Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #13 (From GYPSY)

206 posts in this topic

This scene from Gypsy is reminiscent of some of the back stage musicals we saw during the course.  Its a musical about musical performers and their pursuit of stardom, fame in the entertainment business, a common theme in the old hollywood musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50.   Mama Rose is grooming her children for the stage which appears to be in the vaudeville era.  When Rosalind Russell arrives in the theatre she immediately takes over, the stereotypical stage mother.   

Rosalind Russell's stage experience is evident in the way she projects to characters both on the stage and in the audience and really commands the stage. She is not intimidated by anyone and rather intimidating herself.

It is often said that communication is 15% words and 85% attitude and body language.  I did not find the words of the song particularly suggestive but the attitude and choice of song for a child did not suggest a Shirley Temple sort of innocence.  I think Mama Rose was looking towards the future and finding the right niche for her daughters.

There was an edge to this musical that contrasts with older musicals.  Knowing the history of GYpsy Rose Lee probably influences that impression.  When Mama Rose sizes up the competition and brings out her pin we know she will stop at nothing to neutralize the competition (child or not), then pop!    

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical?

As this scene takes place during an audition for a stage show, we are immediately reminded of the Backstage/Show Musicals of yore and their focus on giving the audience a glimpse into how a show is put on. There are quite a few elements present in this scene that we can associate with these classical musicals, including the setting, the presence of a less-than-friendly producer, the over-worked and under-appreciated theatre musicians who have to keep up with everything going on, and the performer who is supposed to stand out or be the favourite for the part. 

But there are also a few newer elements in this scene as well which cater to the humour and ridiculousness of a vaudevillian lifestyle - especially as a child performer - and look ahead to the disruptive and rising sentiment of "sticking it" to whatever can be perceived as holding you back or attempting to control you. For example, the conversation between the director and producer is something we see happen quite often during audition sequences in older Backstage Musicals. But this time, the director lets the producer know that he is getting sick of taking his orders all the time and will give the slot to the talented one rather than the producer's favourite. The presence of the "stage mom" is also something we have not yet seen, but we know was most definitely present in Mama Rose's form, or worse! (Ethel Milne - Judy Garland's mother - is someone who comes immediately to mind as a great example of a real life vaudevillian stage mom trying to take her daughters to the big time). With her entrance, she disrupts the entire process of the audition, making executive decisions independent of everything that is supposed to represent structure and method in these situations in favour of what she wants to do. And she has no issues standing up to not only the big shots in the room, but also the other children. This scene is all about a humorous take on causing disruption and taking control of one's own destiny, while also paying tribute to what has come before by placing us in a familiar setting and ruffling the feathers a bit.

This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress.

Rosalind's entrance as Mama Rose is commanding and plays like an entrance in an actual theatre production. Mama Rose is clearly a well seasoned veteran of these situations, much like Rosalind Russell really was, and isn't about to let incompetence and unfairness get in the way of a good show. Rose is a strange maternal figure, but one that would have definitely been familiar to someone like Russell who would have always been around these aggressive types in the business. We get a sense that she can truly appreciate the ridiculousness of it all, and plays the entrance in a very "sincerely over-the-top" way. Audiences would have been familiar with seeing Russell in the fast-talking, take no BS, business woman role, so we can view this as more of the same albeit in an exaggerated and almost caricatured type of way. Her performance is backed by her experience with these characters on, and off, the screen, which only serves the believability of, and the genuine humour and sincerity in, someone who could easily be played as too brassy and unlikable.

Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not).

What's so great about this tune is that there can be a vastly different meaning associated with it depending on the situation it is used in and who is delivering it. When taken at face value, this is just a song about wanting to make someone smile with some silly antics. This is especially true when two cute kids are delivering it while doing high-kicks and cartwheels and turns. But place those children in a situation where they can be seen as being taken advantage of and suddenly it becomes something different. Now, "let me entertain you, let me see you smile...I will do some tricks" becomes more of a subversive and somewhat dark statement on child entertainers in general and how we view/use them. Fast forward to the end of the film when the reprise comes around at the height of Gypsy Rose Lee's burlesque career and the lyrics have transformed once again. Now, this song is all about holding the male gaze and enticing the audience in a not so innocent way. Throughout the film, Soundheim's clever crafting of these lyrics takes us from innocent stage tricks to burlesque, and as such they act as commentary on Gypsy Rose Lee's life from insecure and naive childhood to self-aware and confident womanhood.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. This scene shows the "backstage musical" and how it develops. You can sense the disruption as the guy comes in and "insists" that balloon girl must be in the show because there is money behind her. 

