Mame (1974)

PG | 131-133 mins | Musical comedy | 7 March 1974

Director:

Gene Saks

Writer:

Paul Zindel

Cinematographer:

Philip Lathrop

Editor:

Maury Winetrobe

Production Designer:

Robert Boyle

Production Companies:

Warner Bros., Inc., American Broadcasting Companies
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HISTORY

       A 24 Jan 1969 HR news brief announced that American Broadcasting Company Pictures and Warner Bros., Inc., partnered to purchase the film rights to Mame , a Broadway musical based on the novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis (New York, 1955), for $3 million. The film version budget was set at $9 million and the shoot scheduled to take place within the following eighteen months, in Los Angeles, CA. Warner Bros. had produced a filmed adaptation of the novel in 1958, Auntie Mame (see entry), after purchasing the rights for $500,000, as stated in a 31 Jan 1968 HR brief.
       According to a 30 May 1973 Var article, ABC backed out from any further involvement in the production despite having an option to co-finance the remainder of the budget, allegedly dissatisfied by the terms of their existing deal with Warner Bros., in which Warners had “total production control, right to apply an overhead charge…a 25% distribution fee, and [rights to] the soundtrack album.” According to a 13 Sep 1973 HR column, the film ultimately cost $12 million, and was shot in eighteen weeks, as stated in a 3 Jan 1973 DV article.
       Though a 5 May 1970 DV news item reported that Ernest H. Martin would produce the film, he was not credited in the final version. Likewise, a 21 May 1970 HR report stated that Leonard Gershe would write the film adaptation, but Gershe was not credited in the film.
       A 22 Aug 1968 HR brief reported that producer Robert Fryer was considering ... More Less

       A 24 Jan 1969 HR news brief announced that American Broadcasting Company Pictures and Warner Bros., Inc., partnered to purchase the film rights to Mame , a Broadway musical based on the novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis (New York, 1955), for $3 million. The film version budget was set at $9 million and the shoot scheduled to take place within the following eighteen months, in Los Angeles, CA. Warner Bros. had produced a filmed adaptation of the novel in 1958, Auntie Mame (see entry), after purchasing the rights for $500,000, as stated in a 31 Jan 1968 HR brief.
       According to a 30 May 1973 Var article, ABC backed out from any further involvement in the production despite having an option to co-finance the remainder of the budget, allegedly dissatisfied by the terms of their existing deal with Warner Bros., in which Warners had “total production control, right to apply an overhead charge…a 25% distribution fee, and [rights to] the soundtrack album.” According to a 13 Sep 1973 HR column, the film ultimately cost $12 million, and was shot in eighteen weeks, as stated in a 3 Jan 1973 DV article.
       Though a 5 May 1970 DV news item reported that Ernest H. Martin would produce the film, he was not credited in the final version. Likewise, a 21 May 1970 HR report stated that Leonard Gershe would write the film adaptation, but Gershe was not credited in the film.
       A 22 Aug 1968 HR brief reported that producer Robert Fryer was considering Angela Lansbury, star of the Broadway musical, to reprise her role in the film; however, a Nov 1972 Warner Bros. Rambling Reporter column announced that Lucille Ball was cast in the lead role and planned to immediately set up offices at the Burbank Studios. According to a 28 Nov 1972 HR brief, Madeline Kahn had been cast in the role of “Agnes Gooch,” but a 22 Dec 1972 HR news item stated that Kahn dropped out of the film over creative differences with Ball, as Kahn wished to update her character to be more modern and Ball liked “Agnes Gooch” as she was in the Auntie Mame version. In addition, HR reported that Bea Arthur had dropped out of her role as “Vera Charles” over similar creative differences. Actress Ruth Buzzi was being considered to replace Kahn and Bette Davis had been asked to replace Arthur. In a 5 Jan 1973 brief, HR apologized for reporting misinformation regarding Arthur, who had not left the production and denied having differences with Ball.
       A 4 Oct 1973 HR news item stated that Ball’s singing parts would not be dubbed, despite reports that actress and singer, Lisa Kirk, would replace Ball’s singing in the film. In the 13 Sep 1973 HR , musical supervisor Fred Werner commented that Ball was not confident in her singing abilities, so he used “tricks” such as impromptu recording sessions to capture better vocal performances by the actress. An undated Warner Bros. Rambling Reporter news item stated that the song “Loving You,” performed in the film by Robert Preston, was written specifically for the 1974 film adaptation.
       Production notes at AMPAS library stated that costume designer Theodora van Runkle created forty costumes for “Mame,” and the budget for Ball’s wardrobe was $300,000. The “gold filigreed” front doors to Mame’s home were on loan from the Queen Mary cruise ship, and Mame’s glass piano, custom-made for the production, cost $9,000.
       Only one week after production wrapped, Ball began filming her twenty-second season on a television show, starring in Here’s Lucy , as stated in a 15 May 1973 DV “Just for Variety” column. Ball was reportedly “disappointed” that the film’s release date was pushed from Christmas 1973 to Easter 1974. To promote the film’s opening in Los Angeles, CA, a giant Easter bonnet, 550 feet in circumference, was placed atop Hollywood’s Pacific Cinerama Dome Theater, as reported in an Apr 1974 Warner Bros. Rambling Reporter column.
       Critical reception for Mame was mixed. Several reviewers criticized the cinematography, namely the lighting and focus used for Ball’s close-ups. On 18 Mar 1974, a Newsweek critic wrote that the actress’s face was “practically a blur in the protective gauze of softer than soft focus.” Some reviews pointed to the audience’s over-familiarity with the story of Auntie Mame as a downfall of the film, which did not offer a drastic departure from previous versions. Bea Arthur’s performance was lauded by more than one reviewer, and many celebrated Ball as well. The 27 Feb 1974 Var review stated that Ball was “showcased, coiffed, made-up and ably guided from almost television-like slapstick to character sincerity with loving care.” According to a 5 Apr 1974 New Times report, Ball complained to Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel about the harsh treatment she received in the press, after reading many negative comments about her appearance. Ball allegedly told Siskel, “The studio spent plenty of money to get the best photographs of me in Mame , so why do the newspapers have to send people just so they can take ugly pictures of me? So I look my age. What’s wrong with that?”
       A 17 May 1974 HR report stated that the film set worldwide records, including “the all-time one-week record gross at one theatre” when it made $402,244 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall in its sixth week of release, and “the highest single day’s business” on 23 Mar 1974 when it earned $69,220, also at Radio City Music Hall.

