A few words about…™ Auntie Mame — in Blu-ray

If you've never seen it, now is the perfect time, as this is a film not to be missed. 5 Stars

During her career in film, Rosalind Russell appeared in about fifty films.

It was around 1939, or about twenty films in, that she began to receive duly warranted star billing. And after The Women, and her fast-talking, wise-cracking Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday, she was a star.

Moving comfortably between Broadway and Hollywood, she opened in the adaptation of Patrick Dennis’ novel Auntie Mame at the Broadhurst on Halloween 1956, and that treat ended up placing her front and center in Warner Bros. production, directed by Morton DaCosta (who had directed her on Broadway), in the film of the same name.

True to its theater roots, the film version is slightly stage-bound, but that’s not a bad thing, as it accurately replicates the original work, opened up, where necessary.

Auntie Mame opened as Warner’s Christmas production in 1958, and I saw it at a theater in Philadelphia, during the holidays.

On a big screen.

My memory of it, placed it on interesting turf, as like Sayonara, The Big Country, and The Vikings, it was an early Technirama production, which had the look and textures of many of the roadshow, 70mm productions to which I was becoming familiar.

Technirama was, like VistaVision, a double frame process, which yielded extraordinary results, whether reduction printed via matrices to 35mm dye transfer prints, by Technicolor, or like Spartacus, released in 70mm, with each print struck from the original camera negative.

Warner Archive has taken the sixty year-old film elements, and created a magnificent Blu-ray edition.

Gorgeous finely grained film elements, yield a wonderfully highly resolved image, with superb color, and beautiful black levels, Auntie Mame is once again, in “treat” category.

If you’ve never seen it, now is the perfect time, as this is a film not to be missed. And certainly not to be confused with the 1974 musical version, starring Lucille Ball.

This is the great one.

Did I mention that Auntie Mame was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Rosalind Russell), Actress in a Supporting Role (Peggy Cass), Art Direction, Cinematography (Harry Stradling, Sr.), Film Editing (William Ziegler)…

and Best Picture?

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – You’d better believe it!

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

author,member

60 Comments

  1. Robert Harris

    Auntie Mame opened as Warner's Christmas production in 1958, and I saw it at a theater in Philadelphia, during the holidays.

    I was born and raised in Philadelphia and, as a movie lover, some of my favorite memories were going downtown to see a film (in those days that was about the only way you could see a first-run movie) at one of the many movie palaces (The Boyd Theater, The Fox Theater, etc.)

    Just for the sake of going down memory lane on Thanksgiving, any chance you remember the theater in which you saw "Auntie Mame"?

  2. jauritt

    I was born and raised in Philadelphia and, as a movie lover, some of my favorite memories were going downtown to see a film (in those days that was about the only way you could see a first-run movie) at one of the many movie palaces (The Boyd Theater, The Fox Theater, etc.)

    Just for the sake of going down memory lane on Thanksgiving, any chance you remember the theater in which you saw "Auntie Mame"?

    I recall seeing Zhivago in Center City, possibly at the Boyd, but Mame, being 35, might have been at the Bala, where I believe I also saw Ten Commandments.

  3. With this being a large format production it would be interesting to know if Warner worked from the camera negative or an IP? And if they used an IP did they go from a large format IP or a reduction element?

    In any case glad to read that it looks that good, the archive has been doing a fantastic job with their Blu-ray releases.

  4. There has been quite a discussion in another thread about stereo tracks for Auntie Mame. If I can ask: was it in stereo originally, is the Blu-ray stereo, and if not, what happened to the stereo?

    Also, I find a lot of stylistic similarity between Mame and The Music Man, also a Warners Technirama production directed by original Broadway director DaCosta. Any comments?

  5. rsmithjr

    There has been quite a discussion in another thread about stereo tracks for Auntie Mame. If I can ask: was it in stereo originally, is the Blu-ray stereo, and if not, what happened to the stereo?

    Also, I find a lot of stylistic similarity between Mame and The Music Man, also a Warners Technirama production directed by original Broadway director DaCosta. Any comments?

    I've never heard of the film being in stereo, and have found no information proving that it ever was.

  6. Thanks for the review and information on Technirama. I saw a good 35mm print in NYC in 1981, when revival houses daily showed classics. Prior to this,I had only viewed it cropped on tv.
    Morton Da Costa used the 'iris fade out' technique in this movie and in THE MUSIC MAN, a theatrical device which I believe was utilized in early cinema (and effectively employed in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS). I think MUSIC MAN is Da Costa's best movie. More cinematic than AUNTIE MAME,though both movies have artfully preserved their Broadway originals for posterity.
    The Warner orchestra with its Loony Tunes ambience is a perfect fit with AUNTIE MAME, as the broad performances give the film the impact of a cartoon with real people. MUSIC MAN is also akin to this, but to a lesser degree. I have not read the libretto of the play, but the screenplay cleverly implies the word 'bastard' which would have been impermissible in 1958. (BRIGADOON did something similar with 'bitches' in both the play and movie)
    The great success of this movie for Warners no doubt led to Roz being cast in GYPSY (after Ethel Merman and Judy Garland were rejected) and the decision to film MAME in 1973. The latter film is flawed (Lisa Kirk's reportedly recorded tracks should have been used for Lucy's songs and the soft focusing was overdone), but nonetheless it has great character actors and actresses, nifty editing and a stunning title sequence. Lucy is also underrated. I recall reading a fair review in the New York Times which cited its merits and faults but was basically positive. Hopefully, Warner Archive will release it on blu ray soon. Until they do, we at least have this version in an eye-popping transfer to feast on. After all, 'life's a banquet,and most poor……. 'etc!

  7. OliverK

    With this being a large format production it would be interesting to know if Warner worked from the camera negative or an IP? And if they used an IP did they go from a large format IP or a reduction element?

    In any case glad to read that it looks that good, the archive has been doing a fantastic job with their Blu-ray releases.

    The image harvest is derived from an actual 8-perf Technirama IP.

    Quality is superb.

  8. I listened to the GYPSY soundtrack album recently, and musically a great thing that AUNTIE MAME and THE MUSIC MAN had in their favor was Ray Heindorf.

    I think Heindorf really knew the "Warners sound" and arranged for it. The "sound" is there in GYPSY, but often orchestra sections are way out of balance.

  9. Robert Harris

    The image harvest is derived from an actual 8-perf Technirama IP.

    Quality is superb.

    Thanks Be To The Gods! Sometimes you really do get lucky…

    VistaVision wish-list: Lucy Gallant and the Seven Little Foys – both 1955/Paramount

  10. lionel59

    I have not read the libretto of the play, but the screenplay cleverly implies the word 'bastard' which would have been impermissible in 1958.

    In fact, the script of the play does include the word "bastard". While the word does not offend me in any way, I actually think the movie adjustment is funnier and more clever.

    There is also a similar change in GYPSY, in the "Gotta Get A Gimmick" number: The stage lyric "Grind your behind 'til you're banned" turned into "Grind 'til you're fined or you're banned". Such an inconsequential change in that case but I guess it passed the censors.

    Both the book and musical versions of AUNTIE MAME are favorites of mine and I am thrilled about this blu-ray.

    View attachment 42037

  11. John Skoda

    I listened to the GYPSY soundtrack album recently, and musically a great thing that AUNTIE MAME and THE MUSIC MAN had in their favor was Ray Heindorf.

    I think Heindorf really knew the "Warners sound" and arranged for it. The "sound" is there in GYPSY, but often orchestra sections are way out of balance.

    I don't believe Mr. Heindorf had anything to do with Gypsy – its musical direction was by Frank Perkins, if I remember correctly.

  12. haineshisway

    I don't believe Mr. Heindorf had anything to do with Gypsy – its musical direction was by Frank Perkins, if I remember correctly.

    Yes–that's my point. I think it suffered because he wasn't involved.

  13. I've never been prouder that Rosalind Russell and I have the same birthplace: Waterbury, Connecticut. Sounds like another winner from the Warner Archive. I wish another studio based in Burbank that used to make watches in Waterbury would sit up and take notice. There weren't many extras but they're still there. Meanwhile, her co-star in The Trouble With Angels made two wonderful movies that got fully loaded DVDs and barebones Blu-rays.

    KPmusmag

    There is also a similar change in GYPSY, in the "Gotta Get A Gimmick" number: The stage lyric "Grind your behind 'til you're banned" turned into "Grind 'til you're fined or you're banned". Such an inconsequential change in that case but I guess it passed the censors.
    View attachment 42037

    They also managed to preserve the rhyme structure though it came at the expense of the alliteration of "behind" and "banned".

    Of course, by the time My Fair Lady came to the screen two years later, the bloomin' arses and damns—outnumbering those of Rhett Butler, an anachronistic reference in Lucy's Mame—came with it. Nearly two decades later, when the Production Code was dead and buried, Carol Sobieski put language far from pure into Annie to avoid the stigma of a G rating*, and a decade after that the subsequent Gypsy TV stagings kept the uncensored line.

    *Speaking of anachronisms, you can't give them flack for being three years early to Camille and still let Who Framed Roger Rabbit off the hook for being two years early with Goofy Gymnastics and 10 years early with Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" as the singing sword's song. None of these anachronisms are arbitrary, however. John Huston co-wrote the screenplay to Jezebel in which Bette Davis (a "Let's Go to the Movies" reference) makes a mention of Camille. With the rabbit, Sinatra, of course, co-starred with another Disney hybrid star (none of the animated characters from either of the studio's 1970s hybrids appeared even though their films were set before 1947), Angela Lansbury, in The Manchurian Candidate. Her first husband, Richard Cromwell, was also in Jezebel.

  14. JoeDoakes

    I still can't believe she stepped on the ball

    "It was ghastly… just ghastly" "I'm so pleased to make your acquaintance." "Patrick, I didn't know your aunt was literate."

    Looking forward to this one.

  15. Jim*Tod

    "It was ghastly… just ghastly" "I'm so pleased to make your acquaintance." "Patrick, I didn't know your aunt was literate."

    Looking forward to this one.

    WARNING: Young Ladies should not drink Dr. Pepper while watching this film!!! 😉

  16. Richard Gallagher

    TCM is airing three Rosalind Russell films tomorrow: Never Wave at a WAC, Mourning Becomes Electra, and Man-Proof.

    Let's see, first we have a Russell release of "Auntie Mame";
    and then today, on television, we have a Russell film entitled: "Never Wave at a WAC".
    Is this a coincidence or just some form of subliminal advertising?:D

  17. MatthewA

    I've never been prouder that Rosalind Russell and I have the same birthplace: Waterbury, Connecticut. Sounds like another winner from the Warner Archive. I wish another studio based in Burbank that used to make watches in Waterbury would sit up and take notice. There weren't many extras but they're still there. Meanwhile, her co-star in The Trouble With Angels made two wonderful movies that got fully loaded DVDs and barebones Blu-rays.

    They also managed to preserve the rhyme structure though it came at the expense of the alliteration of "behind" and "banned".

    Of course, by the time My Fair Lady came to the screen two years later, the bloomin' arses and damns—outnumbering those of Rhett Butler, an anachronistic reference in Lucy's Mame—came with it. Nearly two decades later, when the Production Code was dead and buried, Carol Sobieski put language far from pure into Annie to avoid the stigma of a G rating*, and a decade after that the subsequent Gypsy TV stagings kept the uncensored line.

    *Speaking of anachronisms, you can't give them flack for being three years early to Camille and still let Who Framed Roger Rabbit off the hook for being two years early with Goofy Gymnastics and 10 years early with Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" as the singing sword's song. None of these anachronisms are arbitrary, however. John Huston co-wrote the screenplay to Jezebel in which Bette Davis (a "Let's Go to the Movies" reference) makes a mention of Camille. With the rabbit, Sinatra, of course, co-starred with another Disney hybrid star (none of the animated characters from either of the studio's 1970s hybrids appeared even though their films were set before 1947), Angela Lansbury, in The Manchurian Candidate. Her first husband, Richard Cromwell, was also in Jezebel.

    The Russell building is still there downtown, I drove by it last week!

  18. I recall the trailer on a dvd being in stereo. And as of this time all disc s should look better becuse of less conpression and les s distance among other things.

  19. Ed Lachmann

    This is the most exciting release Warner Archives has ever offered in my book, even more so than Dorian Gray and Lust For Life. Hope they mine the 50's classics even more in upcoming months.

    Yes!! And I hope for a nice remaster of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL.

  20. Will Krupp

    I made the mistake of putting this on my Christmas list (which means it's going to sit at my mother's house in PA :angry:)

    Sounds like Will Krupp needs a little Christmas; right this very minute.
    You should have asked for socks.:laugh:

  21. John Hermes

    I received my disc today and have been spot checking it. Wow. Beautiful. The color is rich. The fades and dissolves are A/B rolled too. Yes!!

