Gypsy Blu-ray Review
Everyone has heard of the dreaded “stage mother.” She’s the one that accompanies her child on every audition, often contradicting the director in what they are asked to do. She’s not there for her child. She’s there for HER. And if there ever was a worse stage mother then Rose Hovick I surely haven’t heard of her.
GYPSY is the film version of the 1959 Broadway musical which itself was based on the memoirs of famed entertainer (read: stripper) Gypsy Rose Lee. The film follows Mama Rose (Russell) and her two daughters: June (played at various stages of her life by Suzanne Cupito and Ann Jillian) and Louise, played by Diane Pace and Wood. In Rose’s eyes, June has all of the talent so she repeatedly conjures up vaudeville routines featuring the younger girl, leaving Louise pretty much as background. A chance meeting with a former performer turned candy bar salesman (Malden, outstanding in a true change of pace role) leads to a long relationship with Mama, though one that always seems to be one step below the top rung. Whether complaining that following the unknown comedian (ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jack Benny) on the bill is hurting her advancement or sneaking a troupe full of performers into a room meant to sleep three, Rose is never satisfied. When she gets older June finally moves on, which now puts Louise front and center in Rose’s schemes. But a chance mistaken booking at a Wichita burlesque hall may be the only break Louise needs.
Packed with some of the most recognizable songs in Broadway history, GYPSY is a brightly colored trip back in time that, despite being a little overlong, is not boring. The casting is clever, though Russell (nor Lisa Kirk, who dubbed some of her singing) is a true, classic belter like the original Broadway Rose, Ethel Mermen. Most of my knowledge of Karl Malden’s work centered around his portrayal of cops, soldiers and assorted clergymen. To see him sing and dance, moving effortlessly across the soundstage, is pretty amazing. Both Cupito and Jillian shine as the different incarnations of June. Ironically, both would go on to have popular television careers in the 1980s (Cupito changed her named to Morgan Brittany, who was a regular on DALLAS) Wood is also well cast as the girl who seems happy living in her sister’s shadow only to take to the spotlight just as easily when the time arrives. The film’s pacing slows down between production numbers, which is not a good thing for a film that runs almost two and a half hours long. But if you’ve seen the stage show, or the television movie starring Bette Midler and Peter Riegert, this is mostly trouble with the script and not the director. LeRoy is truly one of the underrated filmmakers of Old Hollywood, with films as diverse as “Little Caesar” and “Mister Roberts” under his belt. The production values are high as they are in most of the Warner Brother’s musicals produced in the 1960s.
Video: The transfer here is bright and sharp. Two of the film’s three Oscar nominations were for its color photography and costume design and both are highlighted here. The film is presented in a 2.41:1 aspect ratio, fairly comparable to the film’s original 2.35:1 “cinemascope” presentation.
Audio: The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The musical numbers are presented clear and bright.
There are (2) “outtakes” included on the disc, musical numbers that, my research tells me, were edited from the film after its initial release, most probably to shorten the picture.
Wherever We Go (2:39): One of the more popular songs from the score I was surprised that it wasn’t included. This is the only song on the soundtrack in which Russell did all of her singing (along with Malden and Wood)
You Couldn’t Get Away from Me (3:37): Full version of the song (partially covered in the feature presentation).