I love my cable provider. I know not too many people say that…and while I hate paying for it (who doesn’t, right?), I like the channel line-up I’ve got going. I can always count on Turner Classic Movies to replay my favorites. My absolute favorite of all time is Auntie Mame. The one with Rosalind Russell from 1958. It’s the only one as far as I’m concerned. Rosalind Russell nailed it. (As a side-note, Rosalind Russell also starred in the original Broadway play.)
Auntie Mame is definitely a classic, at least in my eyes, and it’s always going to rank as #1 on my personal list. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. It’s done in the style of a play….with gorgeous costumes and in your face characters and each scene fading out to black on a dramatic note. There’s an excellent cast of actors with each one perfectly portraying their character. Please tell me if you hate Babcock as much as I do or if you cringe each time you hear Gloria speak! Trust me, if you want some good clean fun and laughs, it’s definitely worth your while to watch this movie.
One primary reason I love this movie so much is because the titular character is the type of woman who I’d love to see more of (or hell, even be), yet when I watch today’s movies these strong, yet eccentric, female characters simply don’t exist. Auntie Mame is a shining example of how to be outspoken, caring, loyal to friends, accepting of different lifestyles (and how!), independent, and strong; all qualities I think that are imperative for today’s young girls to know.
If you’re not familiar with the movie here’s a brief synopsis that will hopefully show why Auntie Mame is a laudable silver screen icon. Right from the start she’s friends with a rogue’s gallery of characters. Elitists of the time would have called them “beatniks” or “bohemians.” Nowadays perhaps they’d be called “hipsters” or referred to as some sort other alternative and eclectic subset of the caste system. Auntie Mame just calls them friends. And they take care of each other. While she does eventually fall in love with Beauregard Burnside (deliciously played by Forrest Tucker), she never loses her vibrant sense of self in the process. That tends to happen a lot in movies. The girl needs “saving” and suddenly a knight in shining armor appears, swoops in to do the saving, and the girl dutifully surrenders her life to better serve his. Bullshit.
Auntie Mame retains her uniqueness and shows that it is possible to let someone else into your life without transforming into something else entirely. At first, she does try really hard to fit in with Beauregard’s family, even trying to learn how to ride in a hunt although she’s never been on a horse in her life. However, she fails miserably – not just at the fox hunt (she ends up saving the fox, by the way!), but at trying to mold herself to others’ expectations, and then she realizes that it’s just not worth it… it’s not who she is and perhaps more important, not who she wants to be. As it turns out, Beauregard is a one-of-a-kind guy who loves her independence and quirkiness. I think her failing like that can even be viewed as a “moral to the story” kind of statement – in other words, this is what happens when you try to be something you’re not, when you go against your own inner character just to fit in or meet someone else’s expectations. You fail. So, you must be true to yourself, always. Good advice, if you ask me.
What’s interesting too is that, as unlikely as it may seem, Mame, in all of her madcap glory, is the freaky glue that binds her friends into a solid familial hodgepodge. She’s magnificently sophisticated and glamorous, yet she insists on being kind and taking in the odd stray friend here and there, and she does her absolute best to spread good wherever and whenever she can. As crazy as it sounds, she’s definitely a character worth emulating.
The best bit… and I guess I should’ve started with this – because this is how the movie started – Mame’s nephew Patrick (who eventually wrote the book this movie was based on) lost his parents when he was a small child at which time he was summarily dropped kit and caboodle at Mame’s Manhattan party shack… umm… I mean brownstone. Well. It was love at first sight. And a completely non-maternal, cocktail swigging bohemian suddenly became a mother… a good one. Albeit still bohemian. But more than being just a financial support or providing the basics, she imparts on Patrick the heart-felt lessons of how to remain open-minded, to be kind, to truly love life, enjoy experiences, and be tolerant of all types of people. She instills in him a sense of wonder and a sense of joy, encouraging him to make the most of life, and to embrace everything life may throw at you.
I could really get used to seeing more women like this lifted up as an example to our impressionable teens and tweens out there. I’m looking at you Hollywood. Where did all the Auntie Mames go?