The juicy theatrical history of Gypsy Rose Lee, America's founding strip tease artist, fuels Gypsy, one of the great movie musicals. Rosalind Russell plays her heart out as Rose, the pushy stage mom who just wanted to be a star herself. While originally played by Ethel Merman on Broadway, Russell makes the role her own and forces the story forward with her energy, as well as performing one the most memorable songs in the score, "Everything's Coming Up Roses." While an extraordinary dramatic actress, Natalie Wood doesn't exactly fit her part, yet she brings a deeper mystique to Louise. The mother/daughter relationship driving the story line has rarely been done better, thanks to Wood's thoughtful intensity and Russell's dominating charisma. Rather than playing a stripper as obviously bawdy, Wood's performance is understated and graceful as Louise rises in fame while vaudeville dies. The seedy underside of real burlesque houses is, of course, glossed over with cleanliness in this era of Hollywood musicals, making for some fun and fictional stripping numbers including "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" and "Let Me Entertain You." The colorful costumes and sets are well-done, but Mervyn LeRoy's direction is static. He is just not very inventive in transferring the essentially stage-bound material to the big screen. Nevertheless, Gypsy is an entertaining musical drama about a fascinating show-business personality.
by Andrea LeVasseur review