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Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the legendary musical-comedy writing team, departed from form to deal in straight comedy in Warner Bros.' Auntie Mame (1958), adapting a stage hit from another great writing team - Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The Broadway play had, in turn, been adapted from the Patrick Dennis novel and would later be a musical on both stage and screen, with Angela Lansbury and Lucille Ball among the many actresses who would follow Rosalind Russell in the role of Mame Dennis. The madcap aunt of an orphaned boy, Mame enlists her gang of eccentric friends to help teach the youngster to "live, live, live!" Russell, who originated the role with smashing success on Broadway and in the movie, was nominated for both a Tony and an Oscar®. The film of Auntie Mame was nominated for five other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Comden was born in Brooklyn in 1917, Green in the Bronx in 1915. The pair began their lifelong collaboration by performing together in nightclubs in 1944. They wrote the book and lyrics for many successful Broadway musicals including the Tony-winning Wonderful Town, a 1953 musical version of My Sister Eileen starring their good friend Russell, with music by Leonard Bernstein. Among the many MGM film hits on which Comden and Green collaborated are Good News (1947), On the Town (1950), Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953) and Bells Are Ringing (1960).
In addition to their writing accomplishments, Comden and Green have distinguished themselves as performers in concerts of their own work, TV specials and movies. Comden acted in Slaves of New York (1989) and Garbo Talks (1984) playing Greta Garbo! Greens film-acting credits include Simon (1980) and My Favorite Year (1982). A common misconception about the pair is that they are husband and wife; each has enjoyed happy marriages with others. Their mutual admiration has been well documented. In her 1995 autobiography Off Stage, Comden wrote, "The mythic character in my life, my partner Adolph Green, it seems to me must have sprung full-blown from his own head. There is no other head quite capable of having done the job. Only his head has the antic, manic imagination and offbeat creative erudite-plus childlike originality to conceive of such a person."
Producer/Director: Morton DaCosta
Screenplay: Betty Comden, Adolph Green, from the novel by Patrick Dennis and the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Production Design: Malcolm C. Bert
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Editing: William H. Ziegler
Original Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Rosalind Russell (Mame Dennis), Forrest Tucker (Beauregard Burnside), Coral Browne (Vera Charles), Fred Clark (Mr. Babcock), Roger Smith (Patrick Dennis, older), Patric Knowles (Lindsay Woolsey), Peggy Cass (Agnes Gooch), Jan Handzlik (Patrick Dennis, younger), Joanna Barnes (Gloria Upson), Pippa Scott (Pegeen Ryan).
by Roger Fristoe