Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {Gypsy}

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1962's musical biography Gypsy is loosely based on Gypsy Rose Lee's memoirs, which was in turn, loosely based on her own early life first in vaudeville and then in burlesque.
It stars Natalie Wood, who was coached by Miss Lee herself.
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It tells the story of Gypsy and her younger sister, the actress June Havoc back when she was Baby June.
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Gypsy was famous for Madame Rose, the determine monster of a stage mother. Rose wanted to be a star herself, but a teenage marriage and early motherhood forced her to focus her ambitions on her two young daughters, whether they liked it or not.
Rosalind Russell plays Madame Rose, who's more like Auntie Mame as stage mother rather than the monster that we've heard that Gypsy's mother actually was. Having read Gypsy's memoirs, I think that even she glossed over how terrible her mother actually was. As much as I love Miss Russell, I think that had Ethel Merman reprised her role from the Broadway version, Rose would have been shown as a monster, rather than a likeable character we feel sorry for.
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Madame Rose is determined to turn Baby June into the star of vaudeville, regardless of how lousy the act is. And Baby June must always be Baby June, at least in the eyes of her mother.
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And poor Louise must always be a forgotten tomboy and ten years old for years, since Louise has no talent, or at least Madame Rose hasn't figured out what her talent is yet.
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And then Baby June, now being billed as Dainty June elopes with one of the boys from the act and leaves her family in the lurch, but that was how June Havoc was able to escape.
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So, the act becomes Rose Louise and her Hollywood Blondes, only the act is still lousy and Louise doesn't have any talent, but Madame Rose isn't going to let that stop her career. I mean, Madame Rose isn't going to let that stop Louise's career.
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The act is then accidentally booked into a second rate burlesque theatre as the act that's supposed to keep the cops out. This isn't exactly how Louise transformed herself into Gypsy, since they had to move into burlesque after vaudeville died.
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And in real life, Madame Rose wasn't so vehemently against burlesque and Louise was the one who pushed herself into stripping since she wasn't going to be a child performer forever.
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"Momma, I'm a pretty girl"
I absolutely love this dress!
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Much to Madame Rose's chagrin, Louise does actually have a talent after all: the striptease and she is able to become a star all by herself and she no longer needs her mother.
Even though this is a Code movie, I would have liked to see Natalie Wood recreate some of Miss Lee's acts that show her as a classy and witty strip teaser, which the emphasis on the tease, since Miss Lee became famous for her humour and her gimmick was that she talked when she was stripping. But I suppose we should be grateful that the censors allowed bumps and grinds in the movie at all.
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Poor Rose! What's she going to do now that she isn't wanted as a stage mother.
As terrible as Rose actually was, Lousie would never have become Gypsy Rose Lee in real life had it not been for her mother's drive and determination and inheriting her mother's talent for self promotion, which is what her memoirs are all about.
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Andi B. Goode said...

I downloaded this but still haven't got round to watching it (I've seen SO many musicals but there are still so more to see...) - I think Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood are, visually, a great match for mother and daughter, though.
-Andi x

Movie Dame said...

wow...i never heard of this movie or the back story. after reading your post, i'm definitely going to check it out :)