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Auntie Mame is a long movie, but it goes by as fast as a giggle!! There are few movies that I care to watch over and over again. I never tire of Auntie Mame because the screenplay is simply a brilliant piece of work. Comden and Greene are from the laudable days where one was expected to engage the brain when writing comedy! Practically every line is a quotable classic. Warner Brothers did us all a service by hiring theater director Morton da Costa to recreate the Broadway stage play. The movie is classy, sumptuously designed and brilliantly staged with those exquisite blackouts after each scene. Rosalind Russell should have won an Academy Award for this role (she refused to campaign for it) because no one will ever come close to getting that perfect timing that she displays in every scene. You love her from the moment she shakes the monkey's hand in the second scene. The supporting cast is perfection, especially Coral Browne, an undeservedly little known actress who makes a meal of Vera Charles. Peggy Cass is hilarious as Agnes Gooch; Forrest Tucker a charmer as Burnside. Everything about this picture makes it a true classic of the American cinema; one of those rare movies that makes you laugh, but even more important, makes you feel good!!! They don't get any better than this!
Sometimes you see a movie and you know that the actor or actress in it
was born to play that part.
Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind
Bette Davis in All About Eve
Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly
Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame
I love Russell and the parts she played. She was a liberated woman before the rest of the world knew that women needed to be liberated.
But in Auntie Mame she reached her peak. Mame is so vibrant and alive. She flaunts every one of Mame's eccentricities without stepping over the line into caricature. She also brings alive Mame's decency, compassion and tolerance. When I watch it, I almost feel ashamed of myself for being such a stick in the mud.
I enjoyed the musical with Lucille Ball, but all the way through it - I wanted it to be Rosalind Russell playing the part. It takes very little imagination on my part to hear her singing the songs. Rosalind, you are "just sensational" as Mame.
When "Auntie Mame" was first published, I read and re-read it (and its
sequel, "Around the World with Auntie Mame") for several summers.
Believe it or not, the books are even funnier than the film. They were
not "memoirs," though that was the PR at the time. Edward Everett
Tanner, or "Patrick Dennis," ultimately admitted as much. Auntie Mame
was a creation from Tanner's own talented imagination.
No one ever has, or ever will, embody Auntie Mame as well as Rosalind Russell, who, by the time her Broadway performance in the role was filmed, had honed her portrayal to one of the finest in American theatre and film.
Listen to her vocal technique: from high girlish squeals to basso-profundo sarcasm.
Or watch her remarkable body language throughout -- from grande dame theatricality to lowbrow burlesque.
Russell's supporting players are magnificent -- from the 12-year old Jan Handzlik, through Coral Browne, Peggy Cass, Forrest Tucker, Fred Clark, Patrick Knowles, Connie Gilchrist, Yuki Shimoda, Robin Hughes, Roger Smith, Pippa Scott -- and, my own particular favorites who almost, but not quite, steal their scenes from Miss Russell: Willard Waterman, Lee Patrick and Joanna Barnes as the unforgettable Upsons.
George James Hopkins' brilliant sets and set design, and Orry-Kelly's amazing costumes, along with Branislau Kaper's score and Morton Da Costa's direction are like Tiffany settings, showing off this flawless cast at the top of their form.
Lawrence and Lee's original Broadway script was adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, whose main contribution would appear to be the hydraulic furniture at the final dinner party.
The famous line, originally from the Broadway play and not found in the novel, is "Life is a banquet! And most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death!" "Damn" and "hell" both are heard in the film: but "sons-of-bitches" was apparently too strong for the MPAA in 1958.
Is the film dated? I suppose. In the same way that "Citizen Kane" is dated, or "Some Like It Hot." It's also timeless. And Miss Russell's performance, here at the zenith of her long and distinguished comedic and dramatic career (Eugene O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra," anybody?) is an acting lesson unto itself.
This is one of the best films I have EVER seen, and I watch a lot of films, as I am sure most of you do. First, it is an excellent adaptation of the book. They managed to follow the story line extremely well. Yes, somethings were left out, but all and all, they did a great job. Second, Rosaline Russell rocks! It doesn't matter what character she plays, she is fantastic, but she IS Mame, nobody can do it like her. Forget about the musical version (MAME) with Lucille Ball ( who is a great actress in her own right, but certainly not in the same ballpark with Ms. Russell). Third, it is not only funny, but heartwarming. The relationship between Mame and Patrick speaks volumes about what love should be, completely accepting of who the other person is, even if you don't always agree with them or like what they do. Fantastic family film, fun for everyone.
Rosalind Russel in the role of a lifetime. Auntie Mame leads her
beloved nephew on a roller-coaster ride from riches to rags back to
riches, always teaching the boy to "live life to the fullest". The
story begins just prior to the great stock market crash of 1929 and
spins into present day (1958).
There are delightful moments with colorful characters, most noteworthy "Miss Gooch", an unwed mother and thus an outcast of respectable society. There are several touching scenes when the family is suffering in the great depression, but just as many funny ones, i. e. where Auntie Mame puts some biggoted snobs in their place.
