Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Mame" (1974) Poster

Before I begin my post, I want to make a sincere apology to all my readers who have stuck with me in the last month. I was incredibly busy between my traveling, a new job, and the end of a semester- but I'm back baby! I really am going to be trying to bring back the quality of my posts which have been slipping a little since the spring. I promise, they will be more focused, more relevant, and more entertaining!

But, before I start my new summer resolution, I want to get all the irrelevant and fun out of the way- so, here's one for my favorite girls- Lucy and Mame!
First off, let me make this abundantly clear: I am no big fan of Lucy's splashy musical adaptation of the Broadway hit, Mame (1974). Lucy admittedly couldn't sing which does really bring down the quality of a musical. One of my major regrets for the world is Warner's decision not to cast Angela Lansbury in her star role. What a film that would have been! But, non j'e ne regrette rien. (But, I still regret it!)
Bea and Lucy are pretty good bosum buddies but Lucy is no
Angela and the chemistry (and talent) just isn't there
Granted, when the music in a musical is lacking, the film can only be so good. But, it does have it's highlights. Lucy is still Lucy- which means, despite her smoker's rasp, she's still incredibly funny. Robert Preston is wonderful as usual. And Bea Arthur, while not at her peak, does still steal every scene with her indelible wit. And the film just looks impressive (when its not filmed through that infamous soft lens). I mean, it should look great, the budget was millions, which shows. The movie has this great Art Deco vibe mixed with some '70s elements. Think Murder on the Orient Express or the Robert Redford Great Gatsby. The design is almost intentionally over the top, and it just looks fantastic.
Some of the finer moments of the film:
the elegantly excessive title song (above)
Bea's reprise of Vera: despite time and age- she still had it.
While the film takes place over a space of more than ten years, it begins in the 1920s and the design soul of the story has always been the Roaring Twenties just because the era suits Mame. It is no surprise that the film's graphic designers chose the Art Deco look of the Twenties to design the poster. It had been done already in the musical design and was echoed in the musical's movie adaptation. Similar to the design of the musical's poster, Lucy and Mame share a large, bold, deco-esqe font which dominates the poster. Lucy (and the font choice) are no equal to Angela and her font, but it comes up pretty close.
That exuberant Art Deco quality leaked into the graphic design of Mame with some wonderful results. The movie's poster is absolutely stunningly gorgeous and fun. It was designed by Bob Peak, who worked on many famous posters of the 70s and 80s. The poster is an odd mix of graphic styles. It has the clear angularity and sharpness of Art Deco, while it has that almost-cartoonish 70's graphic vibe. It's filmed from stills of the movies and different characters and there are several nice little snippets that could almost be fun portraits of the stars. Overall, it is just a lot of fun.
In my personal experience, I remember the VHS cover design that must have been designed by some unknown graphic artist in Warner's VHS department. I like it even more than the poster just because it is so chic and elegant. But I also am a really big admirer of the look because I feel it must be an homage to the poster of the original Broadway musical. Granted, it has a completely different color scheme and even graphic take, but content-wise, I believe the comparison is there.

I can't help myself, I love everything Auntie Mame- film, book, play, musical- you name it. And despite my best intentions, I can't help but sometimes even like the musical-film. And it is because, I can't help but unconditionally  love Lucy and because, the story is so excellent, despite her best (or worst efforts), Lucy's lack of singing can't take away that wonderful story.

1 comment:

  1. You wrote "... I love everything Auntie Mame- film, book, play, musical- you name it." I have spent so much time looking for mention of the person who painted the life sized portrait of Lucille Ball as Mame, but I can find nothing. The painting was on exhibit at The Hollywood Museum years ago, but I can find nothing on it now. Do you know who painted the portrait? Bob Peak? Richard Amsel? A set painter?

    1966francisbrown@mail.com

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