When Mr. Dennis dies unexpectedly, his only son, young Patrick (Jan Handzlik), goes to New York to live with his only living relative, Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell). She’s a fun loving, free-spirited person with a big heart who lovingly welcomes her nephew into her home where she holds lavish cocktail parties with a variety of intriguing people. Determined to give the boy a very liberal education, Mame signs Patrick up to join a school taught in the ancient Greek fashion- nude and co-ed. But Dwight Babcock (Fred Clark) is the executor to the estate and in charge of seeing that Patrick’s education is to his late father’s liking and has Patrick sent to an all boys prep school. Still, while Patrick is getting his conservative education, Mame’s outlook on enjoying life has had a positive affect on the boy and he enjoys holidays with his aunt. As the years go on, this little family experiences up and downs, the beginning of the depression and many playful adventures. Later, Patrick becomes engaged to a very conservative “top drawer” girl and wants his Auntie Mame to act normal around her family. Thankfully, Mame’s got some fun tricks up her sleeve and hosts a dinner party they’ll never forget.
I personally love the way Mame handles exposing little Patrick to all these new ideas. When he first arrives in the middle of a cocktail party, Mame brings her attention and love straight to her nephew, makes sure he’s fed (octopus and caviar) and proudly shows him off to all her friends. While Mame is talking to her friends, Patrick asks what certain words mean, and rather than ignoring his query, she tells him to write down any words he doesn’t understand. Later, his list consists of words like libido, inferiority complex, free love, and bathtub gin. My, what racy subjects for a school boy! But it’s not like Mame gives the boy blunt definitions, to some words she says, “You won’t need some of these words for months and months.” As Patrick grows we see him expressing what Mame has exposed to him in positive ways. One of my favorite details was when he comes home for a holiday, he brings a Picasso inspired painting of Santa.
The art direction of this film is very clever and centers around Mame’s home. She loves to decorate and redecorate. At the beginning of the film her home is filled with dragons and oriental things of bronze and red. Then, everything is painted a calm blue with abstract art hanging. My favorite was probably during the climatic dinner scene, with a ten foot high black and white sculpture in a coy pond an abstract mobile and couches that are controlled by decorative pulleys. Mame embraces so many interesting styles and they’re all so colorful and inventive.
Though Auntie Mame is enjoyable and has a great message, I do think the plot zig-zags too much and the whole film goes on for too long. These are my only complaints.
What Auntie Mame did for me, was make me remember that I had a wonderful upbringing while being exposed to many ideas that are considered racy to some. Gasp! A cooler of beer at a family birthday party?! I have fond memories of being a small child sitting at a bar with my folks drinking a cherry coke, being introduced to people living alternative lifestyles and being encouraged to learn about different arts and cultures. It wasn’t until my teens that I realized that some people are very sheltered from these ideas that I had always considered normal. From the portrayal of the uppity Upton family in the film, I’d rather go on safari with Auntie Mame any day than have a daiquiri that replaces rum with honey.
“Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”