US, 1958, 144 minutes, Colour.
Rosalind Russell, Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne, Fred Clark,
Patric Knowles, Peggy Cass, Lee Patrick, Joanna Barnes.
Directed by Morton da Costa.
Auntie Mame was based on Patrick Dennis's very popular story of his eccentric aunt. Rosalind Russell created the role on stage (and it is said that Dennis based his characterisation on her). She was the star of this lavish film version of 1958 - nominated for several Oscars including Best Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Cass as Agnes Gooch).
The film is a lavish production in Technirama, directed by stage director Morton da Costa (The Music Man). Rosalind Russell is full of verve in the Eve Arden vein. She has pleasing support from a range of characters including Coral Browne as Vera Charles, Lee Patrick as a snobbish New England mother, Roger Smith as the grown-up Patrick, Fred Clark. There is excellent atmosphere, re-creation of the period, attractive score by Bronislau Kaper.
The film became a musical, a stage success for Angela Lansbury and, less successfully, with Lucille Ball on screen.
The film is an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek view of the American decades of this century - and a satiric look at pretensions and snobbery.
1. The film's acclaim, popularity over the decades? Entertainment quality? Americana?
2 Production values: the length of the film, the use of wide screen processes and brilliant colour, costumes and decor, sense of period? The lavish sequences in streets, shops, homes, theatre, hunting sequences? The atmospheric musical score?
3. Rosalind Russell creating the role - a particular presence and style, humour, scatterbrained wisdom, pretensions, authenticity? Mame as a changing character over the decades and Rosalind Russell's skill at both the comic and the serious? A memorable American theatrical personality?
4. The portrait of Mame - the impact of her scattiness at the initial party, the range of her guests, eccentricities, her own behaviour, caught up in the social whirl, wealth? The initial encounter with Patrick, her welcoming him, getting him, to write down words, not understanding him, but loving him? Her welcoming him into her home? The affection that she-showed? His response to her and his changing her? Mr Babcock and his visit - and the frantic efforts to get dressed, the wig etc.? Vera and her obtrusive presence? Patrick making the martini? The discussions about schools? Her sending him to the progressive school? Mr Babcock's confrontation and sending him to St. Boniface's? Her alarm at what was happening? Her being courted, her friends, Nora and her servant changing, their bewildered attitudes and supporting her? The impact of the Wall Street Crash? Her greater concern about losing Patrick? Her going back to the theatre with Vera and the comedy of her trying to steal the limelight, taking all the bows, Patrick's support of her? Her failure as a telephone operator? The sequence in Macey's and her ability to write dockets? The encounter with Beauregard, the Christmas sadness at home, the servants paying off her debts, Beauregard's sudden arrival, the transformation? Her going to the South - her glamour, the hostility of the southerners, the animosity of the girl giving her Meditation to ride at the hunt, her trying to avoid the issue, her hanging on and succeeding? Beauregard's attempted proposal, his proposal? Her soothing Patrick? The trips around the world, the international flavour, the photos, Patrick's letters and his growing up, her fears and returns to America? Beauregard's death? Her being the mourning widow? Her return, the scheme to get her to write the book, Brian O'Banion and his sponging and flirting, Agnes Gooch and her awkwardness? Patrick's engagement to Gloria - and her horror at Gloria's manner and Patrick's snobbery? The visit by Gloria and Mame trying to cope, her visit to Gloria's parents, the drinks with honey, the food and recipes, their pretensions, their exclusivism and anti-Semitic prejudices? Her invitation to them, Agnes's pregnancy, Pegeen and her help, the arrival of the parents and their corny jokes, her humiliating them with the seats, Mr Babcock and the mobile, the drinks, the refreshments, Vera and her style, Agnes's pregnancy and being unmarried, the manuscript of her book and people enjoying it? Gloria's telling the story - and the lack of response? The buying of the property for a Jewish refugee home - the last straw? Mame's victory and Patrick's gratitude? Her remarriage, the visit to India, her visit home, her love for Michael - and educating him in the same way as she had educated Patrick? A strong portrait of a strong woman?
5. Patrick and the opening about his father's will, his being bequeathed to Mame, with cautions, his arrival, coping with the strange party, his love for Mame, going to school and being rescued by Mr Babcock, his having to go to the more orderly school, the holiday and his gallantry to Mame after her fiasco in the play, the Christmas outing, helping Mame at the hunt, going back to school, the holidays, his growing up, college boy, snobbery, 'top drawer', his infatuation with Gloria, her parents, his caution about Mame and his saying hurtful things to her? Her opening his eyes and the happy reconciliation? Marrying Pegeen?
6. Vera Charles - and Coral Browne's study in alcoholic eccentricity, first lady of the stage, the comedy of her performance and Mame ruining it, her friendship with Mame and coming to the party? Agnes Gooch and her clumsiness, ability with words, transformed by Mame, going out with Brian, marrying him, the unwed mother, her comic touches?
7. Mr Babcock and his bank, snobbery? Hold over Patrick and plans for him? Gloria and her flat tone, narrow interest, 'braced brain'? Infatuation with Patrick, her parents and their pretensions and snobbery, the visit by Mame and its slap-happy tone, their visit to Mame and the humiliation? Gloria breaking off?
8. Beauregard and his southern gallantry, his family and. their suspicions, the comedy of the hunt, the proposal? His taking photos - and the comic touch of his death? The contrast with the publisher’ and his continued attentions to Mame, his loyal support, publishing the book?
9. The range of eccentrics - the people at the Opening Day, the headmaster of the progressive school, Brian O'Banion and Irish charm? Theatre people?
10. The film's presentation of comic and serious themes? Its focus on growing up, processes of education, modelling, broad-mindedness, narrow-mindedness, snobbery? Mame as an American figure? breaking through American stuffiness with spontaneous authenticity?