Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Auntie Mame (1958)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Auntie Mame (1958)

In director Morton DaCosta's and Warner's commercially-successful, Technicolored comedic drama - it was based on Patrick Dennis' 1955 novel of the same name about an eccentric and zesty Bohemian aunt; Best Actress-nominated Rosalind Russell portrayed the title character - a recreation of her successful 1956-1958 Broadway stage role:

  • the film opened with the unexpected death of wealthy conservative Chicago businessman Edwin Dennis in mid-September of 1928 in Chicago; he dropped dead in the steam room of the Chicago Brokers Club; it was just one day after he executed his will and testament. It was stipulated that Edwin's sole heir to his estate, his 10 year-old son Patrick Dennis (Jan Handzlik as young boy), would be raised as the ward of Edwin's only living relative -- his elegantly flamboyant, ascerbic, equally-wealthy, wisecracking, free-spirited spinster sister Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell)
  • Mame resided in Manhattan in NYC at 3 Beekman Place. It was the 1920s - a time of flappers, bootleg alcohol, and bohemian lifestyles
  • to help protect orphaned Patrick from undue influences, his longtime Irish nanny Norah Muldoon (Connie Gilchrist) accompanied him to New York; they arrived in the midst of one of Mame's lavish parties, serving caviar, some pickled octopus and raw fish tails to the guests
  • surprisingly, the well-mannered Patrick got along quite well with Mame, who immediately exposed him to her socialite friends and their quirky behavior at a swanky party she was holding; her unusual acquaintances included Broadway actress Vera Charles' (Coral Browne) heavy drinking, the nudist lifestyle of Acacius Page (Henry Brandon) - the progressive headmaster of Bixby School (an experimental school in Greenwich Village where he bragged: "At my school, we wear nothing. It's heaven!"), and Mame's publisher boyfriend Lindsay Woolsey (Patric Knowles)
  • Mame promised Patrick: "Your Auntie Mame will open doors for you. Doors you never even dreamed existed. What times we'll have!"
  • Mame offered Patrick and pencil and paper, and asked him to write down any words he heard and didn't understand; his list ultimately included: "Libido, inferiority complex, stinko, blotto, free love, bathtub gin, monkey glands, Karl Marx....narcississistic, Lysistrata, cubism, squiffed, neurotic, heterosexual" - she quipped to him: "My, what an eager mind! You won't need these words for months"

Vera Charles (Coral Browne)

Publisher Lindsay Woolsey (Patric Knowles)

Acacius Page (Henry Brandon)

Mr. Dwight Babcock (Fred Clark)
  • the trustee of the will, stuffy Mr. Dwight Babcock (Fred Clark) associated with the conservative Knickerbocker Bank, was instructed to insure that the orphaned nephew of his "crazy" Aunt was protected from any of Mame's many unconventional ideas or eccentric attitudes and friends ("We must spare the boy certain influences from the wrong side of the tracks")
  • Babcock stated his preference to enroll Patrick in St. Boniface Academy, an exclusive boys' boarding school in Massachusetts - his own alma mater, away from Mame's daily influence; however Auntie Mame recommended the Bixby School; but after Babcock visited the school, he was flabbergasted: "There they were! A school room full of them! Boys, girls, teachers, romping around stark naked, bare as the day they were born"; he moved Patrick to St. Boniface to restrict contact with Mame only during holidays and during the summer
  • other problems arose when the stock market crashed in late 1929 and Mame lost all of her fortune ("Nothing's worth anything anymore"); refusing to marry Lindsay in order to provide her with security, she broke off her relationship with him. Mame realized that she must settle down on her own, earn some money, and try a series of work-jobs as the "only chance to get Patrick back," including a return to the stage in a bit part, and working as a switchboard operator
  • during a short time as a Macy's Department store sales clerk before being fired, she met her new future husband - wealthy Southern oil baron Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Forrest Tucker) from Georgia. Mame's whirlwind romance and world-tour honeymoon with him tragically ended when he died in 1937 - he fell off a cliff on the Matterhorn (off-screen) while taking pictures of Mame
Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Forrest Tucker) - Mame's Future Husband
  • Patrick (Roger Smith as older), who had grown into adulthood, persuaded Mame to write her autobiography to be published by Lindsay. For some months, Mame dictated her memoirs to her frumpy stenographer-secretary Agnes Gooch (Peggy Cass). Mame was also romanced by her live-in Irish fortune-hunting ghostwriter-editor Brian O'Bannion (Robin Hughes)

Patrick (Roger Smith as older)

Agnes Gooch (Peggy Cass)

Brian O'Bannion (Robin Hughes)
  • Mame broke her date to a party with O'Bannion, to sabotage his greedy intentions by diverting his interest toward a transformed Agnes; Mame encouraged Agnes to "Live!" - the message of her book: "You don't get the message of my book. Live, that's the message....Yes! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. Now, come on, Agnes, live! Come, child. Live!"; the other servants doubted Mame's strategy: "She'll never make a silk purse out of that sow's ear"

Mame to Agnes: "Live, that's the message...Yes! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."

