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Lucille Ball on MAME: “I Can’t Sing”

TO SEE THIS INTERVIEW IN ITS ENTIRETY, PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK: In this interview, broadcast in November 1973, three months before MAME was released, Lucille Ball acknowledges she is not a singer or dancer and explains why she thinks that should not be an issue in MAME. Please note that this was well before any portion of the film had been seen by the critics or the public. Even Lucy, herself, had not yet seen any finished takes from the film. Besides Lucille Ball, MAME also featured Bea Arthur, Robert Preston, Bruce Davison and Kirby Furlong and Jane Connell. I think Lucy was much more comfortable doing the kind of “singing” she did as Lucy Ricardo on I LOVE LUCY. :)

posted by in Comedies and have Comments (25)

25 Responses to “Lucille Ball on MAME: “I Can’t Sing””

  1. petclark1 says:

    I loved Lucille Ball and think she was one of the most gifted comediennes of American film and tv. Having said that, however, her 1974 version of “Mame”
    was a trainwreck from start to finish. Luckily we have hundreds of hours of her wonderful tv shows and OTHER movies in which we can enjoy her real talents.

  2. ScrapNfight says:

    ” I can’t sing, I can’t dance. Come pay money to see me do both”.

  3. vieetverite says:

    @TracyAndersonFoxhunt , LOL! So says someone who “loves” Miley Cyrus. No doubt Mame had its flaws, but a fan of Miley Cyrus is in no position to criticize. That takes away all your credibility.

  4. TracyAndersonFoxhunt says:

    what a crock! that film was terrible! Lucy could not sing and she could no dance. she was about 30 years too old for that part

  5. Carl5Z says:

    Niech ┼╝yje Lucille Ball !!!

  6. Beejjjjjj says:

    Then to play Lucy, she was always trying to get her voice higher again, so she spoke in a high pitch. Keith Andes said in Wildcat, she did NOT have proper training on projecting her voice and she did particular damage to it from her singing in that show. According to him, nobody trained her or told her what she was doing was wrong. As for silly debates, it’s only silly if you’re making assertions you can’t back up.

  7. Beejjjjjj says:

    @RayPointer , she put Chesterfield in Philip Morris cigarette boxes. She didn’t smoke Philip Morris. And I’ve heard directly from production staff of the show that they did NOT have mikes that allowed their voices to reach the back of the studio audience, so they had to project their voices. Among the advice she got early on was that her voice was too high and she should go out on the freeway and scream at the top of her lungs to deepen it, which she did.

  8. RayPointer says:

    @Beejjjjjj She smoked the sponsor’s product in the commercials. Regardless she smoked. As for the “projection” of the voice, one would wonder with all of the “coaches” she had that she was not advised about things that would harm her voice. Sound recording was not that primative in the 1950s, and Glen Glenn was one of the leaders in the industry. The mikes picked up the actors very well. And Lucy did not “scream” all the time. I’ve seen all of the shows. Please no more silly debates.

  9. Beejjjjjj says:

    @RayPointer , actually, no, there were NOT sensitive microphones back in those days. That was part of the problem: she had to project her voice without the microphones, while at the same time speaking in an unnaturally high pitch. And it is FACT (per voice experts) that speaking continuously in an unnatural pitch damages the vocal chords. As for the projection, there is proper projection and improper projection. Re: the smoking, she advertised Philip Morris, but smoked Chesterfields.

  10. ScrapNfight says:

    @RayPointer Have you watched any of those shows? It’s a combination of “projecting” and screaming. I love lucy, but she was hard on her vocal cords. Really hard.

  11. RayPointer says:

    @ScrapNfight What “screaming”? Projecting for an audience is not “screaming.”

  12. RayPointer says:

    Regarding the remarks about Lucy ruining her voice, it was not her “straining” it to sound young, nor was it “yelling.” It was the combination of smoking Phillip Morris cigarettes and drinking. She did strain her voice during WILDCAT on Broadway in 1960. But as for her runining her voice in I LOVE LUCY, any experienced actor knows how to “project”. Second, there were sensitive microphones to pick up the voices of the four principles, and the others didn’t ruin their voices.

