Set between 1928 and 1946, Auntie Mame is the story of Mame Dennis, an eccentric New York socialite, and the orphaned nephew she must raise. At first poor little Patrick is seen as another project for Mame, but she soon grows to love the boy, and feels she must save him from the restrictions placed on him by his father's will. She takes him traveling, marries a rich oilman during the depression, and breaks up what would have been a stifling marriage for Patrick to a racist, bourgeois family. Her motto is that life is worth living, worth taking a chance on.
The film--by the same writing team of Singin' in the Rain--was adapted from a stage play, and odd for Hollywood, it acknowledges its source material in the filming, by using spotlights and noticeable scene changes. Unlike most films, which simply cut from one scene to another, this film brings down the lights, focusing a spotlight on a certain action or look, before switching to the next scene. It gives a stage feel, and yet this serves to retain the larger-than-life character of Mame, instead of forcing a false sense of initmacy with the character.
The play--from the team who wrote Inherit the Wind amongst many others--was based on the novel by Patrick Dennis, who claims this is a memoir of his years growing up with his aunt in New York. However, the figure of Patrick Dennis is himself only a creation and pen name of the equally eccentric writer Edward Everett Tanner III.
This film--one of my mother's favorites--had a huge impact on me as a child. The message that life is to be lived, that experiences are not to be denied simply out of fear, that mind expansion (and not just through the use of foreign substances) is a good thing--this radically changed my impressionable young mind. And overall, I think I'm better for it.
Mame: Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!
Patrick: Isn't she British? She sounds British.
Mame: No, dear, she's from Pittsburgh.
Patrick: But she sounds British
Mame: Well, when you're from Pittsburgh, you have to do something.
Mame: Well, now, uh, read me all the words you don't understand.
Patrick: Libido, inferiority complex, stinko, blotto, free love, bathtub gin, monkey glands, Karl Marx... is he one of the Marx Brothers? ...Neurotic, heterosexual...
Mame: Oh, my my my my, what an eager little mind. You won't need some of these words for months and months.
Mame: My boy, I will open doors for you. Doors you never even knew existed.
Directed by: Morton DaCosta
Written by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which was based on the novel by Patrick Dennis.
Rosalind Russell .... Mame Dennis
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 - younger
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
Carol Veazie .... Mrs. Burnside
Henry Brandon .... Acacius Page