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This is an unusual musical film, loosely based on (not directly copied
from) the Broadway musical of the same name, using the music by
Sondheim & Stein. (Among its better known songs are: "Everything's
Coming Up Roses," "Let Me Entertain You").
The Broadway play was loosely based on Gypsy Rose Lee's fairy tale version of growing up under the strong hand of her mother (Rose Hovick) along with her younger sister, June Havoc, who earlier escaped Momma Rose's clutches and much later became a stage, movie, & TV star.
Rosalind Russell's performance (Momma Rose) has often been criticized as being inferior to Ethel Merman's although Russell (IMO) delivers a very strong performance. Much of the difference is that in the stage version, most of Momma Rose's dark side is not shown; in Russell's version, one sees a slightly more realistic version of Momma Rose.
Russell's Momma Rose increasingly becomes (IMO) an unlikeable character rather than one brassy, funny, and larger than life. This is a bit closer to the real Momma Rose (read Noralee Frankel's "Stripping Gypsy" for an excellent biography). Momma was an extremely demanding woman, more than a bit psychopathic, who not only pressed both of her daughters to earn money for her but also drove them emotionally away. Karl Malden as Momma Rose's put-upon lover-in-waiting stands in for the many men Momma Rose actually conned and he brings enough sympathy to his role that it adds more fuel to disliking the Momma Rose that Russell brings to life. Natalie Wood is a very believable Gypsy.
An interesting film, both for its presentations of family relationships and for an era. If the film was less detailed, shorter, possibly its emotional impact would have been closer to that of the stage version. As it is, Momma's selfishness, her determination to get whatever she wanted at any cost, becomes dominant and one is thankful her two daughters escaped.
The difference between the versions of Momma Rose presented in this film and that of the stage musical stimulated me to read Frankel's excellent biography ("Stripping Gypsy"), Preminger's (Gypsy's son) "Gypsy & Me" AKA "My G-String Mother," plus June Havoc's "Early Havoc" & "More Havoc." (Plus Abbot's less helpful biography of Gypsy: "American Rose.")
Fascinating family to explore!
I also read Gypsy's fantasy, "Gypsy, a Memoir," the foundation on which the musical was built. It's interesting storytelling but a fairy tale. Momma Rose died a few years before "Gypsy," her book, was published. On her death bed, Momma Rose died putting a curse on Gypsy as Gypsy was trying to comfort her. But a great story is more acceptable than the truth and, besides, Gypsy had learned quite well from her mother the marketable advantage of spinning interesting stories!
This is one of my favorites, but I do wish Ethel Merman had been given
the chance to do the role in the film. Rosalind Russell was brilliant
as Mama Rose, but her voice wasn't really up to the task. She really
chews up the scenery as only a diva can. Mama Rose is really a role for
the bigger than life stars and Ms. Russell filled the bill perfectly.
Karl Malden was a surprise in this role. He was really quite good. (As
a kid, I recall him from TV, so I didn't know what a solid career he
had in movies prior to his television years). Natalie Wood was properly
demure and gave it as good as she was allowed. As mentioned in the
other review, the story centers on Mama Rose, so Lousie (later Gypsy
Rose Lee) takes a backseat to the action. If you're a fan of musicals,
this is a must see.
For a contrast, see the 1993 remake done for television. It starred Bette Midler who was really good in the role, too. I also saw this on Broadway when Tyne Daly took on the role, so get a recording of that show if you can. She was really good in the role.
I never saw Gypsy on Broadway, but I thought the movie version was great!
feel Roz Russell was NOT miscast as Rose and she gave a very funny,
Natalie Wood was perfect in the role of Gypsy Rose Lee and who could have been sweeter in the role? Incidently, Natalie does her own singing in this movie and Roz Russell's voice is dubbed in parts.
By the way, Marnie Nixon dubbed Natalie's voice in West Side Story, but can you think of anyone else who could have played Maria with such breathtaking magic? There is a reason why film directors like Robert Wise cast someone like Natalie Wood in musicals. She may not be a "professional" dancer or singer, but she brings something else to the picture... a larger-than-life screen presence that makes the audience care about what happens to her. Many talented Broadway performers are passed up for this very reason. They just don't have that certain screen presence that is going to sell tickets. That's life!
