Every Rose has a Thorn
Mama Rose (Rosalind Russell) has a dream and that is for her blonde haired daughter June (Morgan Brittany, Ann Jillian) to be a star and is willing to exploit her for fame. In fact she will also exploit her other daughter Louise (Diane Pace, Natalie Wood) to make June a star and to make sure Louise doesn't have dreams of her own Rose always tells her she doesn't have star quality. That is until one day June has enough and runs off with a boy leaving Rose with Louise who she pushes to now become a star. In the dying days of vaudeville it is hard work till Louise having become Gypsy Rose turns to a career as a burlesque stripper.
Fast paced, colourful, snappy dialogue, quick delivery and some pleasant musical numbers is all I was really looking for when I put on this 1962 version of "Gypsy" with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. And that is what I got which meant after almost two and a half hours I was happy, I had been entertained by exactly what I was looking for although if truth be told I hadn't been blown away. In fact I knew that at some point "Gypsy" would probably merge into the recesses of my mind with other enjoyable musicals from the 60s which were a pleasant distraction when I watched them.
Now the thing is that there is of course the newer version of "Gypsy" with Bette Midler as Mama Rose and those who have seen Midler's version often prefer it to this one with Russell in the role. And maybe Midler is better but Russell does a good enough job in the role for me and brings light to the character so that we can see that she was pushy and demanding but in keeping with the tone of a 60s musical not a completely nasty piece of work. It is important because as Mama Rose is the focus of most of the focus it needs to be an enjoyable characterisation and one which gets are sympathy when it is appropriate.
There is of course Natalie Wood as Louise/ Gypsy Rose and unfortunately she is let down by the script as she goes from supporting act to vaudeville singer and then burlesque stripper in what feels like a blink of an eye. Of course the focus is on Mama Rose but it would have been nice to see more of a gentle transition. Aside from Wood there is a typically enjoyable performance from Karl Malden whilst Morgan Brittany and Ann Jillian bring to the screen the precociousness of June as a child star.
What this all boils down to is that "Gypsy" is an entertaining musical, a typical 1960s musical which just happens to tell the story of Gypsy Rose and Mama Rose. But as such it is a musical which is more about the energy and light hearted natured of the performances along with the snappiness of the dialogue rather than on the story it is telling.