The popular novel, Broadway play, and movie depicted the experience of Patrick, a rich orphan who comes to live with his eccentric aunt.
I think patrick is about 11 or 12 when he arrive's at Mame's apartment. In the first part of the story he wears smart short pants suits, always with perfectly pulled up knee socks. His school uniform is a black short pants suit, with an English-style peaked school cap. I'm not sure how accurate this was. By the 1940s the standard American short pants suit was black or navy blue, but I'm not sure this was the case in 1929. Patrick is delighted with Aunty Mame buys him his first long pants. He wants to put them on right away. There is a follow up scene several years later when Patrick is in college. Mame buys him a pair of Bermuda shorts which were becoming popular among older boys at the time and he is again delighted. Another real favorite of mine based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis. At the end there is a brief scene with Patrick's son also smartly dressed in a short pants suit. The director was Moton Da Costa.
Morton Da Costa produced and directed Auntie Mame, and also has a bit part playing Patrick's father. He closes many scenes by freezing the actors, darkening the set, and putting a spotlight on Russell's face. This technique seems artificial, but it does express the warmth and vitality of Russell's character and the sense of a Broadway play.
The screen version was written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and is a very clever depiction od the book, although the tome-line is a bit distorted. The film was made while Hollywood was
still under the thumb of the hidebound production code so the book had to be toned down a bit. The book was a great read, but many of the best gags in the film such as Patrick flare at making martinins (throwing out the vermouth), a pregnant Gooch on the stair case, and the flaming drinks are Russell's ideas.
"Auntie Mame" is about a boy deposited with his excentric, some would say dememted over the top aunt is another real film favorite of mine based on the humerous novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis. The popular 1955 novel depicted the experience of Patrick, a rich orphan who comes to live with his eccentric aunt. Another real favorite of mine based on the humerous novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis (aka Ed Fitzgerald). The author and boy in the book do not share the same name by accident. The book is in part autobiographical. Fitzgerald always insisted publicly that his book was purely fictional. Actually he did have a very real eccentric aunt--Marion Tanner. Her life and basic outlook was similar to Mame, but we suspect did not reach the same level of insanity. Dennis was, however, raised by both his parents. His book was an immediate runaway best seller. It set records on the New York Times bestseller list. Patrick Dennis later wrote a sequel, Around The World With Auntie Mame.
The exuberant Broadway stage play was based on the novel by Patrick Dennis. With the success of Patrick' Dennis' book, producers Robert Fryer and Lawrence Carr immediately grasped the Broadway potential. Carr in particular was struck by the comic potential of Mame Dennis. [Jordon] Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee adapted into a long-running Broadway play. Fryer was already familiar with Russel Rosalind Russel so she was a quick choice for the title role of Mame Dennis. The original cast also included Robert Allen as Mr. Babcock, Robert Smith as Beau, and Peggy Cass as Agnes Gooch. Lawrence and Lee sketched our the young Patrick that they were looking for, "A completely natural, inuistive, unprecocious child who progresses from 10 to 14 years during the play." The play opened at the Broadhurst Theater. It opened in October 1956 and ran through January 1958 with a total of 639 performances. It was directed by Morton Da Costa.
A virtual newconer. Jan Handzlik (1945), played Patrick Dennis. He was the son of Jean Handzlik, a minor Broadway actress. Russel says that he was 9 years old when the production began to prepare, but that does not seem to jibe with his 1945 bityhdate. Jan also played the relatively minor role of Michael Dennis. Both Russell and Cass received Tony Award nominations (1957). Cass actually won the award. This popular 1958 film version permited Rosalind Russell to recreate her stage role as Mame Dennis.
A musical appeared on Broadway named Mame (1966). It was of course also based on Patrick Dennis' book Auntie Mame, but basically followed the plot of the original Broadway production of "Auntie Mame". It had a wonderful musical score by Jerry Herman. Broadway legend Mary Martin turned down the title role. Several other actresses were considered. The part of Mame eventually went to Angela Lansbury. There were five previews. The musical
opened on May 24, 1966 at the Winter Garden Theatre. (May 1966). It was directed by Gene Saks and choreographed by Onna White, The musical moved to the Broadway Theatre (1969) It remained there for the rest of the run. There were an impressive 1,508 performances. Angela Lansbury was very good as Mame. Beatrice Arthur played Vera Charles.
rankie Michaels (1955- ) played Patrick. He was very good in the role, winning a Tony (1966). He was the youngest person ever to e=win the award. The Broadway musical was made into a film version Mame with Lucille Ball (1974). Lucille Ball was chosen becuse she had has huge "Q" rating (public awareness level). There was considerable discussion about this, but in the end Lucy was chosen because of her bix-office appeal. The production, however, was disappointing. The reviews for the film in general and Lucy in particular were hiighly critical. Lucy's performance was adequate. But how can anyone really criticize Lucille Ball. She is a legend. "Mame" was certinly not, however, the highpoint of her career. Her performance was not spectacular. It did not match Russell's Mame Dennis. Neither was The boy playing Patrick was not as effective as Jan Handzlik.
