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Widely considered, top to bottom, one of the finest musicals in Broadway history, Gypsy got lucky in its film version. Granted, Rosalind Russell doesn't have the bell-ringing voice one craves for in "Everything's Coming Up Roses," but as a domineering stage mom, she's truly fearsome. Trouping through vaudeville with her is her daughter, the future celebrity stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, played by Natalie Wood in all her youthful lusciousness. The production is studio-bound, but this actually fits the unreal show-biz world depicted. The Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim score has no weak spots, and some of the burlesque numbers ("Let Me Entertain You" and the riotous "You Gotta Get a Gimmick") are so authentic, you'd swear they were at least 100 years old. Gypsy is one of those big, somewhat stately musicals that does satisfying credit to its stage origins; no cinematic ground-breaking here, but a swell way to spend a rainy afternoon. --Robert Horton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Natalie Wood is also excellent as Gypsy Rose Lee, who succeeded beyond her mother's Dreams. Her mother and daughter showdown scene with Russell is riveting. A young, vibrant Ann Jillian gives equally great support as Dainty June, the focus of Mama Rose's machinations for most of the film, who also went on to become June Havoc, one of the most celebrated stage actresses of her time.
Besides great acting, the songs are performed with a bravura and brilliance that far outclasses all other versions of this musical. In fact the Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra plays this music so magnificently it makes the more recent Bette Midler TV version sound anemic by comparison. The Dolby Digital 5:1 Discrete Surround envelopes you into the proceedings and the sharp, richly saturated Technicolor wide screen image (2:35-1) is fully equal to the superb audio.
But it is Rosalind Russell in one of the greatest screen performances ever committed to film that drives this version of GYPSY to the top of the heap and makes this DVD a "must own."
What a treat it was to re-watch GYPSY after lo these umpteen years. Rosalind Russell's Rose is a study in great force-of-nature type acting. As it happens, hers is the only Rose I've ever seen, so I cannot really get into the who-was-better argument with any real authority. But it's hard to imagine that Merman could have played this archetypical stage monster, uh, mother with more authority on the big screen. My guess is that those who maintain that Russell brings subtlety to the character that Merman could not have are right. Merman may have been great on stage, where bigger is better (voice, manner, gesture and all out pizzazz), but what works wonderfully on stage may be deadly on screen (and vice versa).
Roz was the quintessential tough broad on screen. She projected warmth, as well as street smarts though--and that was the order of the day with the screen version of GYPSY. She's supported by a wonderful cast: Karl Malden, just great as always, as her big lug/softie of a suitor. And Natalie Wood, fetching as always, as the young, sweet vulnerable Louise.
GYPSY is as good a musical as you're going to find. Smart, touching, sassy. They don't make 'em like that anymore. Well, of course, they don't really make musicals much anymore, but you know what I mean.
I hope I won't leave Roz Russell fans crushed when I mention one thing, however. For years, I used to tout Russell's talk-singing as proof that a talented actor with even moderate vocal ability could always learn to put over a song. Now I learn from imdb.com that the vocals (some? all?) may have been supplied by actress Lisa Kirk. I am shocked--not appalled, but shocked. If those vocals aren't Roz's own, well, it's just about a perfect match. The songs are sung in as gritty a voice as Roz uses in delivering the lines. I have no doubt that Russell could have pulled it off herself, and it may have been the case that some suit at the studio chickened out and brought in Lisa.
Well, it could have been worse. At least they didn't go against type and drag in Marni Nixon.
PS--Ah yes, it only occurred to me to check a little further to see if there was a soundtrack album on CD to see what the real scoop on the Lisa/Roz business was. It's true that Lisa was brought in after Roz had already recorded her versions. Since Roz's outtakes are included on the CD, it's doubtless enlightening. The reviews (all customer reviews, in this case) are penned by fans in the know, and although no one can agree, they're well worth taking a look at if you're at all curious. Purchasing the CD may well be worth it if you're very curious.