Although it was Angela Lansbury who starred as Mame Dennis in the mid-'60s Broadway version of Mame (1966), she was not enough of a box-office draw to secure the silver screen adaptation. Despite the advice of her former husband and concurrent business associate Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball took the role, all but ruining her career in the process. The cinematic update retained Jerry Herman's score and this soundtrack boasts a baker's dozen of those numbers with Ball backed by a cast that included Jane Connell (Agnes Gooch), Kirby Furlong (Young Patrick), Bea Arthur (Vera Charles), Robert Preston (Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside) and Bruce Davidson (Old Patrick). At her peak, Ball was never considered a songbird, and at the age of 60 it took vocal coaches and copious soft-focus camera work for the actress to convincingly pull off her portrayal. Even worse, a January 1972 skiing accident left the actress with a broken leg, delaying the production for a full year. In terms of musical prowess, Ball's timing and intonation are questionable at best. "It's Today" offers a prime example, sounding as if her performance had been pieced together from different recordings. "Open a New Window" fares no better; Ball can barely get the first line out and stay in tune. The show's signature "We Need a Little Christmas" is similarly mangled by her wavering warble. Luckily, the converse is true of Bea Arthur's expressive narrative "The Man in the Moon," and she does her best to rescue her duet with Ball on "Bosom Buddies." Robert Preston likewise turns in an excellent reading of the ballad "Loving You" and alongside Bruce Davidson, a nice rendition of "The Letter." Despite some bad reviews, Mame would garner Ball a Golden Globe nomination in 1975 in the Best Motion Picture Actress category, as well as a Best Supporting Actress nod to Bea Arthur.
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