Monday, June 20, 2011

Homebody Film Series: Auntie Mame

It's been a while since I've done a movie post but I recently watched Auntie Mame (1958) starring Rosalind Russell and it seemed like it was high time for a new one. "Auntie Mame" is based on play based on a book written in 1955 by Patrick Dennis.

Patrick, incidentally, is the name of the nephew Mame takes in once her brother passes away. Patrick leaves his strict upbringing for Mame's crazy bohemian lifestyle in Manhattan just before the Depression. The film spans about fifteen years, while Mame and Patrick go through the Depression, wild cocktail parties, new philosophers, and a marriage to a guy in oil.

Oh, Rosalind Russell. She is amazing. I said it before: she steals every scene, like in The Women. Her comedic timing is fantastic and I can't imagine that, after her success on Broadway in the role, anyone else could've played it. What I love about the play, beyond Russell's performance, is the way the play pokes fun at class. Patrick's beneficiary (a man from the bank--yuck) pushes him into a hoity-toity prep school. He becomes overly concerned  about appearances and gets set to marry the dreadful New England debutante Gloria Upson, who's all Mumsy and Dadsy. This is exactly what happens to likes of Gloria Upson in the wake of Mame Dennis.

"Auntie Mame" is also great because it reminds us that subculture existed before the Beats. It's really easy to forget that.

One drawback: the cartoonish Japanese houseboy. Egads, it hurts to watch that 50 years later.

Rosalind Russell's outfits are gorgeous but I didn't take any screenshots while watching the movie. All I can offer is a black and white photo of this fantastic outfit of hers, which is beaded, red and gold in the film:

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