Who Came First Rosalind Russell or Auntie Mame

Who cares! To me the two women are one in the same. In my opinion Auntie Mame was written for Rosalind Russell and Rosalind Russell was the epitome of gumption that Auntie Mame embodied. The truth is Auntie Mame chronologically came first. While the novel Auntie Mame was first published in 1955 by Edward Everett Tanner III. Edward penned the novel in his character name, Patrick Dennis. Tanner was born into a wealthy family in Chicago and didn’t want to publish with his birth name. Almost all of his novels were penned using several different pseudonyms. The title character Auntie Mame was almost completely based on Tanner’s Aunt Marion Tanner. Sadly the tale of an orphaned child living with his aunt was probably untrue part of the novel. Edward Tanner never went to live with his Aunt Marion as a child he borrowed greatly from Marion’s life story. 

 This orange and black number was to be my costume. Halo and all.

This orange and black number was to be my costume. Halo and all.

After the novel was published, Edward told the press that his Aunt Marion was not the model for his Auntie Mame character. Marion was a free and loving spirit and provided a haven for artists, writers in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Later her home became a place of refuge for those in need, especially children. Edward never agreed with the lifestyle his Aunt was living. At one point in the 60’s, Marion was on the verge of losing her home in New York City and you would think her millionaire nephew (who his fortune off his aunt’s life) would swoop in to save her. Sadly he stood by his guns and told the press his aunt was in no way reference in the creation of Mame. After Edward’s death in 1976, the truth finally came out that Marion Tanner was in fact Auntie Mame. Marion shared many historical references with Mame, both worked at Macy’s, both were actresses on the stage, Marion even stared in a play titled “Knickerbocker Holiday” (Edward even named the banking establishment in the novel, The Knickerbocker Bank). Marion even lost a great deal of money from the great crash and she was also married twice like Mame. 

No matter what, Mame and Marion were both two loving and caring women. Both held the human race in great regard. Rosalind Russell herself was also amazing human herself. Rosalind first inhabited the role of Auntie Mame when the novel was adapted for Broadway. The play opened to rave reviews and earned Russell with another tony nomination. Russell would move wife the play from the stage to big screen and the Auntie Mame movie would go on to being the highest grossing film of 1958. Rosalind would earn another Oscar nomination but sadly the movie and Russell were robbed of much deserved Oscar. One thing that makes Auntie Mame such great wealth of inspiration beside the amazing costumes, it is based on the decadent characters written by Tanner and the perfectly portrayed and coifed actors from the movie. One of the greatest lessons from the novel was that we need to “Live, Live, Live” or “Life is a banquet and most poor fools are starving to death” - wink wink! 

I really wanted to dress as Auntie Mame for the Cabaret evening but I didn’t want to outshine our Mistress of Ceremony. Rosalind to this day is most certainly my all time favorite actress (alive or dead). Her energy level on the screen truly cannot be matched by any other actress. Even more than Carole Lombard! I remember the first time I saw this movie when I was a child and fell in love with it deeply. I even purchased the VHS tape when I was a teenager when it was finally released in the late 80’s. It actually travelled with me to college and back and the movie was also one of my first DVD purchases. Cardboard case and all. Recently I shared the movie with Paley and she too gushed over the eccentric Auntie Mame. I see a Mame costume at least in her future. Just need to strategically place a viewing before the next Halloween.