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Mame is an unconventional individualist socialite from the roaring 20's. When her brother dies, she is forced to raise her nephew Patrick. However, Patrick's father has designated an executor to his will to protect the boy from absorbing too much of Mame's rather unconventional perspective. Patrick and Mame become devoted to each other in spite of this restriction, and together journey through Patrick's childhood and the great depression, amidst some rather zaney adventures. Written by
Ross Thompson <email@example.com>
From the cartoon kaleidoscope opening to the last walk up the staircase for Mame Dennis, this comically-contrived and highly theatrical movie version of the celebrated Broadway success is nevertheless pleasing in almost every sense. Director Morton DaCosta, who also helmed the stage version, uses the theatricality of the piece to his advantage, giving the proceedings the shiny look and feel of a holiday bauble. The movie takes off running, bursting with chatter and frivolity, and Rosalind Russell is a great crazy-quilt hostess, often going in three directions at once. The story of an orphaned lad in 1928 who goes to live with his batty aunt in New York City started life as a book by Patrick Dennis, with Russell playing the lead once it was turned into a play. The film-version doesn't try to disguise the stage origins, but then it doesn't really have to; DaCosta keeps the pacing so brisk, with characters entering and exiting rapidly, that initially the viewer may feel as though something important may have been missed. The picture isn't loaded down with artificial charm. On the contrary, the romantic sub-plot between Russell and oil tycoon Forrest Tucker (which, again, is quick--in and out) is genuinely sweet (this is Tucker's triumph as much as it is Russell's) and the supporting players are impeccably well-cast, bouncing off each other like frenetic ornaments. While the plot does slip into an episodic structure (and does feel a bit lengthy), the smooth maneuvering of characters and quirks and hang-ups and hang-overs is an awful lot of fun. As for Russell, she gives shading and feeling to this woman; her exuberance can be taken as a put-on (for laughs), yet we never lose sight of Mame Dennis as a ballsy, bright lady, and she never lapses into bitchiness. Mame may have been real, or maybe just a literary confection, but she isn't a phony. She believes life is a banquet, and gets us to believe it too. *** from ****
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