When Warner Bros. purchased the screen rights to Jerry Herman's musical version of "Auntie Mame" in 1971, it was made clear from the getgo that the show's original star, Angela Lansbury, would not be starring.
I interviewed Lansbury in December of that year - in conjunction with Disney's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" - and asked for her take on the matter and about the then-recently announced casting of Lucille Ball as "Mame." Lansbury, ever the pro, took it in stride, explaining that Warners planned to make an inexpensive version of the show and that most of the film's budget would be invested in its star's salary.
The studio needed not just a big star, but an icon.
Rosalind Russell, meanwhile, the original Auntie Mame and a contemporary of Lucille Ball, questioned her friend's age.
Roz opined that maybe Cher would have been a more appropriate choice.
Well, it took nearly three years for "Mame" to finally premiere at Radio City Music Hall (on 27 March, 1974). In the interim, when the film was still in production, I wrote a column about Lucy's big comeback: "Mame" - being filmed by Gene Saks, who also directed it on stage - would be her first movie in 6 years, following Melville Shavelson's "Yours, Mine and Ours" in 1968. It would also be Lucy's final film.
About a week after the column ran, this note arrived in the mail.
Would it be too much of a cliché for me to confess that I love Lucy?
Note in Passing: On Saturday, 6 August, the day that would have been Lucille Ball's 100th birthday, Turner Classic Movies will screen 14 of her films over a 12-hour period, starting at 6 a.m. (est) and The Hallmark Channel will air an "I Love Lucy" marathon all day weekend. Can't wait.