Mame is a highly successful Broadway musical, based on the novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. It originally opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City in 1966 with Angela Lansbury, and ran for 1,508 performances. It was nominated for 9 Tony Awards, winning 4. The musical's book was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee - adapted from their play Auntie Mame, based on Dennis' novel. The musical score for Mame (both music and lyrics) was written by Jerry Herman, who also wrote the scores for Hello, Dolly!, and La Cage aux Folles. Also featured in the cast of Mame were Bea Arthur and Jane Connell. The 1969 West End production in London starred Ginger Rogers. Lansbury also starred in the 1983 revival on Broadway.
The plot revolves around eccentric Mame Dennis, whose madcap life is disrupted when her deceased brother's son Patrick is entrusted to her care. Rather than bow to convention, Mame introduces the boy to her free-wheeling lifestyle, instilling in him her favorite credo - "Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death." Mame eventually meets and marries Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, a southern aristocrat with a Georgia plantation called Peckerwood. Young Patrick goes off to boarding school, and Mame and Beau travel the world on an endless honeymoon. The honeymoon ends when Beau falls off an Alp, and Mame returns home to find Patrick has become a priggish snob, engaged to an empty-headed debutante. Mame brings Patrick to his senses in time, and introduces him to the woman who will eventually become his wife. As the story ends, Mame prepares to take Patrick's young son, Michael to India.
In 1966, Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, and Herb Alpert all charted in the United States and Canada with their cover records of the musical's title song. Eydie Gormé had a huge success with her recording of "If He Walked into My Life", Mame's biggest Tourch Song, for which she received a Grammy Award in 1967 for Best Female Vocal Performance.
A film version of the musical was released in 1974 starring Lucille Ball, Beatrice Arthur, Robert Preston, Bruce Davison, Kirby Furlong, Jane Connell, and Joyce Van Patten. Its screenplay was adapted by Paul Zindel, with direction by Gene Saks (Arthur's then husband). Released at a time when movie musicals were long out of fashion, it was a critical and commercial failure.
Critical opinion at the time of release agreed that while Ball's portrayal of Mame was humorous, heartfelt and endearing, she was perhaps ten years too old for the role and not up to carrying the lead vocally. Evidence of this can be seen - and heard - throughout the film.
Critics were also keen to point out that the film played like an old movie; one went so far as to say it was the best musical of 1944! Despite these flaws, however, the film has garnered many fans throughout the years as it now is an old movie, and within that context, an excellent one with fine performances and high production values.
Mame also holds a nostalgic place in many "Lucy" fan's hearts as it is the last motion picture made by Ball, ending a forty year career in film. The 1958 film version of the non-musical play, Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell, Coral Browne (wife of Vincent Price), Forrest Tucker, Fred Clark, Peggy Cass, Roger Smith (husband of Ann-Margret), and Patric Knowles is widely considered to be the better film version.