Monday, March 19, 2012
Mimosas and Mame
The movie Auntie Mame is centered on the main character, Mame, an unconventional individualist socialite from the roaring 20's. When her brother dies, she is forced to raise her nephew Patrick. However, Patrick's father has designated an executor to his will to protect the boy from absorbing too much of Mame's rather unconventional perspective. Patrick and Mame become devoted to each other in spite of this restriction, and together journey through Patrick's childhood and the great depression, amidst some rather zaney adventures.
The movie was based on the book by Patrick Dennis. Patrick Dennis was an American author, whose novel Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade (1955) was one of the bestselling American books of the 20th century. In chronological vignettes "Patrick" recalls his adventures growing up under the wing of his madcap aunt, Mame Dennis. Dennis wrote a sequel, Around the World with Auntie Mame, in 1958.
Throughout his life, Dennis struggled with his bisexuality, later becoming a well-known participant in Greenwich Village's gay scene.
Dennis' work fell out of fashion in the 1970s, and all of his books went out of print. In his later years, he left writing to become a butler, a job that his friends reported he enjoyed. At one time, he worked for Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. Although he was at long last using his real name, Edward Everett Tanner III, he was in essence working yet again under a pseudonym; his employers had no inkling that their butler, Tanner, was the world-famous author Patrick Dennis.
He died from pancreatic cancer in Manhattan at the age of 55 in November 1976.
At the turn of the 21st century there was a resurgence of interest in his work, and subsequently many of his novels are once again available. His son, Dr. Michael Tanner, wrote introductions to several reissues of his father's books. Some of Dennis' original manuscripts are held at Yale University, others at Boston University.