This article is about the novel by Patrick Dennis. For the 1958 film, see Wikipedia:Auntie Mame (film). For the musical, see Wikipedia:Mame (musical)

Auntie Mame is the character of the title of a 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis adapted to the stage and screen that chronicles the adventures of a boy, Patrick, growing up as the ward of his deceased father's sister, Mame Dennis. Hedonistic, and somewhat intellectual, Mame is easily tagged as a 'bohemian' (WP), but she is also a world traveler with interest in non-European cultures, and in search of all that life has to offer; in many ways, she is a richer, better educated, and more cynical, prototypical hippie.

Patrick is reading from Mame's diary:

Mame Dennis: Well, now, uh, read me all the words you don't understand.
Patrick Dennis: Libido, inferiority complex, stinko, blotto, free love, bathtub gin, monkey glands, Karl Marx... is he one of the Marx Brothers?
Patrick Dennis: ...Neurotic, heterosexual...
Mame Dennis: Oh, my my my my, what an eager little mind.
Mame Dennis: You won't need some of these words for months and months.[1]

The book is a work of fiction inspired by the author's aunt, Marion Tanner, whose life and outlook in many ways mirrored those of Mame. The work is often referred to as autobiographical, but the author (born Edward Everett Tanner) often claimed publicly it was not anything other than fiction; he did have an eccentric aunt, Marion Tanner, whose life and outlook in many ways mirrored that of Mame, but in real life, he was raised by both his parents.

The novel was a runaway best seller, setting records on the New York Times bestseller list, with more than two million copies in print during its initial publication. The film was the highest grossing U.S. film of that year. In 1958, Patrick Dennis wrote a sequel, Around the World with Auntie Mame.

Marion Tanner "the ultimate Greenwich Village eccentric" died at 94. Miss Tanner the basis for "Mame" was born on March 6th, 1891. She graduated from Smith College and became an Ice Hockey instructor. She then finished a Masters degree in sociology. Marion bought a brick townhouse in 1927 at 72 Bank Street. She took in many eccentrics involved in the arts who were less fortunate than herself. In 1964 she fell on hard times and could no longer make the mortgage payments. Mr. Dennis was angry with his aunt because she didn't listen to him when he advised her to stop taking people in and sell the house. Miss Tanner felt she was nicer than Mame. Some of the more mundane similarities between Mame and Marion included the fact they both worked at Macy's, both appeared on stage, and surrounded themselves with interesting people.


The novel was adapted for the stage by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The original Broadway production starred Rosalind Russell in the title role. The original Broadway cast also included Robert Allen as Mr. Babcock, Yuki Shimoda as Ito, Robert Smith as Beau, and Peggy Cass as Agnes Gooch. Both Russell and Cass were nominated for Wikipedia:Tony Awards in 1957 with only Cass winning.

In December 1958, a film of the same title was released by Warner Brothers. In addition to Russell and Peggy Cass reprising their roles, it starred Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne, Roger Smith and Jan Handzlik. The screenplay was adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and the movie was directed by Morton DaCosta. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Rosalind Russell), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Peggy Cass), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White or Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Film Editing and Best Picture. The film was the highest grossing U.S. film of the following year. Russell was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for her portrayal.

A musical version, titled Mame, starring Wikipedia:Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur, opened on Broadway in 1966. It was a triumph in New York and then toured the country with great success. The musical was made into a film of the same title in 1974 starring Wikipedia:Lucille Ball, Wikipedia:Beatrice Arthur, and Robert Preston. This film was a success at the box office (even making records with audience attendance at its run at Wikipedia:Radio City Music Hall) but critics generally panned for the lack of Ball's singing ability and thought she was not up to the part (she was 62 years old).

The book was re-released in paperback in September 2001 by Broadway Books, an imprint of Wikipedia:Random House.

In 2009 the Italian publisher Adelphi re-released the book, which had been out of print for many years in its Italian translation, under the title Zia Mame: the book reached the top spot on Italian bestseller lists and stayed there for many weeks, an unusual performance for a re-release.[2]

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