"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" is the philosophy by which the colorful, glamorous and rich character of Mame Dennis lives. Based on the popular novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame
(1958) stars Rosalind Russell in her celebrated interpretation of the title role that she created first on Broadway. The comedy kicks off in 1928 Manhattan when Mame, in the midst of one of her legendary cocktail parties, comes face to face with her young orphaned nephew Patrick (Jan Handzlik) who has been bequeathed to her care following the sudden death of her brother. As Patrick's legal guardian, Mame embraces her maternal instincts without giving up her flair for the eccentric as she encourages her impressionable nephew to "live, live, live" life with vigor and an open mind. Meanwhile, Patrick's stuffy trustee (Fred Clark), whose job it is to supervise his upbringing, turns a sharp eye of disapproval towards Mame and her unconventional ways. Through a series of hilarious and often touching vignettes that span the course of 20 years, Mame uses her inimitable charm and resourcefulness to make it through the Great Depression, land a wealthy doting husband (Forrest Tucker), and keep Patrick from falling in with a family of bigoted snobs. Life is never boring when Auntie Mame is around, and Rosalind Russell is absolutely unforgettable in what came to be her signature role.
CAST AND CREW
Director: Morton DaCosta
Writers: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Based on the stage play Auntie Mame
by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, produced by Robert Fryer and Lawrence Carr
Based on the book Auntie Mame
by Patrick Dennis
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Sr.
Art Direction: Malcolm Bert
Set Decorator: George James Hopkins
Editing: William Ziegler
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Rosalind Russell (Auntie Mame), Forrest Tucker (Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside), Coral Browne (Vera Charles), Fred Clark (Dwight Babcock), Roger Smith (Patrick Dennis, older), Patric Knowles (Lindsay Woolsey), Peggy Cass (Agnes Gooch), Jan Handzlik (Patrick Dennis, as a child), Joanna Barnes (Gloria Upson), Pippa Scott (Pegeen Ryan), Lee Patrick (Doris Upson), Willard Waterman (Claude Upson), Robin Hughes (Brian O'Bannion), Connie Gilchrist (Norah Muldoon), Yuki Shimoda (Ito), Brook Byron (Sally Cato McDougal), Carol Veazie (Mrs. Burnside)
C - 143 min.
Why AUNTIE MAME is Essential
was the first big screen adaptation of Patrick Dennis' celebrated 1955 novel of the same name and its subsequent 1956 stage version. It was a smash success, becoming the top box office grosser of 1958, and was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture.
The star of Auntie Mame
, Rosalind Russell, scored such a triumph in the colorful role of Mame Dennis that she forever became associated with the part. It was one of the great successes of her career, and her performance caused her to forever be considered the definitive Mame.
With its crackling wit, perfect casting and hilarious situations, Auntie Mame
is one of the greatest comedies to ever be put on the silver screen. With the perfection of Rosalind Russell in the mythical title role, the story becomes an almost unapologetic antithetical response to the impossibly perfect image of 1950s suburban America. Auntie Mame
may have been set in the 1920s through the 1950s, but its take on unconventional families is fresh, modern and relevant even today.
The character of Auntie Mame completely revitalized the career of Rosalind Russell, first on the Broadway stage and then on the big screen. Having long been a top level movie star throughout the 1930s and 40s, Russell's career in Hollywood was dwindling as she settled into middle age. The role of Mame Dennis fit her like a glove. It gave her the chance to be glamorous and showcase her sharp comedic talents, which reminded the world that she was still a vital force to be reckoned with. The success of the play made her the toast of Broadway, and the hit film gave her her first Oscar® nomination as Best Actress in more than a decade.
The huge success of Auntie Mame
helped revitalize the financially strapped Warner Bros. Studios. Warner Bros. at the time was desperate for a hit having suffered through a string of recent disappointments which put the once thriving studio increasingly in the red. Auntie Mame
was the answer to their prayers and helped restore the studio's former glory.
by Andrea Passafiume