Monday Movie: Auntie Mame, by David Bax
Every Monday, we’ll highlight a piece of writing from our vaults. This article originally ran as part of our TCM Classic Film Festival 2020: Special Home Edition coverage.
Morton DaCosta’s Auntie Mame (1958) kicks off with a dark gag about a rich man dying suddenly (the first but not the last such joke in the movie) before immediately launching into a first act into which the legendary Betty Comden and Adolph Green cram as many jokes as they can. On the suggestion that a famed psychiatrist should get a prim governess “on his couch”: “I’m not that kind of woman!” Of the work of a great sculptor: “Such talented fingers. What he did to my bust!” To a vain friend who urges Mame to “keep her hair natural, the way I do”: “If I kept my hair natural the way you do, I’d be bald!” Nearly two decades after His Girl Friday, Rosalind Russell has still got the goods when it comes to firing off witty banter at a breathless pace. With fades to black between scenes and extras including women in men’s clothing, DaCosta’s deft hand at theatrical farce and willingness to mercilessly mock conservative values makes Auntie Mame a clear antecedent to La Cage aux Folles, complete with a spoiled and kinda shitty young man at the center.