Auntie Mame (1958)
Reviewed on 2008 August 16
I was lucky enough to have something of an Auntie Mame in my life. She was my dad’s sister. Before most women even worked outside the home, she ran — no, commanded — her own business alongside her husband, and she must have been good at it, since she took several vacations to exotic places and drove a banana-yellow Towncar that was larger than my college dorm room. She never fed me “fishberry jam” but she did serve us the first rumaki I ever tasted. I think of her every time I watch this movie.
Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell) is a stock market socialite who spends most of her days being fabulous and most of her nights throwing cocktail parties. It’s 1928 and despite the Prohibition, Mame still supplies her guests with fine liquors and manages to get away with it. Her brother Edwin, who we never see but can imagine clearly thanks to his grumpy voice-overs, reluctantly entrusts his son Patrick to her care in the event of his death. The unthinkable happens, and Patrick (Jan Handzlik) is delivered to Mame’s swanky apartment while a party is in full swing.
Mame may be an eccentric, but she’s got a heart as big as her wardrobe. From the beginning she fits Patrick into her life as easily as a new piece of art, taking his hand and proudly introducing him to everyone at the party as her little boy. For the next 143 minutes we watch Patrick grow up with a woman that may seem flaky, but clearly adores her little charge and will do everything she can for him. She may not be traditional, but she’ll guarantee he’ll have a rich life and an open mind.
Rosalind Russell was amazing, anchoring Mame’s craziness perfectly to her obvious goodness. I can’t understand why this was remade, even with a talent like Lucille Ball. The acting was good, even the parts where it’s a little cartoony. Handzlik is great as young Patrick, apprehensive of his new environment at first and then going along for the ride. (Roger Smith is also solid as the older Patrick.) The set designs are wonderful too. Does anyone else watch this and drool over that apartment? Or some of the incredible vintage clothes?
Four chocolate morsels.