In my opinion, this 1962 film, based upon the 1957 book "Gypsy: A
Memoir" written by Gypsy Rose Lee, herself, would have faired so much
better had it been presented as a straight drama. I certainly found
that both the musical numbers and the frequent lapses into comedy
really weakened the overall punch that this film undoubtedly could've
produced had these unnecessary elements not dominated a good part of
I also thought that Rosalind Russell's character as Rose Hovick, the ultimate, overbearing stage-mother-from-hell (who tyrannized the entire story) was given way-way too much attention and screen-time for my liking.
From start to finish Russell's willful, one-note character literally chewed-up every bit of scenery with her loud, controlling and bossy histrionics. I found that this decidedly annoying character lost the novelty of her appeal within the first 30 minutes of the story.
I also found that "Gypsy's" 143-minute running time to be almost unendurable to sit through. If a good 30 minutes had been carefully edited from this production I think that it would've been so much easier to enjoy.
This movie just went on and on and on. (Ho-hum!) And its story just seemed to be going around and around in a vicious circle that ended up, in the long run, going absolutely nowhere at all.
Another serious problem with "Gypsy" was the miscasting of Natalie Wood as the title character. From my point of view, Wood (though undeniably attractive) just didn't seem to possess the crucial dramatic resources to draw upon for this very demanding part. Wood simply played her part sweet & simple and this inevitably reduced her "Gypsy" to being nothing but an unambitious square - In other words, she was an accidental success.
Yes. I fully understand that this film was clearly a product of early-1960's movie-making and that strict censorship was still in full swing back then - But, with that said, I really thought that it was completely laughable that Gypsy Rose Lee's meteoric rise to becoming a very hot burlesque queen was depicted as though just a sly wink, a sexy wiggle, and the revealing of a naked shoulder (and nothing else) was all that was required of her to achieve this special status of "striptease" royalty.
Even though "Gypsy" was obviously a big-budget production that might have worked its intended magic as a stage play, on screen it was a truly disappointing let-down that certainly left a whole helluva lot to be desired.
All-in-all - I would never recommend this film to anyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Superb. Outstanding musical with the great Roz Russell proving once
again that she had what it took to step into the role of Mrs. Rose
Hovick, the definition of a backstage mother who pushed her daughter
more than Lillian Roth's mother did if that were possible.
Russell totally captured the role of the matriarch who gave everything for her daughters success. Karl Malden was quite impressive as Herbie, the manager who loved but ultimately could not marry Rose.
To me, Natalie Wood was miscast here. She was too wooden as a young Louise, but certainly garnered attention once she was introduced to the world of stripping.
The songs and dancing are superbly staged. Some people can be content playing bingo and paying the rent, Mama, Mr. Goldstone and Russell's finale, where she lets her hair down and shows that the career meant for her children was what she really wanted for herself.
I had a dream certainly comes true here. Really a shame that Russell never won an Oscar and wasn't even nominated here.
In memory of June Havoc, Baby June in the film, who went on to quite a career. Remember Ms. Wales in Gentleman's Agreement?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Great songs, great performances across the board....
The only thing is that Mama Rose is such a loathsome character. She manipulates everyone around her, and subjects her children to years of privation and uncertainty in pursuit of a successful stage career for June. When June, who has been happy to be top of the pile within the family troupe, finally takes off in her own direction, Rose transfers this to Louise - who isn't very talented and doesn't really want it. On the point of finally giving up - which Louise and long-suffering doormat Herbie both want - Rose makes a last-ditch attempt at success by forcing Louise into stripping. It turns out that Louise is pretty good at this, but she too pursues her own career in her own way. Good for her, I say.
It is clear from very early on that Rose is doing it all for Rose, no matter how much she says she's doing it for the girls, and every time I see this film - and I've seen it quite a lot - I badly, badly want to see her get her comeuppance. But she never does. For me, the key scene is when Rose reads the letter - a firm but loving letter - from June, explaining that June is cutting loose. After a long period of stunned silence from Rose during which Louise and Herbie excitedly make plans for a normal life, Rose comes out of her funk and wildly expounds her ideas for putting Louise on the stage. She comes across as, frankly, deranged at this point, and Louise and Herbie hug each other closely in utter horror, which I shared.