2.  Rosalind Russell makes a grand entrance as the typical stage mother insisting that her girls are better than anyone else on the stage. Many are living their childhood dreams thought their children. 

3. The song in this situation is made to be cute and entertaining for the audience, later it has a different meaning...

I love Rosalind Russell in anything, she is so full of energy and seems to go on non stop. She is quick with her lines and takes control of the scene. 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.      Love this movie!  It harkens back with the song and the vaudeville stage. The acts and the way the show is cast.  It looks to be a Variety Show with multiple acts, and perhaps shows some of the behind scenes favoritism by theatre owner.  I love how Mama Rose just completely “disrupts” the performance. She just takes over and knows the workings of sound, lighting and staging. She physically disrupts and takes over to ensure her girls are featured, well, Baby June at least.  It previews to the audience that the old way won’t stay that way for long, that changes are coming. We watch this in the movie, as it moves from vaudeville to burlesque.

2.      Rosalind Russell is perfect in this entrance. She is loud, brash, dropping names, and just guessing at things in common with Karl Malden.  She knows her stuff and will not be put off. She speaks louder and above all others. It is interesting too how she speaks directly to the musicians and lighting staff.  She definitely introduces herself as someone who will not be dissuaded and is very strong and knowledgeable in her own way of vaudeville.

3.      This question is harder to answer as I know how the song changes at the end with Gypsy’s performance.  But you can tell, even with Baby June signing the song, that the lyrics can have different messages.  She is singing it as a child, they are just words, more or less, no real feeling. She is performing as trained. The words are memorized and done out of practice. This is due to her age, and the idea I think the film is trying to convey. It is the perfect song to represent the change from vaudeville to burlesque.  Using the same song, slight word variations, which is not truly needed, the words could have stayed the same.  But the subtle changes are cleverly noted and really draw attention to this shift from both genres and with the 2 girls.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is very interesting to think about this song and how it is the anthem of the film (more than "Everything's Coming Up Roses").  It is used throughout to mean so many different things; we are watching these children and see them grow and become seductive.  The fact that Gypsy is based on a true story and then when we see tv shows like America's Got Talent.  I always cringe when I see these young kids being there; I hear "Let Me Entertain You" in the back of my mind when they perform.  Sondheim was hitting on something in 1959 that is so relevant in 2018.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The scene depicts a typical backstage musical situation, involving tryouts for a vaudeville show. It harkens a trend to convey a dark story about the ups and downs in show business while a mother is hustling her daughters. The girls perform the suggestive song without any guile or understanding what it could mean to an adult. the viewer gets a sinking feeling as you realized where this is going (knowing Gypsy's story) and the sad world of child entertainers who have stage struck  Moms.

 

Rosalind Russell, who is a strong actress with her presence and a no-nonsense voice, enters as the domineering Mama Rose and takes over the audition. While she cares for her daughters. it is more important that they succeed on stage regardless of what the children want and what is actually good for them.

Again, if this wasn't about Gypsy Rose Lee, I don't think the song would necessarily seem edgy or slightly sexual to me.   

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The camera composition reminds me of the very early days of the Hollywood musicals.  A significant amount of the scene is framed with the entire stage in the shot.  It is also shot from the point of view of the audience.  Some of the early musicals we watched were little more that recordings of a stage play.  The acting in the scene also reminds me of a stage play.  As I sit and watch the clip, I envision myself in a small theatrical venue watching a stage play enter and exit from the wings.

Rosalind Russel's dialogue delivery reminds me of her performance in His Girl Friday.  In both films, her delivery is accelerated and, at times, overlaps the other actors in the scene.  Again, I see Russel's performance in this clip as someone performing to a stage audience rather than a camera.  Her voice and movements are appealing to the person sitting in the back row of the theater instead of a cameraman.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening scene of Gypsy is certainly a nod to the classic musical as the characters start on the vaudeville circuit and eventually achieve success in their own way.  I just have to say that as we are now watching the decline of the studio system it is a sad thing to see and movies will never be the same and I do not mean that in a good way.  Now the door is open for people to do what ever they want in a film regardless of how bad or inapproriate or offensive it is.  To me now that we allow all of this to go on it becomes less about making great films with great actors and great stories and more about just seeing how many films we can push out regardless if they are good or not.  I personally thought that Finian's Rainbow was really good and would rather see that a million times over than the stuff we call movies nowadays.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The scene is reminiscent of the backstage musicals that were popular well before this film. We see a lot of preparation to getting the cast ready and some of the craziness as well. It looks ahead to the disruption musicals we'll see afterwards with the craziness and chaos it sets up in this scene. There is some very clever dialogue that sometimes doesn't even sound like a straight conversation. The whole scene is humorous as it is clever and witty with just enough constructed chaos to make it work. 

Rosalind Russell is larger than life as she enters the scene. Rose is taking command of the show and leaving everyone not knowing what to do but follow her lead. Russell's experience on stage is evident. She knows how to use her voice and body language. Yet she's not overshadowing the others, although it might be seen that way, but letting them still be part of the scene. While this is early in the film, we already get the idea of who the film is really about...Rose.

Listening to the song as performed by the young girl, it almost seems innocent. Yes she's dressed as a doll, dances around and sings, but I get the impression that for the time period it's suppose to represent, it's meant to be innocent. On the other hand, it also feels like it is a foreshadowing of what's to come, not for this young girl but for Louise. We just don't know this yet because Louise isn't the one really singing it.

I have seen this movie and enjoyed it very much. Natalie Wood is wonderful but this is Rosalind Russell's film. As the needy Rose, she commands every scene she is in. But she does this generously. Perhaps this is because of Russell's experience as a stage actress or her own personality, or both. Her quick wit and fast talk is so enjoyable as is everything else about her. It's easy to see why this is one of her best performances on film. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. It does seem as though there is an effort to capture the classical music styles with this number, especially since it takes place many years before. As for disruptions, I feel mother disrupting the act is something different, implying a darker tone later on in the film that wasn’t as common in movie musicals in the past.

2. Russell sings along a bit to the song, so that gives the idea that she was someone who at least wanted to be part of the experience, and her demanding nature seems to be in the direction of the kinds of values she was taught as a classically trained actress.

3. I guess so, and from what it sounds like, when performed later in the film by an adult, these lyrics do take on this meaning. However, since it’s sung by a child here, it doesn’t have any real meaning. The girl is simply singing the lyrics she was taught.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

She displays her talent with humor and ensemble acting that is reminiscent of the classical musicals. This type of treatment was less apparent in say, the Elvis movie, Jailhouse Rock. While the music was marvelous, the later movies lacked the entertainment value of the earlier musicals. Movies' appeal to niche audiences and the film industry's economic challenges cause some of the offerings to be dumbed down in terms of acting strength and entertainment value, in my opinion. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In this scene of Gypsy, we have the fundamental elements of the backstage musical - an audition. Within less than a minute, we see little girls auditioning for a show, an overwhelmed stage manager, a corrupt production manager, and an overbearing mother. I have to believe this one of the key reasons that Gypsy was not successful is that it took so long for a likable character in the form of Natalie Wood's Louise to appear. But this film is hint of the hyper-realism of the 1970's, where characters are not likable, where the stage isn't pretty, and where fairy tales don't come true. Unfortunately, I'm not sure who the audience for Gypsy was supposed to be - perhaps the men who went to burlesque shows who also liked musicals? Unfortunately a movie based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee wasn't likely to attract a family audience.

I have the utmost respect for Rosaline Russell - loved her in everything from China Seas to His Girl Friday, to Mame, to The Women. I loved her voice on the Broadway cast track of Wonderful Town. I find her deeply annoying in this movie, and I think I'm supposed to. She's loud, she interrupts, she uses her dog and her father's social affiliations as props. I've seen her wear clothing like a model, but here, you only see ambition with every step she takes. Does she overdo it?  Perhaps - but her performance fits the description in Gypsy Rose Lee's book.  June Havoc claimed that book was exaggerated for effect. Regardless, that behavior would get the job done - you want to either throttle Mama or do what she wants to shut her up. It's a new role for Rosalind.

I have limited exposure to Sondheim - this movie and 'send in the clowns' (sorry) being about it. This song seems to be one big double entendre to me and always did. Having small girls perform in short skirts with frilly underwear seems designed to attract purient interest. It is repeated throughout the movie, as in the old musicals - like Broadway Melody's 'Forgotten Man" - I just wish it was a little more noble in subject matter.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rose's entrance is big and brash, just the way she wants people to think of her. While she believes that she is doing it all for her children, especially Baby June, it is obvious that she wants the spotlight to focus on her. The other stage mothers are waiting in the wings but Rose makes sure that by entering late and by shouting orders to all around her, all eyes are on her. The only person who may not realize it at that point is June who believe that she is the "Star!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical?
  2. Its the entire vaudeville vibe we are looking back on. The auditions, the variety of acts on the stage (balloons?!)It’s almost silly in a way....
     
  3. This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress.
  4. My God - she is the ULTIMATE stage mother taking everything over.  Character is larger than life. And she has to introduce the character this way, because she’s like that for the entire film.
     
  5. Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not).
  6.  Now I get it. I’ve always connected this song with the later part of the movie. In this clip it seem so innocent… How glorious they did this at the innocent beginning and then the burlesque part.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1 - Because like everyone said here, it's elements of "behing the scenes".

2 - Mama Rose just tell she going to do in this movie, with her fussy entrance and I must tell this is the first Roz's movies I've ever seen and I loved her at this right time, today she's one of my favorite actresses.

3 - With Baby June, that's a little girl, singing, the song became inocent, but there's another point when Gypsy sings the same song on her performance, it seems provocative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel like we are looking back here to the time of the "backstage" musical where we are putting a show but the idea seems quite different. We have Mama Rose, who wants her child to be the star (obvious nepotism at play) and wants to see only her succeed whether she's talented or not. The choice of song for the child is also rather suspect and seems more like a novelty than a true performance. Mama Rose is quite forward and basically takes over the direction the minute she steps into the theater. She is bold and brazen basically walking all over the director. It's evident who is in charge from the second she comes onscreen. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical?

- This beginning scene seems to call back to the backstage musicals of the 1930s and early 40s by showing us the auditions for 'the show within the show'. Instead of using over-the-top sets and costume pieces, they are more subdued and grittier.
 

This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress.

- From the moment the audience first hears her loud and raspy voice shouting at her daughters to 'sing out' all the attention shifts directly to her. Mama Rose is the character that unintentionally draws attention to herself and the casting of Rosalind Russell in this role seems fitting. I also can't help but feel like since she is a trained stage actress that she maybe drew from personal experience in playing the overbearing stage mom.
 

Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not).

- It's interesting how the tone of the song changes depending on the character that's singing it. When Baby June sings the song with the lyric 'let me SEE you smile' the audience interprets it as a little girl singing an innocent song. But when the song is performed later in the film by Gypsy Rose Lee and the lyrics change to 'let me MAKE you smile' the song suddenly has a more sexual and suggestive tone. The same can be said for all the other double meanings of the lyrics in this song.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Daily dose #13 from Gypsy - 

1. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical?

The backwards nod is the story itself -  It is about life in the theatre and the people you meet there.  We see this in 42nd street, the Follies of the 30's films.  Again, it is about the journey of one female from nobody to star.    As for looking towards the future, I think the overall adult theme of the story, how a girl from 2nd rate vaudeville had to become a stripper to be a star and the relationship with her mother.

2. This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress.

From a stage performer, what an entrance! - she literally enters down through the audience, immediately grabbing the attention of everyone.  And with Rosalind Russell, who can talk a mile a minute, she can take control of the situation in a second.  She is a force to be reckon with...

3. Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not).

  The way that the song echoes through various stages of the film, practically becoming Louise's theme song.  "Let me entertain you, let me (make) see you smile...."  In this first scene, thanks to Mama Rose, the girls take over the entire stage, engages the entire orchestra, and disrupts the entire audition process.

BONUS Question- Discuss Karl Malden's character in this scene.  What can you tell about him from just this scene?

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks back to the time of Vaudeville and the innocence of kids and the pushy stage mom. Going forward, the girl in the balloons and Baby June singing let me entertain you signifying the  coming of burlesque. 

Rosalind Russell entrance takes your attention of the kids and onto her. She knows her way around the stage and how to make her daughters successful.

The line I can do tricks is very risque but when the child sings it seems rather innocent.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I liked the question about the comparison of Gypsy, sandwiched between classic musicals of the past and the disruptive style of the 60's 

First, the film, Gypsy,  begins as a backstage musical, much like the old musicals.  It is an audition for a theater piece - in this case, vaudeville. There were many backstage musicals of the 30s and 40's.  In the old films of the 30's though,the performers were mostly or all adults. Here, we have children vying in a very competitive atmosphere. In the backstage musicals of the 30's, the musical auditions may have made the auditionees nervous, anxious, or even jealous, but there was camaraderie overall beneath the bickering. Here, children are being peddled as commodities - acts - with favoritism, pay-backs to higher-ups, and corralled in cattle call style, without sensitivity to their youth, and practically given the "gong."  

The Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930's presented lovely numbers that emphasized grace, femininity, and elaborate designs of choreography and sets. Head Busby Berkley girl, Toby Wing, exemplified the bevy of blonde-wigged beauties in the flow of dance and song. The musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s lifted people up. The studios ushered in glorious musicals of Judy Garland and others who also inspired, and created joy. These musicals inspired people with the heights of civilization in what creative people could do. From the technicolor masterpieces of the 50s back to the Busby Berkeley girls to the 30's, audiences went to the movies to be entertained and feel happy when they left the theater. 

In Gypsy however, there is an intended crassness of individual, chaotic acts that vie to appear on the vaudeville stage. Theater auditions are usually organized. I have been to many, and have never seen disorder like this. In this clip, however, the order was broken not only by Mama Rose, but by the inside squabbles of Jocko (Karl Malden) and the stage manger/producer. The fact that Mama Rose (Rosiland Russell) would go so far, as to pop the balloons of the little girl in order to advance the chances of her own children, demonstrated not camaraderie, but dangerous, cut-throat ambition. This was left out of the older musicals of the past, or at least glossed overs s they were  musicals that showcased visual optimism and joy. Gypsy's lack of camaraderie, however, may have been more realistic (although theater people are usually known to be one big family) but the film's grittiness and seediness created a "dramatic" musical - something new.....? 

"West Side Story" was also a gritty, dramatic musical voice. Social issues were starting to emerge (West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, 1776 (government and slavery), etc., so the changing landscape of putting social problems into song and dance seemed a parallel to an ever-changing society. The reverse, however, was true for The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins, where happiness reigned once again. Therefore, there was a duel between movies of social realism (gang-ridden schoolyards, decadent Berlin) and joy (that danced with around an Austrian fountain, or sold flowers in Covent Garden).

In summary, Gypsy was a brash, loud musical that had some nice quiet moments reflective of the old musicals.  Songs, such as,  ("Little Lamb," "You'll Never Get Away from Me," "All I Really Need is the Girl" - Tulsa's fabulous song and dance with "top hat and white tie") were wonderful, and reminiscent. The new grittiness, however, in Gypsy, offered numbers that were "in your face," loud and brassy, or ambition voiced, "Rose's Turn." where sense of humor, or lightness and joy were absent.. It was a conflict between the "old school" and the "new."  

================================================

An addendum:

I wanted to comment that social issues were first brought to musical film with Showboat ('29, '36, '51 - (gambling, racial prejudice), and again in A Star is Born (alcoholism) as well as in the 1960's - Funny Girl in which Fanny Brice's husband, Nick Arnstein, shared Showboat's - gambling addiction and loss.  ... And, don't forget, the play/film, Stage Door...  While technically not a fully-fleshed musical, it did showcase musical numbers spotlighting Ginger Rogers and Ann Miler, etc. and also embrace the drama of an actress committing suicide. The film was happy, glittering musical numbers in the midst of ambitious, chatty, bickering women who underneath connected by theatrical camaraderie. 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Gypsy seems to look back as it embraces the traditional model of the Hollywood musical. At the same time, it embraces some very adult material, and in that respect, it's definitely looking ahead. 

2. Rosalind Russell is letter-perfect as Mama Rose – the original, terrible stage mother. At the start of the film you laugh along with her antics. Later, you can't stand her and you're rooting for Louise to break free and get away from her. And by the end, you feel pity for her because she has nothing left (even though her misery is entirely of her own making). Honestly, I think Rosalind Russell could have played the balloons on the little girl's head and been completely convincing in the role. She was just that good.

3. Clearly, "Let Me Entertain You" is perceived through the eyes and ears of the beholder. When it's Baby June, it's definitely innocent (or at least it should be). The same lyrics delivered by Louise (as Gypsy Rose) take on a decidedly different meaning, especially as she's shedding most of her clothing. I recall a friend's daughter showing me how she can flip her tongue around inside of her mouth. She said, "I have a very talented tongue." I remembered thinking that her comment – word for word – would take on a very different meaning if said by someone about 15 years older. That's precisely what happens with this song. An innocent, young girl says, "Let me entertain you" and you think, "What a precocious child." A seductive young lady says, "Let me entertain you" and you think different thoughts.

 
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.     In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical?

