Auntie Mame was on TCM tonight and I'd only seen bits and pieces of it before (A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob was on earlier and it was my first time for that one as well!). I gotta say, I was pretty underwhelmed. There's so much hype around this movie, not just in comparison to 1974's production. AM undoubtably has much funnier one-liners and little bits of business, but I think Mame '74 (whether it was the choice of the stage musical or the movie) did some very wise streamlining to the story. IMO Gooch is much better as one character. When Gooch realizes that she's actually married, Patrick joyfully kisses her but it made me try and remember whether or not the two had even shared a scene together previously.
AM also occasionally had clunky motivation. For example, when Roz Russell is being pounced on by her co-author, she has a very funny line about Gooch and her Dr. Pepper. Later on, the "Will it mix with Dr. Pepper?" exchange is just between Agnes and Mame, not including Vera like the musical had done. "He'll love it!" is hilarious coming from Bea Arthur, who is soused and probably doesn't know what Dr. Pepper is (I doubt Vera used mixers). It's not nearly as funny when Roz says it, because her Mame was already aware of Gooch's carbonated habits. I hope that doesn't sound too nitpicky, but it's one of the moments that threw me off.
I found Russell to be just about the only cast member I preferred seeing over the '74 version. If they'd included all of those great zingers for Lucy, I have no doubt she would have done her own excellent spin on them rather than being in a constant haute movie star bent. Russell's Mame comes off as less assured than Lucy's, and even a little phony at times. Peggy Cass made me laugh sometimes and cringe others. Save for my chronically skipping over "What Do I Do Now?", I really like Jane Connell's performance. Almost everyone else in AM have already left my head. '74 certainly stacked the deck with wonderful character actors. Joyce Van Patten's Sally Cato is even more awesome now that I've seen her predecessor. Joanna Barnes did an okay job of playing Gloria Upson, but Doria Cook-Nelson (married to Craig T.!) was Gloria Upson. I've been in the country club pool with multiple Gloria Upsons, and Cook-Nelson hits the nail on the head. Although today, instead of "Scrumptious", they all say "Oh My GOOoooOOd!" and "Saaaame!", and the Bryn-Mawr affect is more Valley Girl upspeak.
Morton DaCosta's staging is understandably, well, stagey. It was probably the best choice. It made me feel like '74 was much more cinematic than I'd thought it to be. Gene Saks' work wasn't ideal, but his version does have some terrific moments that you could only get in a movie. Maybe because Lucy's Mame was a musical, the heightened emotions make me buy into these characters more. I don't know. I thought 74's production design was better, as well. For all of my griping, I'd still call Auntie Mame a better movie than Mame, but not at all by the wide margin it's considered to be.