Patrick Dennis


Patrick Dennis

Patrick Dennis (May 18, 1921November 6, 1976) was an American author.

Born Edward Everett Tanner III in Evanston, Illinois, Dennis attended Evanston High School, where he began using his pseudonym. In 1942 he joined the American Field Service, working as an ambulance driver in North Africa and Saudi Arabia.

His most famous work, "Auntie Mame" (1955), spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list, selling as many as 5,000 copies a week. Prior to going out of print, it had sold over 2,000,000 copies in five different languages. Ironically, the manuscript was turned down by eleven publishers before being accepted by Vanguard. The novel recalls his supposed adventures growing up as the orphaned ward of his father's madcap sister, although in reality Dennis was raised by both parents. Dennis wrote a sequel, "Around the World With Auntie Mame", in 1958.

In 1956, with "Auntie Mame", "The Loving Couple: His (and Her) Story", and "Guestward, Ho!", Dennis became the only writer ever to have three books on the "New York Times" bestseller list at the same time.

The highly successful 1958 screen adaptation of "Auntie Mame", starring Rosalind Russell in the title role, inspired Jerry Herman's musical "Mame", with Angela Lansbury in the lead. It eventually was filmed with Lucille Ball.

Working with longtime friend, actor and photographer Cris Alexander, Dennis created two fictional biographies, complete with staged photographs. The first, "Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of That Great Star of Stage, Screen, & Television Belle Poitrine", a spoof of tell-all Hollywood memoirs, purported to be the life story of Belle Poitrine "as told to Patrick Dennis." His wife Louise appeared as Pixie Portnoy in the book's photographic illustrations, which included his children and their family retainer as well. Like "Auntie Mame", "Little Me" served as the source of a Broadway musical, with a book by Neil Simon and a score by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. The second "bio," "First Lady" (1964), allegedly was the life story of Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield, wife of a robber baron who "stole" the presidency for thirty days at the turn of the century.

Dennis' novel "House Party" (1954), written under the pseudonym Virginia Rowans, was about a supposedly-wealthy family who were in fact dead broke. It later served as the inspiration for the television sitcom "The Pruitts of Southampton".

Dennis' work fell out of fashion in the 1970s, and all of his books went out of print. 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.

In Dennis's 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, 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.

On December 30, 1948, Dennis married Louise Stickney, with whom he had two children. Throughout his life, he struggled with his bisexuality, at one point becoming a well-known participant in Greenwich Village's gay scene. He died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 55.

Bibliography

*"Oh What A Wonderful Wedding" (1953), published under the pseudonym Virginia Rowans
*"House Party" (1954), published under the pseudonym Virginia Rowans
*"Auntie Mame (1955), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"" (1956), published under the pseudonym Virginia Rowans
*"Guestward, Ho!" (1956), co-written as Patrick Dennis with Barbara Hooten
*"The Pink Hotel" (1957), co-written as Patrick Dennis with Dorothy Erskine
*"Around The World With Auntie Mame" (1958), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"Little Me" (1961), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"Love and Mrs. Sargent" (1961), published under the pseudonym Virginia Rowans
*"Genius" (1962), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"First Lady" (1964), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"The Joyous Season" (1965), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"Tony" (1966), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"How Firm A Foundation" (1968), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"Paradise" (1971), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis
*"3-D" (1972) (published in the UK as "Anything You Like" in 1974), published under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis

References

"Uncle Mame" by Eric Myers


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