      Though Roger Price's character name is spelled "Ralph Divine" in end credits, the name is spelled "Devine" on a painted sign in the film and on a Warner Bros., Inc. "Call Bureau Cast Service" sheet dated 1 Apr 1974.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Mar 1974
p. 4674.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1970.
---
Daily Variety
5 May 1970.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1973.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1973.
---
Daily Variety
15 May 1973.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1966.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1973
p. 29.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1973
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1974
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1974.
---
LAHExam
27 Mar 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Mar 1974
Section IV, p. 1, 14.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Mar 1974
p. 81.
New Times
11 Jan 1974.
---
New Times
5 Apr 1974.
---
New York Times
8 Mar 1974
p. 18.
Newsweek
18 Mar 1974
p. 133.
Time
25 Mar 1974
p. 68.
Variety
19 Jul 1967.
---
Variety
20 Dec 1972.
---
Variety
30 May 1973.
---
Variety
27 Feb 1974
p. 16.
Warner Bros. Rambling Reporter
Nov 1972.
---
Warner Bros. Rambling Reporter
Apr 1974.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
2d unit dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Still man
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Leadman
COSTUMES
Ward men
Ward men
Ladies' ward
Ladies' ward
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Dance mus arr
Addl orch
Mus ed
Mus ed
Mus supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Title des
DANCE
Assoc to the choreog
Mus numbers choreog by
MAKEUP
Miss Ball's makeup
Miss Ball's hair styles by
Makeup
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Transportation capt
Ramrod
Casting
Casting extras
COLOR PERSONNEL
Laboratory services
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Mame , music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee (New York, 24 May 1966), which was based on the novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis (New York, 1955) and the play of the same name by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, produced on the New York stage by Fryer, Carr and Harris (New York, 31 Oct 1956).
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 March 1974
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 March 1974 at Radio City Music Hall
Los Angeles opening: 27 March 1974
Production Date:
3 January--5 June 1973
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 March 1974
Copyright Number:
LP43764
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Processing by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
2.35:1
Lenses
Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
131-133
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Chicago, Illinois, in the late 1920s, Patrick Dennis, a young boy, inherits the estate of his late father, Edward Dennis, and learns that his aunt, Mame Dennis, will be his guardian. Agnes Gooch, a maid, accompanies Patrick on a train to New York City. They arrive at Mame’s lavish home in the midst of a party, interrupting a song and dance Mame performs for her guests. When Mame realizes she is Patrick’s only living relative, she proudly introduces him to the crowd as her “little boy” then offers him a martini. Patrick meets Mame’s stockbroker, Fred Kates, and also Ralph Devine, the headmaster of a controversial school. Vera Charles, a stage actress, appears, and Mame tells Patrick she is her closest friend. Excited, the boy rides down the banister of Mame’s stairwell as partygoers celebrate his arrival with a song. The next morning, Patrick wakes Mame to show her his bugle, and she slowly gets out of bed, hung over. In the bathroom, Patrick tells her that his trustee, Mr. Babcock, said that she was strange, and Mame angrily calls him a “bastard,” introducing Patrick to the meaning of the word. Mame sings to her nephew about the new world to which she will introduce him. They attend a museum, a protest, and a burlesque show together. Mame drops Patrick off at Devine’s school, where children run around a room half-dressed and Devine reads a newspaper, naked. Later, Patrick and his aunt attend church together, followed by a trip to a synagogue. As her date, Patrick escorts Mame to a speakeasy, and they dance. Sometime later, Babcock arrives at Mame’s house, but her butler, Ito, lies that ... +


