Starring-Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood
Scott’s Review #37
Reviewed June 18, 2014
The film version of the iconic Broadway production is a huge success, mainly due to the superb performance that Rosalind Russell gives as Mama Rose- a muscled, driven, stage mother in the Depression era show business world. She is mesmerizing in the role and very reminiscent of greats Joan Crawford and Bette Davis- both of whom also would have been wonderful in the role.
Clearly, Russell carries the film with her bombastic, loud, and determined performance- her children will become stars and Rose will get the stardom and spoils that she so richly deserves. She uses every nook and cranny to her advantage- from borrowing money from her father to scraping leftover Chinese food scraps and stealing silverware. Rose’s daughters, Baby June, and Louise (Natalie Wood) are in tow to help her achieve her goals- June the talented one and Louise along for the ride. When circumstances develop, Louise blossoms and become the famous Gypsy Rose Lee.
From masterpieces “Everything’s Coming up Roses” and “Some People” to her heartbreak at being a driven stage mom, Russell’s performance makes the film. Her best scene comes at the climax of the film- Rose, finally admitting to herself that she has spent her life with a need to be noticed, hits an empty theater stage, alone, and has an emotional breakdown.
Natalie Wood and Karl Malden certainly add depth to their characters, especially Wood, who goes from mousy wallflower to seductive stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.
From a casting perspective, I am not sure Wood was quite right for the role- the second time in two years this would occur (her casting in West Side Story being the other misstep), but she was an enormous star at the time and was awarded juicy roles.
Gypsy is one of the great Hollywood musicals from the 1950’s/1960’s heyday. Witty, smart dialog help this film emerge to the top of the list of similar type films. Bravura!
Oscar Nominations: Best Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color