    With the exception of a few early large format films, I believe all were cut either A/B or single strand auto-select

  22. Yes…. I was only going to sample it tonight but watched the whole thing. This is a real beauty of a disc. I had never noticed before on the fade outs where Russell is the only thing lit in the frame, the shot ends with just a bit of lavender light on her. Stradling was such a master of this kind of film. The use of filters on Russell is done with incredible finesse. I remember seeing MAME when it came out on huge screen and each time the camera got near Ball it was as if a dense fog as suddenly set in…not at all subtle. This new transfer also makes me appreciate the details in the Orry-Kelly costumes. Let's hear it for old school Hollywood craftsmanship!

  23. This is indeed a 'beauty of a disc'. What looked good on the DVD, now looks quite wonderful. Warner Archive has done it again. For those who already own the DVD, it's definitely worth a trade-up. And if you don't already own this film – what are you waiting for-??!! It's just a wonderful story, that's wickedly-funny, and so prefect in every way.

  24. Robert Harris

    With the exception of a few early large format films, I believe all were cut either A/B or single strand auto-select

    Can't remember to have seen many dupey scenes in 70mm prints except for effects shots in movies like Khartoum, Krakatoa or The Greatest Story Ever Told that looked really bad. One cannot imagine how bad Giant would have looked in 70 mm with all those dissolves!

  25. ahollis

    After watching this gorgeous Blu-ray and enjoying the performance of Rosalind Russell, I desire blu’s or at least good DVD’s of Rosie and Oh Dad, Poor Dad. She is so wonderful.

    I would LOVE to have Rosie! I was just thinking about it the other day and lamenting how some movies simply drop off the face of the Earth even with big stars and from major studios.

  26. Crazy idea: Due to MAME's long running time (2.75 hours), and given the period in which the film was released, did MAME ever receive a roadshow presentation (with extra music and/or intermission) or was such an idea even considered by Warner's? Just thinking.

  27. Came across the following quote on another board. I have no idea if it is accurate or not, but I do wish I could hear this film in stereo:
    —————-
    "By the way the movie actually WAS in 4 track stereo sound. My best friend John, who passed away 3 years ago, was a career projectionist since 1953 all the way to working at the Mall of America theaters until they fired all of the projectionists. We talked many times about how he projected Auntie Mame in 4 track magnetic stereo sound, it was one of his favorite films and many days he would go down to the theater to watch different scenes. He even remembered different periods of stereo separation, and said all of the dialogue was panned, the musical score had full stereo separation. He remembered one scene, when Auntie Mame is on stage in Vera's play, how strong the audience was in the surround channel. What a shame that Jack Warner ordered the disposal of all stereo masters, one of the worst moves by any studio executive ever, in my opinion."

  28. At least Morton DaCosta's next film for Warner Bros., The Music Man, still has a glorious stereo soundtrack that survives. That, Carl Stalling era-Looney Tunes, My Fair Lady and A Star Is Born are what I think of when I think of the distinct sound of Warner Bros. musicals of the 1950s and early 1960s. Even in mono, Auntie Mame still bears similar sonic characteristics and it's good to hear that what has survived and can be accessed by the studio is presented exquisitely.

    That American Cinematheque screening sounds mighty tempting, and hopefully the fires in SoCal will have died down by then. If not or if time, money and work make it impossible, the Blu-ray will be the next best thing.

    And I do agree about Bronislau Kaper's score. That as much as anything else helped seal its destiny in becoming a musical.

  29. It was certainly shown here in Australia in 4 track.
    A friend who has spent his life working for Columbia saw the 4 track print in the Warner's theatrette here in Sydney.
    When I told him of this release, the first words out of his month were "did they find the stereo track. It sounded great".

  30. It appears that the bluray is the same as the download I got off Amazon — but I get an isolated music track and trailers on the bluray. It’s interesting about the controversy of there being a stereo track on this. There is also a controversy about a stereo track on the Lucy version as well. Can anyone clear that one up? There has been a legend that the movie was filmed in stereo but because Lucy’s singing was so bad they released it in mono.

  31. warnerbro

    It appears that the bluray is the same as the download I got off Amazon —

    There has been plenty of testimony from the folks at Warner Archive that the Blu-ray is a brand new harvest and cleanup of the film and most definitely NOT the same as what was available through streaming. Now, whether the streaming services have been upgraded with the new version since it became available I couldn't say…

Leave a Reply