Mame’s best friend. But she isn’t given enough camera time, and when she is, the writing is too broad and the direction broader. The last part of the story doesn’t work. It never did work. It was too bad mannered.

It is pleasant to see Bruce Davidson as the boy grown up, and John McGiver as the stuffy guardian (we actually tend to sympathize with). And eventually the proceedings are given a shot in the arm by the zest of Robert Preston who sings and dances and steals the show, right and left. What investment he had, what wit, what genuine virility. He departs midway.

The songs are good but they are laid waste by over production, as are the sets and costumes. Beekman Place apartments never looked anything like Mame’s. They are much more interesting, and, had one of them been approximated, its confines would have lent pressure and force to the songs, which are pretty good. Beekman Place had taste. And a certain kind of taste, for it was and is a co-op for millionaires. Built in 1929 Beekman Place refers to this structure, rather than the neighborhood around it. The Rockefellers, Aly Kahn, and Huntington Hartford lived there. And, it was built after The Crash which takes place in all versions of Mame, the first of many anomalies, good taste being the first, from which the sets are eon light years away.

But never mind that. Never mind the movie either. I wish its composer had been better served. I wish we all had been better served. With a Manhattan, which was what was on order, instead of Blatz.

 

 
 
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