Agnes - Transformed to Date Mame's Editor/Writer O'Bannion
  • after O'Bannion was set up to date the drunken Agnes, their champagne-doused time together resulted in the stenographer's unexpected pregnancy - and "unwed mother" relationship to O'Bannion (later, she remembered that they were married)
  • in the meantime, Patrick unexpectedly became engaged to a Babcock-approved girlfriend named Gloria Upson (Joanna Barnes) - a spoiled, shallow, dumb-blonde with boorish, snobby, bourgeois, anti-Semitic parents: Claude and Doris Upson (Willard Waterman and Lee Patrick)
  • to learn more about Patrick's fiancee Gloria before a planned September wedding, Mame visited the bourgeois Upsons, who lived in a house known as "Upson Downs" in the Connecticut community of Mountebank near Darien, where she personally witnessed their abhorrent, superficial and anti-Semitic attitudes; she was dismayed by their plans for her nephew Patrick: "You've thought of everything, haven't you? Laid out Patrick's career. Planned the wedding. Even chosen my gift"
  • a few weeks before Patrick's wedding to Gloria, Mame invited many of the film's priincipal characters to an "intimate family dinner" party in her apartment, when the release of Mame's autobiography was to be announced and chapters of the "red-hot" galleys were distributed; hostess Mame had specifically designed the party to make the Upsons uncomfortable, and force Patrick to cancel his wedding plans, by serving flaming alcoholic drinks and pickled rattlesnake hors d'oeuvres, and inviting some of her most obnoxious friends; one of the highlights of the evening was Gloria's inappropriate and hilarious monologue about her "ghastly" experience during an aborted ping-pong tournament
  • during the awkward night, Gloria insulted Patrick by calling his acquaintances "riff-raff"; Patrick retorted back about her many girlfriends, calling them "a lot of vain, selfish, empty bigots"
  • in the course of the climactic evening, Mame also insulted Gloria's parents by having Lindsay declare that her book's royalties would support a home for refugee Jewish children in Mountebank, in the Epstein's property next-door to the Upsons; when the news was blurted out, it was the ultimate straw; Gloria fell backwards onto controls that raised and lowered the living room seats; and Mame cried out: "JACKPOT!"; the family of Upsons left in a huff

Gloria's Hilarious Description of a "Ghastly" Ping Pong Tournament

Gloria's Collapse

Mame: "JACKPOT!"
  • incensed and insulted with what had just happened, Babcock claimed his duty was to protect Patrick from Mame's "idiotic, cockeyed nincompoopery"; she stood up to Babcock before dismissing him for manipulating and controlling her nephew's life: "For 9 years I've tried to open some windows in his life. And now all you want to do is shut him up in some safe deposit box. Well, I won't let you do that to my little one. Oh, no. He's not little anymore"
  • Patrick - who had recently become attracted to Mame's new secretary Miss Pegeen Ryan (Pippa Scott), broke off his engagement to Gloria (off-screen)
  • years later in the film's epilogue in 1946, 28 year-old Patrick had married Pegeen and they had a son named Michael (Terry Kelman), who was following in Patrick's footsteps under Mame's tutelage; the young boy reminded his parents: "You know what your trouble is, Mom? You don't live, live, live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death"; he urged them to permit him to take an exotic trip to India with Mame before school began in the fall
Epilogue: Auntie Mame with Patrick's and Pegeen's Son Michael, Walking Up Staircase
  • as Mame ascended her staircase with young Michael, she offered him the same promise given earlier to Patrick: "I'm going to open doors for you. Doors you never even dreamed existed....Oh, what times we're going to have! What vistas we're going to explore together. We'll spend a day at an ancient Hindu temple. The head monk there is a very good friend of Auntie Mame's. And perhaps he'll let you ring the temple bells that bring the monks to prayer. And there, on the highest tower on a clear day, you can see the Taj Mahal. Beyond that is a beautiful..."

Edwin Dennis's Last Will and Testament

10 Year-Old Patrick Dennis (Jan Handzlik) Delivered by Norah Muldoon to Mame's Apartment in NYC

Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell) with Patrick

Young Patrick Dennis (Jan Handzlik as boy)

Mame's Bit-Part on Stage

Mame's Job as a Switchboard Operator

Mame's Continued Close Relationship with Young Patrick

Burnside's Death While Taking Pictures of Mame

O'Bannion Romancing Mame While Ghost-Writing Her Book of Memoirs

Patrick's Spoiled Dumb-Blonde Fiancee Gloria Upson (Joanna Barnes)

Gloria's Father Claude Upson (Willard Waterman)

Gloria's Mother Doris Upson (Lee Patrick)

Mame Pretending to Enjoy Claude's Drinks and Doris' Hors D'Oeuvres and a Scrapbook of Baby Pictures

Patrick's New Love Interest, Pegeen Ryan (Pippa Scott) - Mame's New Secretary


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