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Angela Lansbury cleared up this incorrect statement made by Lucille Ball

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: April 12, 2024, 3:05PM    Tags: Angela Lansbury, Mame, Murder, She Wrote, Jessica Fletcher

Jessica Fletcher was a famous mystery writer who had a gift for solving crimes in Cabot Cove; it's one of the roles that had a massive impact on Angela Lansbury's career. We've all heard stories about the actress yearning for more glamourous roles while contracted with MGM. The company didn't have that vision for her, but one particular Broadway musical did.

Mame (1966) was based on the 1955 novel Auntie Mame and was initially titled My Best Girl. Lansbury portrayed Mame Dennis, a wealthy woman with a fabulous lifestyle whose life is instantly changed when she has to care for the young son of her late brother. Mame and her friends battle with the Depression in various adventures.

There have been so many versions of the story of Mame, both on Broadway, on tour, and in films. In 1974, comedy icon Lucille Ball was chosen to play Mame in a then-new movie, which made many people wonder, "Why wasn't Angela Lansbury Mame again?"

Ball had a long-time desire to play the character, according to the book Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen by Rob Edelman. During an interview with the press, she claimed that Lansbury grew weary of the character, and that's why she wasn't in the movie.

"Actually, I didn't want to play Mame Dennis. Besides, I had broken my leg in a ski accident and felt apprehensive about fulfilling my commitment. The only reason I went through with it was that I felt obligated after [giving] my word to the producer...I tried [to talk the producers] into signing Angela Lansbury...But she would have nothing to do with it."

It turns out this was not true. Lansbury played Mame Dennis in the 1966 Broadway, in California in 1968, and again in a Broadway revival in 1983. Lucille Ball's response wasn't correct, so Lansbury set the record straight.

"I honestly don't know where Lucy ever got such an idea...I wanted to make the film of Mame in the worst way. But I was, quite simply, never asked. Look, I don't think she was in a position to be offered the part, and I think she ran with the ball, no pun. I don't blame Lucy a bit. I'd have done the same thing.

"But when I see those Billboards and Lucy with that cigarette holder clenched between her teeth, I must admit, I do wince. I think she plays Auntie Mame. I played Mame Dennis. Of course, we are totally different, and so are our approaches to Mame...I like to think I have a little more warmth...They felt like they needed a big name. They didn't trust my name to carry it. It was one of my bitterest disappointments."

Lansbury was honest about her feelings toward the film and Lucille playing the character. We'll never be sure whether the actress would've accepted the role, but producers did not ask her at all. It also hurt Lansbury's feelings.

"You bet it was a disappointment. At the time, I was terribly careful not to let it hurt me too much. I forced myself to take it lightly."

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