Friday, December 17, 2010

"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death" -- Auntie Mame (1958)

The Patrick Dennis novel was a runaway bestseller – and it was soon followed by a stage version starring Rosalind Russell, who was born to play the madcap Mame in this story of an eccentric, fast-living society woman of the 1920s who “inherits” her nephew when her brother died. Determined to “open doors” for her adoring nephew, Mame exposes him to everything from bootleg gin to oddball characters – all the while doing battle with her nephew’s ultra-conservative trustee, who is equally determined that the boy’s life remain free of “certain influences.”

This is a knockout show, and Rosalind Russell delivers a knockout performance in it – easily her finest comedy performance since 1939’s “The Women.” She is extremely well supported by the sadly under-acknowledged Coral Brown in the role of Vera Charles, an actress who passes out in Mame’s apartment with considerable regularity, and Forrest Tucker as the Southern gentleman who becomes her knight in shining honor; the supporting cast, which includes Fred Clark, Peggy Cass (particularly memorable as Agnes Gooch), Jan Handzlik, Roger Smith, and Joanna Barnes is equally flawless.

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