Lucille Ball Would Have Been Perfect in a Non-Musical Remake of “AUNTIE MAME”

Lucille Ball as the lovable character “MAME.”

Lucille Ball, they say, was terribly miscast in the title role of the movie MAME.  It’s been uttered so many times you’d think it was a universal truth.  “Lucy was too old.”  “Lucy couldn’t sing.”  “Angela Lansbury played it better on Broadway.”  I could  recite the list of reasons why they say she shouldn’t have done it the way she did it in my sleep.

And yet…

If you take away the distracting, and ridiculous, soft-focus shots they used to film her close-ups, which the movie could well have done without,  and if the singing numbers had been dubbed, what would you have?  The lady’s acting in the role of irrepressible, unconventional “Mame Dennis” can hardly be faulted.  She nails every scene, and not as a “Lucy Ricardo” type, either.  If I hadn’t grown up on “I Love Lucy” reruns, I never even would have guessed this part was played by the same actress.

Take the scene where she’s fired from the department store.  She’s tried on the roller skates to demonstrate them for her handsome customer, “Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside.”  She gets fired from the job.  She can’t get out of the skates because she’s knotted the laces.

What does Mame do?  Well, first let’s look at what she ought to do, what anyone else in her position back then would have done.  After all, it’s a scene set in 1929, she’s broke, the world is a different, stuffier place, and to be a lady accidentally on skates out in public in a store is supposed to be mightily embarrassing.  Yet watch the scene.  The character holds herself up high, as if being stuck in those skates is an honor, not a disaster.  She makes it look deliberate, a matter of pride, yet it’s all subtly done.

I imitated her stance for years, after seeing this movie as a child, whenever I got myself into a bit of a jam.  If life gives you lemons, stand tall, even if you’re five foot one, like me, and make some lemonade, folks.  Wherever you are, Lucy, thank you so much for that scene!

I only wish that Lucy had tried to make a remake of AUNTIE MAME, the non-musical movie version of the same basic story that was made in the 1950’s and starred Rosalind Russell.  Yes, Lucy in the musical was a mistake, but if she had starred in AUNTIE MAME, sans the unnecessary gauzy close-ups and songs, I think she’d have been remembered well for it, and rather than going down in motion picture history as something of a bad joke, it would be remembered as a good movie.

And let me add this: I hate it that Lucy took abuse for this movie!  Her version was the very first one I saw of this story, so Lucy was “my Mame.”  The joy and love and fun of this movie gave me a whole new perspective – and even got me through several godawful years at a terrible, abusive school.  Wherever you are, I say, BRAVA, Lucy!  Just wish I could have told you in person.


Stunning in every outfit: Lucy as MAME.

Lucille Ball: Unofficial English Language Ambassador!

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in I LOVE LUCY.

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in a classic episode of I LOVE LUCY.

It’s universal: everybody loves Lucy!

One of my favorite Lucille Ball stories happened when she was in the hospital in California.  Queen Elizabeth was visiting the hospital on a tour and asked how Lucy was.

The Queen of Comedy was floored.  She reportedly naively said, “Queen Elizabeth knows who I am?”

Of course she did!  The entire world loved her, including Her Majesty, the Queen.

The girls’ name Lucy topped the popularity charts in an African country right after I Love Lucy was first broadcast there.  An American store changed the night of the week when it closed in order to watch the show, explaining with a sign to customers, “We love Lucy, too!”

There’s another legend to add to the never-ending list.  So many of the friends I have who come from other countries watch I Love Lucy after they move to New York City – to learn English!  I’m not sure if the show is broadcast in China, but I know some Mandarin-speakers who absolutely adore it.  It’s a show that it’s impossible not to like.  That makes watching it for the additional benefit of becoming at ease with English even more fun.

It’s fantastic that this show from the 1950’s is still broadcast, still putting smiles on faces all over the world, and even has the added benefit of helping people to improve their English.

Brava, Lucy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

Lucille Ball: Hey, Look Me Over!

Take a look at this gem from The Ed Sullivan Show: it’s Lucille Ball and Paula Stewart singing “Hey, Look Me Over” from the Broadway musical Wildcat!

I’ve loved the lyrics of this one since I was a kid of about age three, even before I realized what they meant:

Hey, look me over,

Lend me an ear,

Fresh out of clover,

Mortgaged up to here…



Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball: Friends to the End and Maybe Beyond

Lombard & Lucy

Lombard & Lucy

There was a new story in the book FIREBALL: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen that I had never heard before.  Well, actually, there were several that I’d never heard before, all fascinating, but this one’s the gem.

I knew that Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball had been friends, and oh, what a pair they must have made!  I had heard that Lucy was devastated when Carole died.  But I’d never heard this:

Long after Carole had passed away, Lucy, whose film career was floundering, wondered if she should try acting in a television comedy show.  One night she had a dream about her old friend Carole Lombard, who had once reigned as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy.”  In the dream, Carole appeared, beautifully dressed in a suit.  She said to Lucille, “Take a chance, honey. Give it a whirl!”

Lucy did.  She probably figured her old friend wouldn’t ever have steered her wrong.

The result was the most beloved show in television history:  I LOVE LUCY.