As a backwards glance to earlier musicals, this scene shows the hallmarks of the “behind-the-scenes” or “backstage” musical as we watch the auditions for Uncle Jocko’s Kiddie Kapers and the politics and pressures surrounding signing the “balloon girl.”  The song being part of an audition at this point in the film, it does not necessarily advance the plot, as songs in musicals from the 40s and 50s might have.  However, indirectly, it does help to develop Russell’s character when she takes over and does all that she can to have her daughters selected for the show, even going so far as to pop a balloon on the other girl’s costume.  So, on one hand, it does not directly advance the plot.  However, nor is it simply included as part of the historical context or folklore of the story—as was the case with films such as Hallelujah!  Within the context of this scene alone, the musical number does not seem, to me, to have the same flow and continuity that song-and-dance numbers had in earlier musicals, possibly foreshadowing the disruptions that were on the horizon?

2.     This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress.

Russell makes a very grand entrance. Boldly announcing her presence as she walks down the aisle towards the stage, speaking over the musical accompaniment and giving the girls directions.  Then, Russell takes over when she steps on to the stage and tells everyone what they should be doing to help her girls and their performance.  And the precision of her requests shows that as a trained stage and film actress, she not only knows the terminology, but she also knows—or seems to know—what will complement the girls’ performance the best.  Also, when she is on the stage giving directions, her minor singing and movements suggest she is familiar with performing on stage, but not necessarily very successful, based on George’s comments about Russell never making it to the big time.

3.     Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not).

There is more innocence—or at least should be—with a young baby June singing “Let Me Entertain You.”  As a young girl, she is merely entertaining us with her cute voice and kicks as a Dutch girl accompanied by Louise as a little Dutch “boy.”  No one should attach any sexuality to a children’s show.  Again, not having seen this entire film yet, I will base my answer on speculation and on the curator’s notes, more specifically the following point: “What the audience views in Gypsy is the saucier side of vaudeville and burlesque, with humor.”  I’m assuming that later, as Gypsy matures and becomes a stripper, these words will take on a more risqué meaning as she sings about doing some “kicks” and some “tricks,” with possible innuendos as to what those terms might mean.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The film looks backward into the time of Vaudeville and burlesque, and also is reminiscent of earlier musicals that are shows within shows.  It's looking forward in that it is about a stripper and the lyrics are somewhat suggestive, something that would not have been present in earlier musicals. Rosalind Russell comes across as a pushy stage mother, and yet she shows by her entrance and pacing across the stage that she is a stage actress in her own right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The stage scene harkens back to earlier backstage musicals.  However, instead of a curvacious ingenue, we have a stage full of children and an overbearing mother who is really the one vying for the main role.  The audience's attention is completely on the mother, so much so that the words to the song are hardly distinct.  It is only later when Gypsy takes over the song that we realize the childish rendition actually foreshadowed a very different attention getter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. The scene's setting of a Vaudeville theatre is a throwback to a time before movie musicals or movies even existed; the backstage happenings are reminiscent of classic Pre-Code musicals like "Footlight Parade" (1933); and the fact that it is a film adaptation of a Broadway musical all gives "Gypsy" (1962) ties to the classical era of movie musicals. As to the "disruptions" of the 1960s, the subject matter and occupation of Gypsy Rose Lee as a Burlesque stripper is something that I don't think would have been as well accepted in earlier, post-Production-Code days, but was more permissible as the Code began to be eroded in light of the culture change and the desire by film producers to compete with the ever-encroaching medium of television.

2. Rosalind Russell's entrance as Mama Rose is perfectly fitting with the character's personality: Loud, brash, forceful, and in control of the room. Russell's training as a stage actress really helps her here, as all of Rose's words and movements are larger, louder, and broader than might be necessary, but work perfectly here, setting Rose up as someone who not only wants the spotlight, but is also a real force to be reckoned with.

3. Sondheim's lyrics work as double entendres. What can be innocent and fun when sung by a young Louise dancing and doing magic tricks on a Vaudeville stage becomes edgy and suggestive when sung by an older Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee during her striptease routine in a Burlesque house. While I won't say earlier musicals/movie musicals didn't try to push the envelope with edgy or risque songs ("Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" from "Pal Joey" in 1940 leaps to mind), but by the 60s, such "disruption" was gradually becoming the norm, and it wasn't as big a deal as it had been in previous decades, where suggestive lyrics like Sondheim's would have been sanitized before being put on the big screen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us