Oscar Nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Rosalind Russell), Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Cass), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Cinematography (Color)
Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture (Comedy), Best Motion Picture Actress (Comedy) - Rosalind Russell
Based on the popular novel by Patrick Dennis, "Auntie Mame" became a smash stage play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, and was ultimately adapted for the screen by veteran screenwriters Betty Comden and Adoph Green in 1958.
Morton DaCosta, a former actor, had become a respected stage director in the fifties, and his direction of the film version expanded the play's visuals through elaborate crane shots, an excellent fox hunting sequence, and a marvelous stage show - captured from behind the curtain, with luminescent lighting and audience detail.
Photographed in Technirama and Technicolor, "Auntie Mame" is one of the best transfers of a fifties scope film. While not an epic set in the desert, "Auntie Mame" contains lavish production designs which reflect the passing of time and styles in Mame's apartment; moving from cool blue, earth tones, and minimalist décor, Mame's consistently lavish home breezes from the flapper 20s to the space-obsessed 50s. Each period becomes a major achievement in colour coordination, and veteran cinematographer Harry Stradling, Sr. (his final work includes "My Fair Lady" and "Funny Girl") creates masterful images both in composition and lighting. Maximizing the colour density of red riding uniforms, blue walls, and the ever-changing colour of Rosalind Russell's hair (always in tune with the wallpaper), to the magnificent variety of shots with deep focus detail, or artfully blurred backgrounds used to heighten the lead actors.
The mono sound mix is adequate, balancing the film's extensive dialogue with minor sound effects, and Bronislaw Kaper's vibrant score can also be enjoyed in an isolated score track - a rare treat, given so little of the composer's work exists on CD. High kudos to Warner Bros. for preserving Kaper's music on DVD.
Rounding off the extras are trailers for "Auntie Mame" (which includes footage from deleted scenes), and the 1974 musical version, "Mame," starring Lucille Ball and a bizarrely androgynous Bea Arthur. Cast and crew filmographies finish off the set, although some details regarding the novel's popularity and evolution through stage, film and musical versions would have improved an otherwise well-produced release.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan