Based on the memoirs of striptease queen Gypsy Rose Lee, the film follows her early years in vaudeville, which involved being dragged from one musical theatre to another by her domineering and ambitious mother, Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell).
Rose will stop at nothing to make her daughter, blonde and talented “Baby” June (Suzanne Cupito), a star.
But it’s the other daughter – the shy and talent-challenged Louise (Natalie Wood) – who eventually finds fame (as “Gypsy”) in this marvellous presentation of one of the greatest of all Broadway shows.
Purists may argue that Russell isn’t Ethel Merman (star of the stage show), that some songs are missing, or that Mervyn LeRoy’s direction is too “theatrical”, but, nevertheless, this is a bright, dazzling and above all entertaining movie.
It contains a fabulous array of colourful showbiz characters and a performance by Russell that will knock your socks off.
No, she isn’t Merman, and she isn’t Judy Garland (Sondheim’s ideal) either, but she is (aided by Liza Kirk dubbing some of her songs) quite magnificent, especially in the finale, Rose’s Turn.
There are other great moments, too: Natalie Wood’s tender, touching Little Lamb and her final triumphant striptease, plus Paul Wallace’s All I Need Is the Girl.
Bette Midler‘s TV-movie remake was shown theatrically in Britain but is nowhere near as good.