Amazing Auntie

When I was in my teens, I happened to find a pair of books in a flea market, Patrick Dennis´ "Auntie Mame", in Swedish translation of course ("Min fantastiska tant"), and the follow-up, "Around the world with Auntie Mame" ("Min fantastiska tant i världsvimlet"). They were from the mid 50´s (the originals were published in 1955 and 1958, and the translations came just the year after - these were world-wide smash hits at the time), cheaply bound, that kind where the pages had to be cut by the reader. The second book hadn´t even been cut, so I suppose the original owner hadn´t enjoyed the first of Auntie Mame´s adventures as much as I did.

The story is about Patrick, whose father dies when he is very young, ten or so, and he is put into the care of his only relative, his aunt Mame, a very excentric New York lady. However, he also has a trustee, a Mr Babcock, who makes sure he is steered along the right way, education-wise. Much of the story is about how Mr Babcock tries to raise Patrick to become a conservative, conventionally successful man, preferably with a job in finance, while Mame does her best to make him a creative, tolerant, curious, and kind man. I suppose it´s one of those stories about not ending up on the dark side.

I must have read these books two or three times, but in the end I gave them away to charity. I hope someone found them and loved them.

"Auntie Mame" made Patrick Dennis (whose real name was Edward Everett Tanner III) rich and famous, and the book was turned into a play, and then into a film in 1958. Aside from "His Girl Friday", "Auntie Mame" is probably the film/role that Rosalind Russell is most famous for these days. I decided I wanted to see it, and bought it via amazon.

I really enjoyed it. It´s a morality, sure, but it has lots of heart and a sound message. Russell is very, very good, her dresses are gorgeous, and even if the humour is a bit dated, I laughed (perhaps I´m getting on a bit, too). Patrick Dennis must have been pleased with Russell´s performance, as he dedicated the next Mame-book to her.

Dennis didn´t stay rich and famous and successful. I found out, doing a bit of research on him, that he divorced his wife, came out as bisexual, spent his fortune, and towards the end of his life worked as a butler, for the founder of MacDonalds. I put his biography on my wishlist at amazon, not sure if I want to read it later or not. Perhaps one day.

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