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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #13 (From GYPSY)

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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?

It has the feel of a theatrical vaudeville stage act.

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 Russell gives a strong, powerful performance with the presence of a domineering stage mother.  
 

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 lyrics had a cynical edge to them for a child's performance.

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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 staging of the backstage musical recalls the Andy Hardy type of films with the earlier 1920's shot of just the play on stage. With the interruptions of the stage mother Rose and the fixed auditions that the system is rigged and a rejection of the status quo.
 
 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 enters the scene as she would enter on the stage, loud, bold and brassy. She commands the audience to watch her and all eyes would be whether in a play or movie audience.
 
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). Obviously, the way the song is sung and by who can be sly in a movie. Natalie Wood singing it can be thought as edgy, at the time. Also the difference between Baby June in costume and Wood later also change the meaning.
 

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1. The clip looks backwards to earlier musicals in its exposure of the "backstage" of a show- in this case vaudeville rather than Broadway, but still a similar concept to earlier movies in which the female lead is struggling for a role in musical theatre (for example, Broadway Melody of 1929 and 42nd Street). But looking forward to later musicals, this clip is dealing with grittier issues and exposing some of the harsh realities of the business, especially child exploitation. Even as they show dealings backstage, earlier musicals seem to maintain the glamour of the theatre: even the hardships endured by the characters are all part of what makes Broadway the glittering thing it is. Show business isn't remotely glamorized here; it's harsh and corrupt and entirely inappropriate for the children who inhabit it.

2. What I like about Russell's performance here is how brash and attention-grabbing she is. Even as she acts to improve the presentation of her daughters' act, she overshadows it with her booming voice and her walk around the girls. Her acting is a little over the top (some others have identified it nicely as stage acting), but I'm not sure that's out of place here: Mama Rose always wanted to be on the stage, so it makes sense that she should adopt that persona in the rest of her life as well. I'm sure Russell's background in both stage and film exposed her to a number of figures with larger than life diva personalities, and it shows here.

3. As many have observed, the lyrics foreshadow Gypsy Rose Lee's later career in their sexual undertones, though in the mouth of Baby June they're pretty innocent.

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  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?

It looks backwards in that it is a scene about the roots of the American Musical Theatre.  It looks ahead by showing various perspectives.  We see the backstage melodrama, the show itself (albeit, in rehearsal), and get a glimpse of what motivates those that produce musical theatre.  We see the stylized production elements in the costumes worn by Mauldin and the kids, as well as the "real life" elements of Rose, the musicians, and producer.

  1. 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.

True to form, there is nothing low-key about her.  Stage actors are trained - due to necessity - in being big and broad.  Too subtle or "natural" can read as bored, untrained or not be read at all!  Russell commands and dominates the scene as a true stage performer must.

  1. 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 forthcoming double-entendre meaning is evident in the works "let me make you smile."  The duality is brilliant, and a little disturbing.  We all smile at a charming child eager for our praise as he or she sings and dances for us.  However, the adult Gypsy Rose Lee has a completely different intent as she almost dares us to watch her.  Our smile is not just from her charming personality, but from her other ... assets.

 

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Daily Dose #13

 

1. Though Gypsy was a Broadway musical initially, bringing this to a film version on the big screen brought to light a subject of ‘stripping’.  This subject was not a known or common one  other than in a vaudeville act which this scene goes back in time to this era.  Also Russell ‘s character taking charge of her daughter’s career shows the new direction of females in future roles.   So the subject matter and strong female character role led the way for future movie musicals.  A person could not be surprised on the direction in which movie musicals were heading.

2.  Ms. Russell’s  Mamo Rose introduction is bold, brash, and dramatic.  She used intimidation with her voice and actions and her outfit.  

3. The sexual connotation of Sondheim’s lyrics are pretty pronounced.  “Let me entertain you”; Let me see  you smile” etc. sounds to me words of a ‘pimp’ trying to get his ‘girl’ pimped-out.  Sadly, this is happening in real life though Mama Rose truly loves her daughters but unfortunately this is her way.  Not really a disruptive song/scene but to me a sad situation.

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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?

Gypsy looks back to classical musicals by being a backstage musical. It also takes us all the way back vaudeville. It takes us forward in that Rose is an assertive, vicious, not to be ignored woman. She is living out her own fantasies through her daughters, especially Baby June in the beginning. She is the stage mother of all stage mothers. She sets the bar high for that! 
 

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.

Rosalind Russell knows how to take command of a scene/stage. Her movement, her projection. She has a Broadway stage presence, and she uses particularly in this scene. Something she also did in the movie, Mame.
 

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 words are not really suggestive when the song is sung by a child, and I don't think it is meant in anyway to be by Rose or the children. We find it suggestive, knowing what we know now. But the singing of the song by Baby June is a preview for what is to come. And of course, when it is sung later to striptease, it is very racy, edgy. I think Sondheim wrote it to adapt to the later storyline.

 

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