Friday, August 10, 2012
Life's a banquet
I can't remember whether I read the 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis first or saw the movie musical with Lucille Ball as Mame (and Bea Arthur -- Maude, as we knew her then -- hilarious as her best buddy, the perpetually hungover actress Vera Charles). (I do remember that I was about 13 & going into Grade 8 -- we had recently moved to a new town, and that was one of the first movies my mother, sister & I went to see in a rickety old theatre on the main street, which burned down shortly afterward). I later saw the Rosalind Russell non-musical movie from 1958, as well as the musical onstage in a local summer theatre production.
The story of "Auntie Mame" begins as Mame's recently orphaned young nephew, Patrick, arrives at her Manhattan townhouse in the middle of a wild party -- this being the 1920s era of flappers, bathtub gin, speakeasies and the like. The freespirited Mame is completely unprepared for the responsibility of bringing up a child, and has some highly unconventional ideas about how to do it -- but of course, he turns out just fine in the end and makes her very proud.
I loved Mame in all her incarnations -- and most especially the lesser-known sequel to the book, "Around the World with Auntie Mame," which I discovered in the library when I was in junior high and read over & over & over again. Mame takes her nephew Patrick on a tour of Europe prior to sending him off to college, and each chapter details a new adventure in a different country. I haven't read the book in at least 30 years (although I bought a copy a few years ago through Amazon), and I'm sure parts of it would be considered highly politically incorrect these days -- but I just remember it as screamingly funny, and wondered why nobody had ever made a movie out of it, too.
Now, I am nothing like Mame -- I'm far too conventional -- but I do adore my two nephews. And you have to love someone whose motto is "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." Sometimes, I think we need to be reminded of that -- both about how fortunate we are, compared to so many others out there, and about the banquet of experiences out there, just waiting to be sampled. What are we waiting for?