**I’m reposting this as part of the LAMB Acting School Tribute to Rosalind Russell. Head over to the LAMB to discover more contributions highlighting Ms. Russell**
I’ve said this before, I’m a Broadway geek and yet I’ve never seen what is the quintessential Broadway story. Hell it’s the story of Hollywood itself, Gypsy. The movie follows the rise of famed burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee and her stage mother Mama Rose. Those who watch Toddlers and Tiaras have definitely see a Mama Rose or two in their time. I’ve read a few books on early child stars and there’s many stories about the lives of sisters June and Louise Hovick, some sweeter than others. The movie is a prime example of 60s roadshow films with a lengthy runtime and some great musical numbers.
If you read my review of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World I believe I detailed the roadshow films that were trying to get people away from the newfound contraption, the television. Gypsy holds all the attributes of a film that toured the nation, spreading word of mouth and enticing people to leave the comfort of their home and seeing a movie. It boasts a three-hour runtime, based on a Broadway hit with huge stars including Natalie Wood, Rosalind Russell, and Karl Malden.
The film follows Rose Hovick (Russell) and her attempts to make her daughter June (Ann Jillian) into a star. When June decides she’s done and abandons the show Rose moves on towards making awkward older sister Louise (Wood) a star.
I ADORE with a capital A, Natalie Wood. After an eighth grade viewing of West Side Story in choir class I thought not only was Natalie Wood the most beautiful woman in the world, but a hell of an actress. She’s the one who made me appreciate acting! In West Side Story she might not have sung, but in Gypsy she showcases her vocal talent including in her debut on stage “Let Me Entertain You.” The film makes a point of separating Louise from her cuter, blonder sister in many ways. Not only is she awkward, clumsy, and prone to dressing up as the cow in the show, she’s curvier and freer. “Let Me Entertain You” starts as a sweet kids song when June sings it, but by the end Louise uses it as a song of enticement to get the men at the burlesque hot and bothered. Wood is sweet throughout, eager to please her mother, but when she gets a taste of freedom and attention she’s able to turn on everything she holds dear. It’s finally her in the spotlight and no one’s taking it away!
That’s really the theme of the film, maintaining and gaining attention from someone. Rose wants attention from her father and her daughters. June wants love and Louise wants someone to notice her instead of seeing her as second fiddle to her sister. All the young ladies strive to assert themselves and for 1962 this is a very girl-power film. Russell can become really grating but it’s all in playing the role of Mama Rose. She’s determined by God, and if she were younger and prettier she’d be scraping tooth and nail to be famous! “Rose’s Turn” is an iconic song (and I must admit I had never heard it before Glee), and it sums up the movie perfectly.
The acting is amazing, the story is fascinating, and I’m really interested in reading American Rose now to learn more about Gypsy Rose Lee and her family. Gypsy is fantastic for musical fans, classic film fans, and anyone wondering who inspired Dina Lohan!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.