I am a huge lover of film and went to at least one or two movies a week when the kids were growing up. Due to streaming, I see countless films and try to see all the “Oscar” worthy flicks pre-award ceremony—nothing like chiming in from the couch.
Someone recommended I go back and watch Auntie Mame, a movie I had not seen since elementary school, so I did. The film was made in 1958 and set in 1928. There is nothing better than a film to lock in time so we can see how far we have come or not. I recently saw Love Story and was also a bit blown away by a few things that would never happen in 2024; at least, I would hope not.
Aunt Mamie is played by Rosalind Russell, who is fantastic. She plays an aunt who is the only relative left to care for her brother’s child, Patrick, who had put together tight restrictions with a conservative executor of the will; god forbid he ever died so that his son would not be drawn into the “unconventional” ways of Mame’s life.
That means her flamboyant NYC lifestyle with decadent parties, gay men, lesbians, nudists, writers, and free-spirited artists. When Patrick comes to live with her, he takes notes just to understand what they are talking about. Then there is the crash of 1929, and Mame goes to work. She attempts to send Patrick to a progressive downtown school, but the conservative trustee of the bank will have nothing to do with it. In the end, Patrick goes to an uptight boys boarding school, although always coming back to visit Mame.
Over time, Patrick falls to the ill wills of the conservatives, finds a girl to marry, and meets her family of anti-semites. How they talk about Jews in the film is mind-blowing, but Mame will have nothing to do with that behavior. Remember that multiple characters in this play take a page out of stereotypes. Eventually, Patrick sees these people for what they are: small-minded bigots. It could be a page out of politics today.
Even in Love Story, Ryan O’Neill, Ali McGraw’s husband, got her diagnosis from the doctor instead of the doctor telling her directly. They also drive in a car that should not be on the highway. McGraw even attempts to get O’Neill to make nice with her father because he is turning 60 and might not have much time left!
Few films can stand up to the test of time; Aunt Mamie does. She was ahead of her time. She was a woman on her terms. She was a true socialite in a good way. The movie reminds me of how far we have come and how far we still have to go.