Friday, July 06, 2007

Mame (1974)

Okay, so this is not exactly an on-the-point Scranton or Wilkes-Barre reference, but I think it's close enough (only about an hour's drive and/or a 48 mile distance, to be more precise). Plus it was such a surprise to me when my brother JR told me about it.

In 1974, television legend Lucille Ball was cast in the film version of the 1966 musical Mame. The original Broadway production had starred legendary actresses Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur and ran for nearly 4 years.

Originated in Patrick Dennis's biography of his aunt (Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade in Biography), and based on the 1958 non-musical film starring Rosiland Russell, Mame is the story of Mame Dennis, a carefree and wealthy New York City eccentric who is hit with two sudden surprises in her life - the sudden arrival of her nephew Patrick to live with her (Mame is his only surviving relative) and the stock market crash of 1929. However, Mame pushes on -- she raises her nephew through adulthood as if he were her own child, causes hijinks with her alcoholic actress friend Vera Charles (Bea Arthur), and finds love again with a wealthy Southerner.

The score of Mame included songs by reknown Broadway composer Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly! and La Cage Aux Folles) that would soon become standards - songs such as We Need A Little Christmas, The Man in the Moon is A Lady, Bosom Buddies, and the title number.

Both the original Broadway production and the film version of Mame were directed by Gene Saks, Bea Arthur's husband at the time. Many of the cast members from the original Broadway production reprised their role in the film version of Mame.

Late in the film, Mame is having tea in her mansion with her now-grown nephew Patrick (played by Bruce Davison - who would later be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 1991's Longtime Companion) and his snobby bride-to-be Gloria. The following dialogue concerns Patrick's former governess Agnes Gooch (played by Jane Connell, who originated the role on Broadway) - Mame had previously encouraged Agnes to be wild and free like herself.

Mame: Would you excuse me for a moment?

Patrick: Where's she been?

Mame: Who knows? I've only had one postcard from her in six months, and that was from the Shangri La Motel in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

For some reason, Lucy really emphasises East Stroudsburg in her delivery.

Budgeted at 12,000,000 (an astronomical amount of money for 1974), the lavish musical was not a financial success at the box office; but Mame has through the years become a campy classic, thanks in part of Lucille Ball's great performance as Mame.

Having never seen the Broadway production, I am not sure if the East Stoudsburg reference was in the original show or added to the film's screenplay. If anyone knows the answer, please email me at

Much thanks again to JR for this reference.

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