There are a few famous Broadway performances renowned for not getting captured on film and preserved. Oddly, two of the most renowned are both Jerry Herman musicals. Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! and the other, Angela Lansbury starring as 'Auntie Mame,' in the musical, Mame. When they made the movie version, they hired Lucille Ball instead. And so, Lansbury's performance was lost.
With Carol Channing, she performed the role on stage for so long and kept reviving it and touring the country, that you almost got the sense that more people did actually see her than would have in the movie. Still, it's a shame, all the worse since Barbra Streisand was so egregiously miscast. Lucille Ball wasn't miscast, just flat and seemingly bored and far too old for the role, so much so that they used more gauze for filters than Johnson & Johnson had in the warehouse.
I once had one of my brainstorms, which like most of them went nowhere. But after Angela Lansbury did an original musical for CBS, Mrs. Santa Claus, written by her "partner" Jerry Herman, and aired in her old Murder: She Wrote" timeslot, and it was quite successful, I suggested to a friend at CBS that they all re-team -- Lansbury, Herman, CBS and the Murder: She Wrote timeslot -- and do Mame with the original star. The star who never had her chance to re-create her most famous role. I'm biased, but I think it would have gotten huge attention and done spectacularly. We'll never know. The idea, like oh-so-many-others, died.
And so, we don't have Angela Lansbury on film doing Mame.
Somewhat happily, thought, the stage musical got revived in 1983, and Lansbury re-created her role there. And someone in the balcony filmed the famous and wonderful title number. The quality isn't all that good, but it is definitely good enough considering the preservation of stage history. Usually when the song, "Mame," is performed on TV, it's just the "lyrics part" and leaves out the wonderful dance interlude. This has it all. Usually I don't care for dancing on TV (or most places, but mainly on TV, where the smallness diminishes everything). But the dance part of "Mame" takes a wonderful number and ratchets it up with key changes into the sky.
The character of 'Mame' doesn't have a great deal to do in the number, but what she does, when it kicks in -- no pun intended -- is a joy to have.
Here 'tis --
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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