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Gypsy Insight


deitrichdame
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I saw the preview of Gypsy on Broadway Monday evening. I'm sorry to say that it was terrible. With the exception of the 3 aging strippers (especially Musepa) the show was awful. If anyone has bought tickets for this show, try to sell them. Sorry to be so negative, but after experiencing Russell, Wood and Malden in the film version, you will, in all probability fall asleep during the Broadway show.

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Mongo: No doubt I would have thrown myself on the stage just to see Ethel Mermen perform live. I admit I'm not one-quarter as knowledgable as you or anyone else who joins in these discussions, so please forgive me if I ask a silly question. Could you give me a somewhat colorful discription of what Ethel Mermen was like in Gypsy? I'll understand if you can't or won't. Unfortunately, I could only compare this pseudo-type acting of the Gypsy I saw Monday to the 60s "knock around" gruffness of Rosalind Russell and the demure Natalie Wood.

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No doubt that Merman was a big, bold and brassy presence on the American stage.

With pencilled eyebrows, thin determined lips, a shock pf cotton-wool hair and a voice that would not only hit the rafters but would still be travelling when it hit the back of the theatre.

As Mama Rose in "Gypsy" she was something else. With pathos,a little humor, that voice and some great lines she was the one and only original stage mother. She brought down the house nitely with the showstoppers "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn".

She was nominated for a Tony Award in in 1958 for "Gypsy" but lost to her friend Mary Martin in "The Sound of Music". It should have been a tie.

As hard as Rosalind Russell tried she just didn't have the moxey and the voice to do justice to the part.

It's criminal that she was passed over for the movie role since they didn't feel that her name had boxoffice clout.

I'm certain that they realized their error when it was to late. Just to think that we would have had Merman on celluloid in "Gypsy" forever is wishful thinking.

 

Mongo

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Thank you desmondsdesire for the heads up. I was planning on seeing it, but now I'll have to give it a second thought. I like the film version as well, but I only wish I could've seen Ethel Merman in it. I've heard the original Broadway soundtrack many times, and she is incredible to say the least. I think Rosalind Russell had the personality to play Mama Rose, but she definitely didn't have the voice. She sounds hoarse through the whole film. On many occasions Hollywood made the mistake of not keeping the original Broadway cast for the film version of a musical or a play. Another unfortunate occurance was not having Julie Andrews do the film version of "My Fair Lady." Audrey Hepburn was good, and definitely beautiful in the film, but Julie Andrews would have been too!

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One note about the miserable screen version of "Gypsy." Rosalind Russell is completely miscast and stole the role from Ethel Merman who had originally planned on making the screen version. Russell's high-powered agent/producer husband arranged the deal even though Merman's screen tests were fantastic. Then, they got Phyllis Kirk to do the singing with Russell lip-synching. Even worse, they then got sweet, bland little Natalie Wood to play Gypsy and she, too, was dubbed. To me, she is as believable as Sandra Dee trying to play Martha in "Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf." To me, the movie was a nightmare to watch since I had also seen the great Merman on Broadway knock the audiences out of their seats. To me, Russell always looked like an aging movie star trying desperately for the last shot of stardom. I also caught Julie Andrews on Broadway in "My Fair Lady" and was aghast when they signed little, petite Audrey Hepburn to the role. Jack Warner wanted a NAME star. Audrey was a name star and Julie wasn't at the time.Audrey's singing voice was so bad that Jack Warner reportedly had her pre-recordings destroyed although they've popped up here and there on "The Making of..." and "behind the scenes..." programs.

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Happy to be of some help moviejoe. Unfortunately I never did see Ethel Merman play Rose, so maybe I was at a disadvantage since I could only compare the Bernadette Peters Broadway "Gypsy" to the Rosalind Russell "Gypsy". Maybe Rosalind was miscast, but I don't believe she was miscast in Auntie Mame (film). Is the Ethel Merman version on DVD?

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Actually, Captainot, the part that Jack Warner pressed Cagney to take was not Higgins, but that of Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle. Ultimately Doolittle was played by a real cockney on stage and, thanks to Cagney's insistence, on screen, by Stanley Holloway. Cagney discusses this at length in his autobiography, "Cagney by Cagney".

 

Cary Grant is said to have been offered the Higgins part as well, but he showed his good taste by turning it down while pointing out to Warner that the original, Rex Harrison was the best choice for the role.

 

I guess Jack Warner didn't think the originals were going to be box office guarantees. It is a shame that Julie Andrews wasn't allowed to play Eliza on screen, however.

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Just a few more little tidbits about the Broadway "Gypsy". Bernadette Peters, in her attempt to capture some applause became a bit carried away. While singing she threw her arms in the air and hit one of the guys standing along side of her. The little girl that played June during her Jocko rehearsal looked just like Jon Benet (the little girl that was murdered in Denver). Needless to say, others in the audience thought the same because there were gasps from the people who also sat in orchestra. Then there was the heavy "thing" that fell immediately before the finale. The audience fell silent, but worse yet, so did the performers.

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desmondsdesire - It sounds like the performance you saw was a real disaster. I don't believe Ethel Merman's stage version of "Gypsy" is available on video or DVD. Plays and musicals weren't recorded back then like they are today to be shown on stations like PBS. I do however remember an episode of "The Lucy Show," where Ethel Merman guest stars, and she, Lucy, and Viv all put on a variety show of some kind. Merman sings "Everything's Coming Up Roses," and even out of character she does a smash up job. Many of the episodes of "The Lucy Show," are on DVD, and perhaps this particular episode is among them.

Another fact about "My Fair Lady" - Not having received the role of Eliza in the film, Julie Andrews went on to make "Mary Poppins" for Disney that same year. Both she and Audrey Hepburn were both nominated for Oscars, and Julie wound up winning it. It's funny how things work out sometimes. And I bet Jack Warner felt like a real **** when that happened.

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  • 2 weeks later...

movieloverny,you're on the ball! I knew it was one of those "kirk" gals. In fact, I think that Phyllis Kirk screen tested for the role and was reportedly terrif. But--they wanted a STAR! I can easily imagine the heart-break poor Ethel Merman had to suffer when she saw Roz Russell grab the role, then strangle and then murder it.

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