I enjoyed this film slightly more than the later Lucille Ball musical version. Although Rosalind Russel is quite flamboyant, Lucille Ball is completely "over the top" and thus less credible. I recommend the 1958 original over the remake, although both are wonderful entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have no doubts that Mame Dennis' human counterpart must have been a
larger-than-life character and Patrick Dennis must have held a huge
admiration for this Renaissance woman who could touch anyone with her
carefree attitude towards life. Rosalind Russell, who's only other
major success in the Fifties (up until then) was a supporting role in
PICNIC, single-handedly takes full charge of her comic timing to create
a fully-formed person as Mame Dennis and in doing so has created a
legacy that will be remembered a hundred years from now.
The story of AUNTIE MAME is well-known for both movie goers and for theatre goers who saw not only Roz but Angela Lansbury as well. Mame Dennis is an eccentric character of a woman who is raising a young boy, Patrick, and exposing him to a flurry of her own misadventures, including the loss of her fortune in the stock market crash. Mame, however, perseveres through her own joie-de-vivre and despite working menial jobs and a bit part in a play starring her friend Vera Ralston. She meets and marries Beauregard Jackson Burnside despite the machinations of his family (and especially Sally Cato), travels the world, becomes a widow, and in later years, has to confront that Patrick, now a grown man, is embarrassed by her very personality and is about to marry into conformity.
Morton daCosta has created an ageless movie with a dazzling set direction that reflects the passing of time and the evolution of Mame's persona. Clearly not one to value tradition, we see her home slowly go from a product of its time to an avant-guard, ultra sleek place, to a shrine of Eastern civilization. Mame herself evolves despite playing the flake: if anything, she is not a twit but someone who is aware of herself and what life is all about, and there is a touching scene near the end in which she is in full, golden regalia, looking like a Hindu goddess, in which we see the real woman inside pouring light onto the set as she prepares for her next journey. Who else could have done such a thing with this character? She, like this film, is perfect.
With a perfect match between character and actress, Rosalind Russell's
unforgettable performance as "Auntie Mame" is almost enough to carry
the whole movie by itself. The story is also interesting, if quite
contrived, and most of the supporting cast helps out when needed. The
variety of settings and situations also helps to make the movie an
effective portrait of a life.
The story works best when taken as an appreciative but light-hearted portrayal of a memorable character. Many of Mame's adventures are stylized, and they work best when not taken too seriously. Given that, there are plenty of amusing sequences, and just enough thoughtful moments to maintain some balance.
Russell herself is in her element. With a character whom it is almost impossible to overplay, she gives the role plenty of energy and charm. She also works very well with the other characters, giving believable (given the character) and usually interesting reactions to what they say and do.
In the supporting cast, Forrest Tucker and Peggy Cass make good use of their scenes, and Fred Clark works well as Mame's frequent adversary. Coral Browne gets some good moments as Mame's old friend. The filming was approached in a rather stagy fashion, yet much of the time this seems appropriate. All told, the movie has a number of strengths, yet the memory most likely to remain is Russell's portrait of Mame herself.
Rosalind Russell -IS- Auntie Mame and there is no doubt in my mind that she being cast in the role was a perfect choice. I read Dennis' book and I have to stress that anyone who loves this film but who has not read the book should read it. I think they did a great job in adapting the novel to film although I could imagine the great temptation to include the very racy parts of the novel. If they did include them, the "G" rating would probably have needed to be changed to "R". One of my favorite lines in the film is delivered so expertly by actress Coral Browne (Vera Charles), who upon being wakened out of a drunken sleep (with bottle still in hand) looks out the window at the sun and says "Ohhh---that moon is bright". Another favorite line delivered by Russell (in Mame's comment about Vera Charles' phony English accent) "When your from Pittsburgh, you have to do something". Rosalind Russell brought such magic to the character of Auntie Mame so much so, that I wish I had an Aunt like her. Auntie Mame helps stress the point to appreciate diversity in life and to live life to the fullest. I have often chosen to watch my copy of this film when feeling low and I can tell you it is a spirit lifter.
"Auntie Mame" is a comedy for all time. It was released in 1958, and it remains a cinematic treasure for all to enjoy. Rosalind Russell gives the performance of her lifetime. She remains quick and witty throughout the film as Mame Dennis, the delightfully funny aunt of Patrick Dennis whose deceased father puts her in charge of his life. The author, also by the name of Patrick Dennis, deserves kudos for this excellent film adaptation. One of the more memorable characters, Agnes Gouch, played by Peggy Cass, provides the audience with comic antics that make you chuckle for days after viewing this picture. It is a perfectly delightful comedy that must be in the serious collector's film library. Don't miss it.
St. Iranaeous said it: "The glory of God is man fully alive."
Auntie Mame in her own way lives this life. This may not appear to be a deep movie. But, Mame lives a life that as Agnes Gooch says "I see what she's been living. And I see what I've been missing." She doesn't miss a moment. She's a caricature for so many of the things that go wrong with "growing up" and becoming "mature and responsible". At the end of the day Mame shows the possibilities of a life led to the full. Of a life that is truly vital and alive. This is a movie everyone who wants to leave this world without leaving money on the table should watch and take to heart. Mame is childlike, fun, and living without fear of what others think. This is on my top 10 list.
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