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Laramie Movie Scope:
Auntie Mame

Life is a banquet! so don't bother with this watching this

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1958) Beginning in September 1928 with the demise of her only brother in Chicago, leaving her with the care of her 10-year-old orphaned nephew, Patrick (Jan Handzlik) - whom Norah Muldoon (Connie Gilchrist) delivers and then stays on with Ito (Yuki Shimoda), the Japanese houseboy - the vivacious Auntie Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell, recreating her role from the stage) sees to the child's living life fully (including Champagne and "fishberry jam"): "Life is a banquet!"

Director Morton DaCosta brought the Broadway play (screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green), based on Patrick Dennis's novel, to the screen where for me it went flat.

At #3 Beekman Place in New York City, needing to make a positive impression on Dwight Babcock (Fred Clark), the trustee at Knickerbocker Bank in charge of her brother's estate, Auntie Mame comes downstairs to find Patrick mixing a martini for the banker. The woman of "very powerful charms" confronts the representative of a "very powerful bank" over the boy's education; her desire for Patrick to attend Acacius Page's progressive school loses out to Babcock's insistence on a conservative boarding school: "I'm going to turn him into a decent, God-fearing Christian if I have to break every bone in his body."

Patiently courted by Lindsay Woolsey (Patric Knowles), Mame tells him: "How can I be a wife? I'm too busy being a mother."

Her own fortune wiped out with the crash on Wall Street (her stockbroker calls before he jumps out a window), nevertheless, somehow she manages to keep her luxurious apartment while Norah and Ito volunteer to stay on without pay. When her friend and actress Vera Charles (Coral Browne) offers her work in the play in which she's the star, Midsummer Madness, Mame turns the drama into a farcical comedy.

As an overwhelmed telephone operator she tells a caller: "There's no such place as San Francisco." Employed at Macy's department store, she meets oil tycoon Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Forrest Tucker) before getting fired; he takes her to his Peckerwood Plantation. When the Yankee "Northern lemon" wins over the intended Georgia peach, Sally Cato MacDoughall (Brook Byron), she tells Beau: "Talk fast, I can listen slow." A fox-hunting episode is ludicrous silliness.

While they're on their around-the-world honeymoon (Beau's constantly taking photographs), Patrick (Roger Smith in the older role) attends Rumson University where he meets Gloria Upson (Joanna Barnes). Returning from another overseas adventure, Mame is a wealthy widow following Beau's falling off the Matterhorn.

She becomes involved with poet Brian O'Bannion (Robin Hughes) after Lindsay, a publisher, suggests she write her memoirs; also hired to take dictation, Agnes Gooch (Peggy Cass) enters the household. Patrick then brings home Gloria, a "top drawer," very conservative young woman - (in Mame's view) "a girl with braces on her brain." In making acquaintance with Gloria's parents, Claude (Willard Waterman) and Doris (Lee Patrick - lots of "Partrick"s in this cast), at Upson Downs in Montebank, Mame observes their anti-Semitic attitude.

In the climatic scene, Mame invites the Upsons to her home where Patrick meets Pegeen Ryan (Pippa Scott), her new secretary after Agnes (still on the premises) became an expectant unwed mother. This grandiose production has its moments, but for nearly 2 hours is largely drab stuff.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2010 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)