  13. RayPointer says:

    @pudgeuncle It was first offered to the Rosalind Russel who originalted the role on stage and repeated it in the film. She turned it down stating that someone else should have a chance at it. But in reality, she turned it down due to health issues that were start for her at that point in time.

  14. Beejjjjjj says:

    @ScrapNfight , on I LOVE LUCY she was speaking in an unnaturally high pitch all the time to make herself sound younger. Speaking in an unnatural pitch also causes vocal chord damage. As for shows like LAVERNE & SHIRLEY and MOTHERS-IN-LAW, yes, they were screaming their dialogue just as much in those shows. Penny Marshall’s voice did get somewhat deeper. Lucy was in vitually every scene of her shows doing this, and also rehearsed non-stop, never giving her voice a rest.

  15. ScrapNfight says:

    @Beejjjjjj True with the live studio audience, but Lucy was doing bad things to her voice way back in I LOVE LUCY. Not just screaming, but the crying sounds and other strange loud sounds she would make to be funny. With THE LUCY SHOW there was screaming dialogue more so than in any of those other shows you mentioned. Lucy needed a “heavy” like Ricky Ricardo or Mr. Mooney to even out her overbearingness. You look at those shows today, she’s mean to everyone.

  16. Beejjjjjj says:

    @ScrapNfight , In Lucy’s case, you might notice that at the beginning of a season, just after her months-long hiatus from the show, her voice would be rested and sound somewhat natural. But by the middle of the season it would sound hoarse. So those months of “screaming” through rehearsals and tapings clearly took a toll. But over time, rested or not, there was cummulative deterioration. Her voice didn’t change much after “Here’s Lucy” when she was no longer on the set every day hollering.

  17. Beejjjjjj says:

    @ScrapNfight , to be fair, though, they did those shows in front of a studio audience, and she felt she needed to talk (scream?) that way to reach the folks in the back rows. A lot of shows shot in front of a studio audience are performed this way, e.g., Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mothers-in-Law. I wouldn’t so much call it screaming as talking extremely loudly. Whatever, it’s really bad for the vocal chords.

  18. ScrapNfight says:

    Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t so much the drinking and smoking that destroyed Lucy’s voice as it was the SCREAMING. Watch THE LUCY SHOW. It’s screaming dialogue. They scream at each other in that show. That’s watch destroyed her voice.

  19. ScrapNfight says:

    @pudgeuncle Just because Lansbury was great on stage doesn’t mean it would have translated the same on the screen. It would have been around the same time as BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS and we all saw how dull that was.

  20. pudgeuncle says:

    @ScrapNfight I would be the last person to defend the singing on Broadway since so many actors have sung on stage that the studios would normally dub. Katharine Hepburn, Shelley WInters, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, Lauren Bacall, and a long list of others are not exactly singers.

  21. ScrapNfight says:

    @pudgeuncle Lansbury might have been better suited in the acting department, but her singing voice wasn’t that much better than Lucy’s. It’s easy to think someone who was great on stage would translate the same on film, but that is rarely the case. Just look at the film version of THE PRODUCERS where the actors where no longer fresh in there roles once the film was made. MAME needed someone who had never performed it before.

  22. Sheri451 says:

    I guess all that smoking ruined her singing voice. I remember watching Reruns of Here’s Lucy when I was a child, I can remember her broken leg.

  23. pudgeuncle says:

    The film version of MAME was a goner before it was released because of the outrage of casting Lucy and not Lansbury. Broadway is worse when it comes to box office casting, and in this case MAME was actually written for Merman and then offered to Mary Martin. Both were too old and would have been grossly miscast. Lucy wasn’t that bad and the film is very faithful to the stage version, contrary to some people’s distorted memories.

  24. pudgeuncle says:

    @Cramnella Ethel Merman did not get GYPSY because she could not act. She was allowed to recreate her Tony winning role in Call Me Madam and it was a major flop because of her over the top, phony acting. On stage you can get away with being a “personality” but the screen magnfies the acting lmitations. Any big Broadway musical star of the heydey of Broadway always had limited acting skills, otherwise MGM would have scooped them up.

  25. DA90027 says:

    I thought Lucy’s Mame was a cute movie. It’s not as bad as the critics said it was.

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