Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russel, was released in 1958 in scintillating Technicolor. Based on a novel by Patrick Dennis, which was also turned into a musical production, the story centers around the eccentric character of Mame Dennis set in the mid-1920s to mid-30s. Patrick Dennis, the previously mentioned author, is a young boy with a wealthy inheritance, becomes an orphan after his father dies. Due to this unfortunate event, he is sent to his next of kin, Mame. Upon arrival, he undergoes a cultural shock. The world that Patrick had known, uppercrust, is the exact opposite of the world that is Mame’s, a bohemian lifestyle full of diverse and varied individuals.
Along with his substantial inheritance, there is a trustee that oversees Patrick and tries to carry out the wishes of his late father. The trustee, Dwight Babcock, is a major character of the story and remains throughout, representing a bridge from the unconventional world of Mame to the polite society that he was born into. Babcock continually disapproves of that world and how it “negatively” affects Patrick. He insists on sending Patrick to boarding school, only allowing for Mame to have custody of him during Christmas and summer. This is devastating news to both Mame and Patrick, who have forged a strong bond. Also, during this time, the Great Depression has struck, forcing Mame to seek out occupations as wild and varied as her, including Broadway acting, telephone operating, cashiering at Macy’s.
While working at Macy’s during the Christmas season, Mame meets Beauregard Burnside, a rich oiler from the south. He is taken by Mame’s charm, and the two begin a romance. Eventually the two marry, but, unfortunately, Beau dies in an accident on their honeymoon. All the while, Patrick is growing up and his ideals are being molded to the cast that Mr. Babcock prefers. He tells Mame of his intentions to marry a girl named Gloria who is “top drawer.” Mame is disappointed to find that this girl is shallow and conceited, reflecting the archetypical snobbery of polite society. When Mame goes to visit her parents, they are similar, looking down their noses at people like Mame and those she interacts with. The film escalates in a single scene where Mame invites to her home Patrick, Gloria, Gloria’s parents, Mr. Babcock and a slew of other exciting and lovable characters that we have seen throughout the film and who have been influential on Patrick and his life. The scene proves to expose Gloria and her parents for being shallow bigots and opening Patrick’s eyes to what really matters.
This is one of my favorite movies. It has a strong, female role with a character who encourages others to be themselves. Mame’s famous line from this movie sums up her personality and the nature of this film: “Live! Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” All the characters, even the ones we aren’t rooting for, are interesting, entertaining, and well-rounded. The film teaches an important lesson in that diversity is favorable, and that if an individual is lacking in substance, they aren’t worth your time. It also teaches the importance of family and how family is more than blood relatives. The relationship between Patrick and Mame is touching and is the central theme of the story. While watching, you will laugh and cry and be moved. The entire movie is simply a treat to enjoy. I thoroughly encourage everyone to watch it.