Mame (1974)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Comedy  |   Release Date - Mar 27, 1974 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 132 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

By 1974, film versions of Broadway musicals were much harder sells to movie audiences, but Mame was not helped by serious miscasting in the title role and generally weak direction overall. Lucille Ball, one of television's most gifted comediennes, somehow lost her comic touch here. Her timing is fine, but her delivery is often flat, and she lacks energy -- a serious drawback when playing a role that demands tremendous vigor and charisma. Equally as damaging is her singing voice; never one of her greater assets, by this point in her career it was little more than a croak. The aging actress was also photographed through what appears to be layers of cheesecloth, giving her close-ups a fuzziness that is both disconcerting and unattractive. The score, though popular on Broadway, is at best average and rarely improves on the hilarious original play upon which the musical was based. The movie drags more than is necessary and is unimaginatively shot. Fortunately, the supporting cast is very good, with Robert Preston and Jane Connell turning in solid performances. Most helpful of all is Beatrice Arthur, whose Vera Charles is a brilliant comic creation. Arthur's duet with Ball, "Bosom Buddies," is the film's undeniable peak, one of the few moments when the film comes to life and shows how good it could have been.