Rosalind Russell is ‘Auntie Mame’

Auntie Mame is a delicious film from 1958 starring Rosalind Russell in the title role. Ms. Russell was nominated for an Academy Award and received the Golden Globe for her performance in this film and the movie garnered other nominations and awards. The movie was based on the novel by the same name by Patrick Dennis. After this film it was later made into a musical with Lucille Ball as Mame Dennis. But it is Russell who embodies the character with every cell in her body.

Mame is a force of nature, to say the least. She is a free- spirit filled with love and a lust for life. When her brother dies, leaving custody of his son Patrick to Mame, she embraces the young lad with all the spirit with which she embraces life. She intends to widen his eyes and have him explore everything life has to offer, however that gets waylaid when the executive of the will, Dwight Babcock (Fred Clark) comes into the picture and insists Patrick be sent away to boarding school where he will be molded into a man of character.

Mame adores Patrick and he feels the same toward her. They are two of a kind, even though Babcock wants to knock that free-spirited sense of adventure out of the young lad.

One of the upper class, Mame is hit hard by the stock market crash and has to find a way of supporting herself and Patrick in the manner in which they are accustomed. When she meets Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Forrest Tucker), they are instantly attracted to each other and with their marriage Mame’s bank account is once again exploding. But things don’t go according to plan.

Soon Mame hires Agnes Gooch (Peggy Cass) (Patrick’s original nanny) to be her assistant. Mame and her dearest friend Vera Charles (Coral Browne) take on a new project. This time they set their sights on Agnes and send her out into the world to experience life the way they do.

All the characters are enjoyable to watch as the years progress and they each endure life with gusto. Well, except for Babcock who is keen to have the grown-up Patrick (Roger Smith) marry the snooty heiress Gloria Upson (Joanna Barnes), to Mame’s dismay and ultimate displeasure. But don’t worry. Mam has everything under control – her way. And who can fight a hurricane like Mame Dennis? No one!

This is truly an enchanting story, and Russell deserved the Academy Award, which went to Susan Hayward who also gave a magnificent performance in her film I Want to Live! Russell did win five Golden Globes and was nominated for four Oscars. In 1973 she was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards.

Rosalind Russell makes this film. It is a pure delight from beginning to end, and the score makes it a perfect 10. A bonus feature on this new Blu-ray edition is a music track filled with the wonderful score by Bronislau Kaper and the memorable theme song.

Auntie Mame is now available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. It can purchase at their website or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for over 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

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‘Spencer’s Mountain’ is a great family film now on Blu-ray

Spencer’s Mountain was the foundation (no pun intended) for the popular TV drama The Waltons. From writer Earl Hamner who penned the novel as well as created the TV series, Spencer’s Mountain follows the Spencer family as they raise their nine children on a beautiful mountainside in Wyoming.

Henry Fonda plays Clay Spencer with Maureen O’Hara costarring as Olivia Spencer. James MacArthur is Clayboy, aka Clay Spencer Jr. Clayboy’s desire for knowledge is his driving force. He is the first Spencer to graduate from high school and he wants to go to college. The problem is he needs a scholarship because the family cannot afford the tuition and other expenses.

While the family focuses on getting the scholarship and money for their oldest child to go off to college, Clay continues to work in the quarry while building his dream house on the top of the mountain. Clayboy is being wooed by his childhood friend Claris (Missy Farmer), a willful young woman whose hormones are raging and who entices Clay into more than their usual pecks on the cheek.

Clay and Olivia have a houseful with their nine children and Clay’s mother and father. His eight brothers live nearby. This large family is not the richest or the poorest family in the valley, but they are the best known. The mountain was named for them when the patriarch settled there. This story takes in three generations of the Spencer family.

There are many similarities between this movie and the TV show that aired from 1971-1981. First is the family. Viewers will see comparisons between them and the Waltons. Another is a reference to the “recipe” that two women make from their father’s recipe. This concoction manages to cause a ruckus when Clay has the new minister (Wally Cox) imbibe in the liquid. The minister had never had alcohol and it quickly takes its toll on him. Unfortunately, the entire town is witness to their inebriated new minister.

Bonus features look at the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the location where the film was shot. Many townsfolk played parts in the film, and the movie’s premier took place there. Another bonus is a roundup of interviews with Henry Fonda when the town and the media were all gathered together preparing to view the film’s premier.

Spencer’s Mountain is a great family film. This 1963 movie is filled with family love and dedication. The Blu-ray release is part of the Warner Archive collection and can be ordered from their website or online retailers.

‘Bells are Ringing’ on Blu-ray

Bells are Ringing is a fun 1960 musical romantic comedy starring Dean Martin and Judy Holliday. The score was nominated for an Academy Award. Martin and Holliday sing a fun duet, “Just in Time,” that will leave viewers humming the tune for days.

The story centers on a loveable switchboard operator named Ella (Holliday) who takes a personal interest in the clients. Ella’s cousin Sue (Jean Stapleton) owns Susanswerphone, which is a service that provides message taking and wake up calls. Keep in mind this was long before answering machines. As switchboard operators, Ella is supposed to answer calls, take messages, and provide wake-up call service. But she goes far beyond that, to Sue’s frustration.

Jeffrey Moss (Martin) is a writer who can’t get his mind on his work. He loves women and booze but if he doesn’t finish this latest project, his career will be over.

Sue’s boyfriend Otto (Eddie Foy Jr.) is an unscrupulous bookie that dupes Sue into letting him run his “music business” out of her office. She thinks they are taking orders for record albums, but in fact they are taking bets on horses.

The fun begins when Ella goes to Jeffrey’s apartment to nudge him back to work. He has no idea she is the sweet little old woman from his answering service whom he calls “Mom.” Ella proves to be his muse and he gets back to work. Meanwhile, the two fall in love. This is a romantic comedy after all.

Younger generations might not be familiar with Judy Holliday, who was an accomplished actress/comedian/singer. She is fun to watch as the meddling but well-meaning Ella in this, her final film before her death. Martin brings his A-game to this role both singing and acting. And, as most women agree, he’s gorgeous.

Ella manages to help several of her clients with one fell-swoop and in the process she saves her cousin’s business.

Besides the duet with Martin, Holliday sings “The Party’s Over” and some other delightful tunes. This film is an adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway play in which Holliday originated the role of Ella. After seeing this, it is difficult to think of anyone else in this role. She’s perky, adorable, and fun as the meddling Ella who finds the love of her life is on the other end of the phone line.

There is a bonus feature about the making of the film. This was Holliday’s final film before her death. Hal Linden costarred in the Broadway version of the film and has a small role in the movie. In a bonus feature he discusses this role and the song he sings, “The Midas Touch.”

If you’re looking for a cute old-fashioned date-night movie or just one that will leave you smiling, check out Bells are Ringing. It’s part of the Warner Archive Collection and can be ordered from their website.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for over 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

Follow her on Twitter