Today, I came across the 1958 movie "Auntie Mame" on Netflix. I watched it again, of course. It should be part of everyone's education. Auntie Mame, played by Rosalind Russell, is a free spirit and quintessential dilettante. When her brother dies, she takes in her young nephew Patrick and delights in teaching him about the world. Conflict arises when Mr. Babcock, the executor of Mame's brother's will, removes Patrick to a boarding school to get him away from what he sees as Mame's terrible influence. She did have him in a progressive school where the students often stripped nude, but Mame's heart is good. She genuinely loves Patrick and wants him to live life fully.
"Living life fully" means being open to experience, accepting people as they are, for what they are, rejecting prejudice, traveling the world, and embracing change. Mame changes her New York apartment decor as often as she changes her hair color. Her overriding attitude is one of love. She brings people into her home who have no place to go: Vera, her actor friend, sleeps off hangovers at her apartment. Miss Gooch, her secretary, lives with her after she becomes pregnant. Everyone loves Mame. After she loses her money in the 1929 market crash, two of her servants stay on without salary.
The movie events and Mame stretch our credulity occasionally, but overall we're delighted. As a dilettante, you will be drawn to Mame's philosophy: "Live. Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." She believes "knowledge is power." This echoes my own belief that we must go through life as curious people. Without curiosity, we stagnate, and you know what happens then. We stand still and become quite stinky like an algae covered pond.
The story has taken many forms and been greatly enjoyed by readers and audiences. Auntie Mame, an irreverent escapade written by Patrick Dennis in 1955 is based on Dennis's real life aunt Marion Tanner. Her life and philosophy were similar to Mame's. The book was on the New York Times best seller list for a very long time. Because of the book's popularity, the story moved to Broadway with Rosalind Russell as Mame. In 1958, Warner Brothers turned it into a film, the one I just watched, also starring Rosalind Russell. Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur opened in a Broadway musical version, Mame, in 1966. A movie was made of that musical in 1974 with Lucille Ball and Beatrice Authur.
Next time you're flipping through Netflix or some other movie venue, try Auntie Mame. You will learn something about life.