"Aunty Mame" included many fine performances by a cast of superb comic actresses who make the film come alive. The actors here were inspired choices. The chemistry was just right. Of course the most important was Rosalind Russell who made Mame Dennis come alive both on Broadway and in the film version. She was ably assisted by both the adult actors and children in the producuction. Peggy Cass gave a memorable performance as Mame's secretary Agness Gouch. The actor who played Mr. Babcock was also very effective. And Jan Handzlik who also played the prt of the young Patrick on Broadway was just perfect for the part. In fact, when one reads the book it is the Mame, Patrivk, Mr. Babcock, and Agnes Gouch fromthe film that immediately come to mind.
Always armed with a colorful dress and an acerbic quip, the flamboyant, vibrant socialite Mame Dennis is the quintessential roaring 20's flapper, with a huge desire to live life to enjoy it and also just for the hell of it. Into this world comes her young orphaned nephew Patrick Dennis, . Immediately the two fall in love with each other, and she spends the rest of the movie, which takes us through the Great Depression and beyond, trying to rescue him from the stuffy, conventionalist people he's used to. The boy is left in Mame's care when his millionaire father drops dead. Nora Muldoon introduces Patrick to Mame on October 1, 1928. Patrick quickly learns about his aunt's philosophy that "Life is a banquet--and some poor suckers are starving to death." (the original line on stage was "sons of bitches" rather than "suckers". The film was made while Hollywood was
still under the thumb of the hidebound production code so the book had to be toned down a bit. ). Social-climbing bank executor, Dwight Babcock, does his best to raise Patrick as a snooty WASP aristocrat. He packs Patrick off to his alma mater--St. Boniface. This brings us to the main theme of the book, Aunty Mame battles Babcock to allow the boy to be a free-spirit like her. There are a couple of bumps along the way, but there are plenty of fun adventures that prove that Mame is one hell of a woman. After losing her fortune in the 1929 Wall Street crash, Mame makes the acquaintance of the charming oil tycoon Beauregard Jackson Picket Burnside (Forrest Tucker). She proves that she loves Burnside for himself rather than his millions during a zany fox-hunt sequence, and her subsequent marriage to Burnside assures her nephew's financial future. Left a widow when her husband falls off an Alp, the disconsolate Mame decides to keep busy by writing her memoirs, with frowzy secretary Agnes Gooch (Peggy Cass) acting as her stenographer. Mame and her best friend, eternally drunken actress Vera Charles decide to come to the loveless Gooch's emotional rescue by fixing her up with a date--and the result is an almost instantaneous pregnancy for the luckless Agnes, who is then "adopted" by big-hearted Mame. All of the film's various plot lines are threaded together in a climactic party scene, in which Mame tries to save her grown-up nephew from a disastrous marriage to a shallow socialite (Joanna Barnes). Auntie Mame nonetheless delivers solid laughs throughout, with Rosalind Russell absolutely brilliant in the role she was born to play.
Mame's nephew Patrick in the first part of the film wears smart short pants suits, always with perfectly pulled up knee socks. His school uniform is a black short pants suit, with an English-style peaked school cap. I'm not sure how accurate this was. By the 1940s the standard American short pants suit was black or navy blue, but I'm not sure this was the case in 1929. His outfits seem more 1950s styles. Patrick is delighted with Aunty Mame buys him his first long pants. He wants to put them on right away. There is a follow up scene several years later when Patrick is in college. Mame buys him a pair of Bermuda shorts which were becoming popular among older boys at the time and he is again delighted. At the end there is a brief scene with Patrick's son also smartly dressed in a short pants suit. One scene deals with clothing. The Christmas scene in which Patrick gets his first pair of long pants ("at last!" as he says) is memorable. It comes a bit out of nowhere, doesn't it, because Patrick hadn't indicated any resentment or any feelings at all towards his short pants suit previously. A HBC reader speculates while Patrick never expresses dislike for his short pants suits in the film, maybe his receiving long trousers for Christmas represents a coming of age ritual that would have been familiar to many boys at the time. His comments, then, reflect not disdain for "boys' clothes" but appreciation of his new, higher status (a step towards adulthood) symbolized by his long trousers.
We note a lot of local theater groups doing "Auntie Mame" in the 1960s and 70s. A reader asks, "I wonder if local theater groups perform 'Auntie Mame' these days." I think this began to decline in the 80s. I'm not sure why, but I think that while the play was challenging and touched on issues considered somewhat off color or even risque. America by the 1980s had changed and the play is no longer seen as avaunt guard.
"Auntie Mame" is a wonderful comic romp with a great ensemble of characters. It perhaps is a casulty of the times. When it was made it was a bit risque and had some shock value. Standards have so changed in America that the film no longer has any shock value. Even so it holds up very nicely.
HBC will archive reader comments on the movie here. Ine reader writes, "The 1958 version of "Aunt Mame" is still a delight to watch. AMC and Turner Classics run it several times a year. It seems to have a permanent place in their rotation of films. It appears to have become a Christmas classic, although Christmas is only a relatively small part of the film.."
Russel, Russel. Life is a Banquet (New York: Ace, 1979).
Jordan, Richard Tyler and Jerry Herman. But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame!.
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