In Chicago, Illinois, in the late 1920s, Patrick Dennis, a young boy, inherits the estate of his late father, Edward Dennis, and learns that his aunt, Mame Dennis, will be his guardian. Agnes Gooch, a maid, accompanies Patrick on a train to New York City. They arrive at Mame’s lavish home in the midst of a party, interrupting a song and dance Mame performs for her guests. When Mame realizes she is Patrick’s only living relative, she proudly introduces him to the crowd as her “little boy” then offers him a martini. Patrick meets Mame’s stockbroker, Fred Kates, and also Ralph Devine, the headmaster of a controversial school. Vera Charles, a stage actress, appears, and Mame tells Patrick she is her closest friend. Excited, the boy rides down the banister of Mame’s stairwell as partygoers celebrate his arrival with a song. The next morning, Patrick wakes Mame to show her his bugle, and she slowly gets out of bed, hung over. In the bathroom, Patrick tells her that his trustee, Mr. Babcock, said that she was strange, and Mame angrily calls him a “bastard,” introducing Patrick to the meaning of the word. Mame sings to her nephew about the new world to which she will introduce him. They attend a museum, a protest, and a burlesque show together. Mame drops Patrick off at Devine’s school, where children run around a room half-dressed and Devine reads a newspaper, naked. Later, Patrick and his aunt attend church together, followed by a trip to a synagogue. As her date, Patrick escorts Mame to a speakeasy, and they dance. Sometime later, Babcock arrives at Mame’s house, but her butler, Ito, lies that she is not home. Meanwhile, Vera admires Babcock’s car outside and insists she direct him to where he’s going. Vera leads Babcock to Devine’s school, and Babcock is horrified upon seeing the chaotic classroom. Mame arrives at the school moments later. They return to her home together, and Babcock orders Agnes to pack Patrick’s bags. Mame fights to keep her nephew but Babcock takes him away; at the same time, Mame receives a phone call that the stock market has crashed and her money is gone. Saddened by Patrick’s absence, Mame insists she does not care about losing money. Vera apologizes for taking Babcock to the school and promises to get her a job in an upcoming musical, in which Vera will star as a female astronomer. On the show’s opening night, Mame awkwardly descends on a suspended crescent moon and forgets her only line. Though the audience laughs, Vera is quite upset and Mame hears that she will be replaced by the next show. Later that night, in the empty theater, Mame sees Patrick, who hitchhiked there. He congratulates her for making the audience laugh and sings that she is his “best girl.” Overjoyed, Mame responds that Patrick is her “best boy.” One day, Mame watches as movers take all of her belongings. Later, she works at a department store and helps a man from Georgia, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, select a gift for a girl back home. Mame suggests he buy roller skates and offers to model them. At the cash register, Mame cannot remember how to write a cash order, so her manager takes her into a back room to fire her and Beauregard overhears. Still wearing the roller skates, Mame leaves the store. That night, she apologizes to Agnes and Ito that she cannot pay their salaries; however, they assure her they will stay. Touched, Mame steals into a closet and retrieves three Christmas presents, giving them to Ito, Agnes, and Patrick. Though it is only November, Mame orders Ito to retrieve her Christmas decorations, and they sing together while decorating Agnes with ornaments and tinsel. Ito and Agnes give Mame a gift as well – they pre-paid the butcher for the next year with money from their personal savings. Concerned that