"Aunty Mame" included many fine performances by a cast of superb comic actresses who make the film come alive. The actors here were inspired choices. The chemistry was just right. Of course the most important was Rosalind Russell who made Mame Dennis come alive both on Broadway and in the film version. Rosalind Russell on Broadway and in the film defined the title role. Mame may well be her best remembered and best-loved film role. It's one of those rare perfect matches of artist and performance. She was ably assisted by both the adult actors and children in the producuction. Peggy Cass gave a memorable performance as Mame's secretary Agness Gouch. The actor who played Mr. Babcock was also very effective. And Jan Handzlik who also played the prt of the young Patrick on Broadway was just perfect for the part. In fact, when one reads the book it is the Mame, Patrivk, Mr. Babcock, and Agnes Gouch fromthe film that immediately come to mind.
Rosalind Russell on Broadway and in the film defined the title role. Russel wa an important movie star and one of many Hollywood stars that did what she couild for the GIs during Workd War II. After the War she was a little too old for the glamor star roles. She recreated her career on Broadway and eventually got back to Hollywood. Mame may well be her best remembered and best-loved film role. It's one of those rare perfect matches of artist and performance. Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow"; Roz played Mame. Russell in the movie recreates her stage role as Mame Dennis, the flamboyant, avaunt-guarde aunt of young, impressionable Patrick--the son of her snooty, deceased and rich brother. Russell is wonderful in the role. 'Mame' and 'Gypsy' are probably the highpoint of her carer. Interestingly she at first wanted all kinds of changes in the story. She did not like the idea of doing a 1920s play, primarily because of the costumes. [Jordon] But the Stock Market crash was an important aspect of the story. While her initial suggestions had to be rejected, she did have some more modest suggestions about the stageing, such as how Patrick mixed the martinis and Gooch's stair case scene. Jan Handzlik who played Patrick rembers the experience. He thought that Russel was at hear as close to Mame as one could be. He also recalls with great affection how she treated him, more like a mother than a film star. This was particularly important on Broadway when Jan was still quite young.
Patrick Dennis as a child is played by Jan Handzlik. Patrick was susposed to be 9 years old when Mame first sees him. He arrrives at Mame's apartment after the unexpected death of his father. Jan was 11-12 years old when he did the Broadway play. Russel who bought shares in the Broadway production company liked working with him on Broadway. She became quite attached to him and referred to him as "a darling". When Warner Brothers made the film, she insisted that he play the part. This gave the film, as she explains in her autobiography, a somewhat different look. Jan was only 9 years old when he began Aunty Mame on Broadway and at that age he came across as very innocent. He was 12 when he did the film. As there is a huge difference between the age of 9 and 12, Jan comes across as more precocious than innocent. She worried about him during Broadway run. He got sick twice during the run. She'd ask him what he had for dinner and he'd say a strawberry soda. Jan dressed in the basement which wasn't properly heated and he heard a lot of bad language there, plus he kept getting dirty. So she brought him up to her dressing room and looked after him there. His mother was an out of work Broadway singer so she found her a job. For a while he traveled back and forth to New Jersey where is home was. Russel droved him to the boat with great trepidation. To make her feel better, he would tell her, "It's only three blocks, and when I get off the ferry, I run all the way." As far as I know, "Auntie Mame" was his principal show business experience, although he appeared in a few television shows. He did not continue his acting career. He became an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Hthen became a celebrated criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles working with Kirkland & Ellis, defending defendants accused of white-collor crimes. He says he was not disappointed about not having a Hollywood career. He's divorced, and has three children.
Jan Handzlik in the Broadway production played both Patrick as a boy and Patrick's son Michael at the end of the play. In the film version, the producers decided to have another child actor play Michael. Movies do not have the sane budget constraints of Broadway plays. Michael was played by Terry Kelman. He appears briefly at the end of the film. Michaeland Mame are about to leave for India. Michael appears in a black short pants suit, knee socks, and, appropos of the journey--a turban. Terry Kelman I believe is Ricky Kelman's brother. Terry and Ricky played Dan Duryea's sons in the 1958 film Kathy O. Ricky Kelman also played in the "Dennis O'Keefe Show".
There were of course other wonderful actors and actreses in Auntu Mame. Peggy Cass gave a memorable performance as Mame's secretary Agness Gouch. The actor who played Mr. Babcock was also very effectively played by Fred Clark. He was the definitive Mr. Babclock. Jan Handzlik presumably had an understudy. He was sick a couple times, but I do not know who that was or how he preformed.
Russel, Russel. Life is a Banquet (New York: Ace, 1979).
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