Customer Review

79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ROSALIND RUSSELL SUPERB AS "MAMA ROSE"!, March 19, 2001
This review is from: Gypsy (DVD)
When Warner Bros purchased the rights to the 1959 musical hit GYPSY it was intended to make a purely dramatic film, with songs from the Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim Broadway score confined to the theatrical sequences. Rosalind Russell was chosen for the starring (but non-musical) role of Mama Rose along side Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee. However just as this version of GYPSY began filming, THE MUSIC MAN opened in theatres and scored a huge hit. It was then decided that GYPSY should be filmed as a musical follow-up to THE MUSIC MAN. The production closed down and was revamped as a musical. Rosalind Russell could sing but not in the style her role demanded (all of Mama Rose's songs in the Broadway production were written in the original Mama Rose, Ethel Merman's vocal style). It was decided to bring in singer Lisa Kirk to assist Russell with the vocals rather than re-cast the role. The end result fully justifies this decision because Rosalind Russell's Mama Rose is simply magnificent and the combination of Russell and Kirk in the songs is so perfect you never know (or care) who is doing the singing. No other actress, before or since (which includes such illustrious performers as Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bette Midler and Tyne Daly), even comes close to conveying the monster in mother's clothing that was Mama Rose the way Russell does while still allowing the humanity of the character to emerge now and then only to become subservient once again to her driving ambition.
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."
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 25, 2009 8:15:43 PM PDT
You nailed it. Rosalind Russell is the definitive Mama Rose. A brilliant performance. One of the best movie adaptations ever of a musical.

Posted on Jul 8, 2010 1:05:12 PM PDT
lou says:
I agree. Rosalind Russell IS Mama Rose! And Natalie Wood gives a poignant performance as the "other" child. The final showdown scene brings me to tears every time--so beautiful and honest.

Posted on Jun 23, 2011 1:51:23 PM PDT
Mary says:
Great review, thanks for the background.

Posted on Feb 11, 2012 12:21:19 PM PST
ELT says:
Mr. Campo, you are way off base here. This was not the Gypsy that should have been preserved on film. The screenplay was ludicrouslychanged from the libretto of the play. Like My Fair Lady, there was no need to change something already perfect. The overture is truncated, The Together number is gone, Roz did give an adequate performance but does not come close to the tenacity and monster qualities needed. Ms Wood and Mr Malden are fine but Herbie's character is less devloped as he has to double as Uncle Jocko, and truncating You'll Never Get Away from Me further diminished his character. The film works best in the second half as this part of the screenplay pretty much mirrors the stage show. BTW, Mr Campo, any sign of Alfred Newman's last great movie score Airport being preserved on Blu Ray?

Posted on Nov 23, 2013 5:44:29 AM PST
Love Roz Russell and the movie.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2014 11:07:00 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 17, 2014 11:12:18 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2014 5:06:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2014 5:33:51 PM PDT
Hi Edward, Do you know that Jule Styne actually conducts the Overture himself, that we see in the film? So he must have been happy with the miniscule alterations to the music. Look, I hear what you're saying and in some ways I agree. The trimming of 'You'll never Get Away From Me' is a real loss, but when you actually see the cut footage of 'Together Wherever We Go', which I was upset they cut, it's painfully obvious why. This average little song brings the story to a halt. And it doesn't quite ring true dramatically either. It's not until you see this on film that you realise that what works on a stage has to be totally re-imagined for film. Everyone involved with this film has something bad to say about it. Why I will never know. Arthur Laurents hated it, but he was by all accounts a deeply unpleasant man who hated everything, and everyone. And Stephen Sondheim is sadly becoming more like him every day. Jule Styne moaned about it too, but I think it's because the microscope that film places stage shows under, magnifies the flaws of the writing and the score. And this great show is not perfect. Better two hours of Rosalind Russell than two hours of Ethel Merman. She was wonderful in this show on the stage, but on the screen it was painfully obvious that she was a really, really bad actress, with a complete disregard for the play itself, or the cast around her. All she wanted to know was how many songs she had to sing, and how long she would be on the stage. And that info comes from Stephen Sondheim. The film looks stunning, as long as it stays indoors, the art direction is great, the backstage atmosphere has vever been bettered, all the cast are wonderful including Karl Malden, Roz is pretty damned good, and the dubbing works pretty well, all things considered. At least Roz makes the monster appealing, which Ethel would never, ever have been able to do on the screen. On the stage this matters less. Great plays have been written about awful people, but on the screen this is often a bit much. It's not a perfect film, but it's way ahead of the television version. So let's be grateful for what we have. All the best.
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