Gypsy (1962 film)

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Gypsy
GypsyFilmPoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay by Leonard Spigelgass
Story by Gypsy: A Musical Fable 
by Arthur Laurents
Jule Styne
Stephen Sondheim
Based on Gypsy: A Memoir 
by Gypsy Rose Lee
Starring Rosalind Russell
Natalie Wood
Karl Malden
Music by Jule Styne
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Editing by Philip W. Anderson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • November 1, 1962 (1962-11-01)
Running time 143 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million
Box office $11,076,923[1]

Gypsy is a 1962 musical comedy-drama film produced and directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The screenplay by Leonard Spigelgass is based on the book of the 1959 stage musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable by Arthur Laurents, which was adapted from Gypsy: A Memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee. Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics for songs composed by Jule Styne. The film was remade for television in 1993.

Plot[edit]

Determined to make her young, blonde, and beautiful daughter June a vaudeville headliner, willful, resourceful, domineering stage mother Rose Hovick will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. She drags the girl and her shy, awkward, and decidedly less-talented older sister Louise around the country in an effort to get them noticed, and with the assistance of agent Herbie Sommers, she manages to secure them bookings on the prestigious Orpheum Circuit.

Rosalind Russell in a scene from the film

Years pass, and the girls no longer are young enough to pull off the childlike personae their mother insists they continue to project. June rebels and elopes with Jerry, one of the dancers who backs the act. Devastated by what she considers an act of betrayal, Rose pours all her energies into making a success of Louise, despite the young woman's obvious lack of singing and dancing skills. Not helping matters is the increasing popularity of sound films, which leads to a decline in the demand for stage entertainment. With bookings scarce, mother and daughter find themselves in Wichita, Kansas, where the owner of a third-rate burlesque house offers Louise a job.

When one of the strippers is arrested for shoplifting, Louise unwillingly becomes her replacement. At first her voice is shaky and her moves tentative at best, but as audiences respond to her she begins to gain confidence in herself. She blossoms as an entertainer billed as Gypsy Rose Lee, and eventually reaches a point where she tires of her mother's constant interference in both her life and wildly successful career. Louise confronts Rose and demands she leave her alone. Finally aware she has spent her life enslaved by a desperate need to be noticed, an angry, bitter, and bewildered Rose stumbles onto the empty stage of the deserted theatre and experiences a moment of truth that leads to an emotional breakdown followed by a reconciliation with Louise.

Cast[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. Overture – Orchestra, conducted by Jule Styne
  2. "Small World" – Rose
  3. "Some People" – Rose
  4. "Baby June and Her Newsboys" – Baby June, Chorus
  5. "Mr. Goldstone, I Love You" – Rose and chorus
  6. "Little Lamb" – Louise
  7. "You'll Never Get Away From Me" – Rose, Herbie
  8. "Dainty June and Her Farmboys" – Dainty June, Chorus
  9. "If Mama Was Married" – June, Louise
  10. "All I Need Is the Girl" – Tulsa
  11. "Everything's Coming Up Roses" – Rose
  12. "Together Wherever We Go" – Rose, Herbie, Louise
  13. "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" – Tessie Tura, Mazeppa, Electra
  14. "Small World" (Reprise) – Rose
  15. "Let Me Entertain You" – Louise
  16. "Rose's Turn" – Rose

"Together Wherever We Go" was deleted prior to the film's release, although it was included on the soundtrack album, and "You'll Never Get Away From Me" was abbreviated to a solo for Rose following the initial run. In the DVD release of the film, both numbers – taken from a 16-millimeter print of inferior quality – are included as bonus features.[2]

Production[edit]

Rosalind Russell and her husband, theatre producer Frederick Brisson, were hoping to do a straight dramatic version of the story based directly on the memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee, but the book was irrevocably tied up in the rights to the play. Coincidentally, Russell had just starred in the film version of the Leonard Spigelgass play A Majority of One at Warner Bros., which Brisson had produced, and all parties came together to make Gypsy, with Russell starring, LeRoy directing, and Spigelgass writing the highly faithful adaptation of the Arthur Laurents stage book.

Although Russell had starred and sung in the 1953 stage musical Wonderful Town and the 1955 film The Girl Rush, the Gypsy score was beyond her. Her own gravelly singing voice was artfully blended with that of contralto Lisa Kirk. Kirk's ability to mimic Russell's voice is showcased in the final number "Rose's Turn", which is a clever blend of both of their voices. Kirk's full vocal version was released on the original soundtrack, although it is not the version used in the finished film. In later years, Russell's original tryout vocals were rediscovered on scratchy acetate discs and included as bonus tracks on the CD reissue of the film's soundtrack.[3]

Marni Nixon had dubbed Natalie Wood's singing voice in West Side Story the previous year, but Wood did her own singing in Gypsy. While Wood recorded a separate version of "Little Lamb" for the soundtrack album, in the film she sang the song "live" on the set. Other songs performed live were "Mr. Goldstone, I Love You" and the reprise of "Small World," both sung by Russell (not Kirk).

Reaction[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Film historian Douglas McVay observed in his book The Musical Film, "Fine as West Side Story is, though, it is equaled and, arguably, surpassed – in a rather different idiom – by another filmed Broadway hit: Mervyn LeRoy’s Gypsy. Arthur Laurents' book (for) West Side Story (adapted for the screen by Ernest Lehman), though largely craftsmanlike, falls short of his libretto for Gypsy (scripted on celluloid by Leonard Spigelgass), based on the memoirs of the transatlantic stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. The dialogue and situations in Gypsy have more wit, bite and emotional range, and the characterizations are more complex.[4]

Variety noted, "There is a wonderfully funny sequence involving three nails-hard strippers which comes when Gypsy has been unreeling about an hour. The sequence is thoroughly welcome and almost desperately needed to counteract a certain Jane One-Note implicit in the tale of a stage mother whose egotisms become something of a bore despite the canny skills of director-producer Mervyn LeRoy to contrive it otherwise. Rosalind Russell's performance as the smalltime brood-hen deserves commendation ... It is interesting to watch [Natalie Wood] ... go through the motions in a burlesque world that is prettied up in soft-focus and a kind of phony innocence. Any resemblance of the art of strip, and its setting, to reality is, in this film, purely fleeting."[5]

Box office performance[edit]

Gypsy was a financial success. Produced on a budget of $4 million, the film grossed $11,076,923 at the box office,[1] earning $6 million in US theatrical rentals.[6] It was the 9th highest grossing film of 1962.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards:

Rosalind Russell won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, her second consecutive win in this category; she won the previous year for A Majority of One. Additional nominations included:

Leonard Spigelgass was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.

Home media[edit]

Warner Home Video released the Region 1 DVD on May 2, 2000. The film is in anamorphic widescreen format with an audio track in English and subtitles in English and French.

The Region 2 DVD was released on December 6, 2006. The film is in fullscreen format with audio tracks in French and English and subtitles in French.

Gypsy is one of six films included in the box set The Natalie Wood Collection released on February 3, 2009.

Gypsy was released on Blu-Ray Disc through the Warner Archive Collection on November 20, 2012.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Gypsy. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ Gypsy at DVD.net.au
  3. ^ Gypsy at CDUniverse.com
  4. ^ McVay, Douglas (1967). The Musical Film. London: Zwemmer. LCCN 67022885/mn Check |lccn= value (help). 
  5. ^ Variety review
  6. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 pg 69.

External links[edit]