Mame lost her job, Beauregard arrives and asks everyone to dinner. Sometime later, Mame and Patrick visit Beauregard in Georgia. Dressed in a frilly gown, Mame feigns a Southern accent as Beauregard introduces her to his disapproving family. Mame meets Sally Cato, a friend of Beauregard’s, who suggests they welcome her with a foxhunt the next day. Mame pretends she knows how to ride a horse, but only sidesaddle, and, the next day, Sally presents her with Lightning Rod, a bucking horse, and a sidesaddle. Hiding her terror, Mame mounts Lightning Rod and the horse breaks into a gallop. Though Beauregard’s family watches for her to fall, Mame stays on the horse until she is out of sight. Arriving at a fence, she falls off and sees the fox on the ground nearby. Coaxing the animal to her, Mame cradles the fox in her lap just as Beauregard and Sally arrive. Afterward, Mame’s fellow hunters toast her, and Beauregard leads them in a song, celebrating her charm. Traveling the world together, Mame and Beauregard fall in love. Years later, he dies in an avalanche. Patrick, now a young man, visits Mame as she is still mourning Beauregard’s death. Mame refuses to go along when Patrick invites her to lunch with his girlfriend, Gloria Upson. Later, Mame meets Vera at a restaurant, and they make amends, having been estranged after Mame’s failed performance in Vera’s show. Delivering backhanded compliments to each other, the old friends sing that they will always be “bosom buddies.” That afternoon, Agnes tells Vera and Mame that she has never gone on a date, so they make her over and send her out on the town. Months later, Gloria pretentiously drones on about familial love while Mame and Patrick listen. Ito interrupts to announce that Agnes has come to visit. Mame explains that Agnes has been gone a long time and has only sent one postcard. In the kitchen, Mame sees that Agnes is now pregnant. As Patrick and Gloria leave, Mame reluctantly agrees to visit Gloria’s family. At their home in Connecticut, Mr. and Mrs. Upson greet Mame and introduce her to their son Boyd, daughter, Midge, and their respective spouses. Patrick and Gloria appear and announce that they are engaged. Inside, Mr. Upson suggests to Mame that they buy the lot next door for Patrick and Gloria as a wedding gift. Mame drinks heavily as the Upsons fail to impress her with their snobbery and bad taste. That night, the Upsons encourage Mame to stay, but she leaves, insisting that next time, they come to her house. Patrick follows Mame to the driveway, saying he knows she does not like Gloria or the Upsons. However, Patrick likes them because they are “normal” unlike Mame and her friends, and Mame retorts that Patrick has become a snob. Driving home, Mame wonders if she was a good parent to her nephew, or if she forced him to grow up too fast. Later, Patrick arrives for dinner with the Upsons at Mame’s house, and he meets Pegeen, the charming new maid. Gloria, Mr. and Mrs. Upson, and Vera appear soon after. When they make a toast, Agnes interrupts, dressed in frumpy maternity clothes, and Mrs. Upson asks her about the baby’s father. A singing troupe of pregnant women arrive, and Mame announces that she bought the lot next to the Upsons’ home for the unmarried pregnant women. Patrick tries to stop Gloria as she leaves in a huff with her parents. A few years later, Mame orders a young boy, Peter, to bow to Patrick and Pegeen before she leaves for a trip. When Mame suggests that Peter travel with her, Patrick, his father, says no and Peter begs Pegeen, his mother. At the airport, they change their minds and send Peter along with Mame. +

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Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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