It was sometimes last Spring, I think, when I was flipping around on a lazy Saturday afternoon at home and came across the 1958 film “Auntie Mame” on Turner Classic Movies about right in the middle of the movie. The film is such a delightful charmer that I usually stop and watch it when I catch it on, and generally see it at least once a year during one of those TCM airings. As I watched “Auntie Mame” on that Spring afternoon, one thought kept popping into my head as I looked at all the colors on display “Boy, this movie would look really great on blu-ray. Shame it hasn’t happened yet.” Fortunately, this has come to pass with a sparkling new blu-ray of the film from Warner Archive.
Based upon the Novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis, and more the stage play adaptation of that novel, “Auntie Mame” stars Rosalind Russell in an Oscar-nominated performance that she is reprising from the Broadway stage. Patrick Dennis is a ten-year-old boy who finds himself orphaned and sent off to live with this nearest relation, his father’s sister Mame Dennis, a rich and eccentric woman who enjoys life with a gusto and passion that frightens most people. Over the film’s 143 minute running time, we see Mame grab life with all she’s got, and the effect it has on her friends and Patrick—whose stuffy trustee wants to do all he can to make sure that Mame’s influence doesn’t take root.
“Auntie Mame” is a film that has been delighting audiences for years. First as the smash hit stage play, then as the hit film, then again as the stage musical “Mame” in the mid-1960s with Angela Lansbury stepping into the role. But in this version of the film, it’s hard to not see why Russell made this role her own. She plays Mame as a larger than life force that refuses to be stopped by anyone. Her supporting cast is equally good too. Forrest Tucker, Fred Clark, Coral Browne, and venerable screen actor Patrick Knowles (who played a key part in my favorite Abbot and Costello movie, “Who Done It?”).
The film is hard to stop watching once you start, which is why I always set the remote down if it’s on and I catch it. Usually every Christmas you can see the film on TCM, and it’s one of those films that I cant’ recommend enough if you haven’t seen it. It’s the type of loud, joyful farce that they just do not make anymore. Shot in the Technirama format, where film ran Vertically instead of Horizontally through the camera, Warner Archive’s blu-ray of “Auntie Mame” looks fantastic, using an original Techinrama interpositive as the source of the 2K scan presented on the disc. That particular color pallet comes through with a dazzling sharpness. Thanks to that large negative format the film was shot in, the picture looks not of a film 60 years old, but almost of one just ten years old.
I was so happy when I heard Warner Archive was bringing “Auntie Mame” to blu-ray. It’s a film I’ve long been a fan of, and to see it looking better than perhaps it did when it was released in 1958 is a dream. This one comes highly recommended by me, you’ll want this one on your shelf. See you next week.