But that can't take away from the songs, or the performances, or Natalie Wood's luminous beauty.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on the hit Broadway play, Mervyn LeRoy directed this
under-appreciated musical gem. Rosalind Russell is Mama Rose, the
mother of all stage mothers, grooming her two young daughters for
stardom on the vaudeville stage. She pays special attention to her
youngest child, blond Baby June, while Louise is relegated to the
background. As time goes on, the vaudeville craze fades with the coming
of talkie films, and now her bubbly blond darling, Danity June (Ann
Jilliann), is desperate to break free, deserting the family act. Rose
is forced to start from scratch, with wallflower Louise (Natalie Wood,
who was always in her sister's shadow), as the headliner in a new act,
which basically goes nowhere. One day, Rose and her troop, now called
Rose Louise and her Hollywood Blondes, wind up in a burlesque theater,
and young Louise finds herself drawn into the the role of a stripper.
She sheds her shy persona and becomes the world's most famous stripper,
Gypsy Rose Lee.
Ethel Merman originated Rose on the stage, but Roz Russell does more than an adequate job, despite the fact that her singing voice was dubbed in some musical numbers. She is strong, overbearing, a little eccentric, but at the same time, she commands the audience's sympathy when she realizes that her ambition has just driven her daughters away, and she finds herself alone, with no one to live through anymore. Natalie Wood gives a touchingly vulnerable performance, her thin but endearing singing voice expressing Louise's pain and confusion in extraordinary volumes. Since she was groomed by an obsessive stage mother herself, Wood really had the the material to draw from; her lessons from the real Gypsy Rose Lee undoubtedly helped in her character's transformation from a shy girl to sophisticated stripper (the striptease numbers are fabulous). Who doesn't shed her a tear when she sings, "Little Lamb", or feels enthralled as she performs "Let Entertain You"? As she studies herself before a mirror prior to her first night on the burlesque stage, she sees her beauty for the first time - "I'm pretty - I'm a pretty girl, Mama!" When she makes her mark, she engages in an argument with her controlling mother, bringing both to a heartache, and later, an understanding. "You really could have been something, Mother," Louise informs Rose after catching a bit of her "performance" on the empty stage.
Having seen the 1993 version starring Bette Midler, I still prefer this one; no matter what anyone says, Roz is not miscast, and this film does not, in my opinion, have any "clumsy" moments; it is a vintage Hollywood musical. Karl Malden gives a comedic and committed performance as Rose's suitor Herbie, who wants her to marry him and who wants to provide a home for her kids. A young Morgan Brittney plays little Baby June; seeing her makes you think of her as the "Jon Benet" of the 1920s. It's finally on DVD, as it deserves to be; the letterbox enhances the film in a way that pan-and-scan videos never could.
Everything's coming up roses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A movie with an odd trade-off. While its a pity that Ethel Merman's knockout stage performance wasn't captured on film and her vocal renditions are of course inimitable she was never the most subtle of actresses able to convey delicate emotions. Therein lays the trade-off while Rosalind Russell was not an accomplished singer and is dubbed throughout the film she was a far superior actress enabling her to infuse the overbearing Mama Rose with emotional resonance. While she will never be a sympathetic character Roz provides some insight and offers a little understanding into her mad drive. The real Gypsy Rose Lee was assuredly more calculating and tough than she is presented here but that's an author's prerogative. Natalie Wood makes her beautiful, vulnerable and shimmering with star quality but until the great showdown scene near the end the character is really secondary. Karl Malden fills out the only other really important part as Herbie with terrific sensitivity. The music is all sensational and You Gotta Have a Gimmick is wonderfully performed. Unfortunately a few numbers were cut to keep the running time down for theatrical showings but even without them this is a high quality production from the last days when the studios still knew how to effortlessly manufacture this type of musical.
After seeing many productions and the remake, I have to
say Roz was my favorite Rose. My biggest disappointment
comes from the foolish excising of "Together" from the film.
Even though the "lost" footage is added as an extra after the film on the DVD and Video, there is a verse missing. I was told that there are no more 35 mm prints in existence of this film but, I do not have statistics or proof to back this up but, I am sure there must be a copy of this film with the entire song in tact and Karl Malden's Verse in "You'll Never Get Away From Me." I have no clear reason as to why "Together..." was cut and I would like to know why but, I am in hopes it can be found somewhere and added in another video release undamaged.-Tony
I guess Roz Russell's singing, which was dubbed, was a bit underwhelming, but she has great presence in many of her songs, such as "Rose's Turn". She gives a pretty complex portrayal of Mama Rose that shows she has some heart. Though I wish I'd seen Ethel Merman, Miss Russell is a worthy substitute! Natalie Wood is quite good, too, giving much depth to her portrayal of Louise/Gypsy. Ann Jillian is good, also, as Dainty June. Karl Malden does overact, but that's only a small complaint. Great songs and good performances make this worth watching.
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