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Theatre: Gypsy

A Broadway musical that started in 1959, later adapted into a film starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood in 1962 and Made-for-TV movie with Bette Midler, loosely based on the life of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. The original is one of the most acclaimed shows in Broadway history.

Stage Mom Rose is determined to make her daughters Louise and June stars - June more so than Louise initially - but while June is extroverted and talented, Louise is shy and quiet. Rose's act for the two is based on childish, innocent stage personae that they become unable to keep up as they grow older.

Eventually, June runs away, and Rose decides to put Louise in the spotlight, with an act still similar to the one with June. But there are various problems: Louise is a good singer and dancer but she can't do the kind of routines that June excelled at, Rose's ideas for acts to get Louise in the spotlight are too old fashioned and out of date to work in the changing entertainment landscape, and her relationship with her lover, manager and business partner Herbie are deteriorating due to Rose's ruthless, uncompromising ambition. On top of all that Vaudeville has died out save for the Burlesque theaters, and the only reason the show was even taken on was that it would be a clean act, giving less of an excuse for police raids.

Yet that doesn't last long, and the act is finally broken up. Rose pushes Louise to do one last act for an arrested stripper - causing Herbie to finally leave her for good - but insists that Louise do it clean. "Make 'em beg for more, and then don't give it to them!" Louise, now given the stage name Gypsy Rose Lee, takes that advice to its logical extreme, by always leaving the men wanting more of her. This makes her the most successful in the business, but her mother is disgusted.

Finally realizing she lost everyone, Rose breaks down and realizes that everything she did was for herself and out of her own selfish desire to be noticed. Upon admitting that, Rose and Gypsy start to reconcile.

The film is also notable for inspiring The Faith Dane Clause, to prevent the legal problems that Faith Dane created when she claimed that her acting style "created" the role of Miss Mazeppa. All actors must sign a waiver now relinquishing claims on the characters they play.


This work provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Louise.
  • Beautiful All Along: In the film, when Louise first gets beautiful clothes and has her hair done, she looks in the mirror, and incredulously says: "I'm pretty. I'm a pretty girl, Mama."
    • Justified, in that she her mother had been dressing her in boys clothes most of her life, so she could be a background dancer in her sister's act.
    • Referenced in, of all things, the stage version of Hairspray, which can be explained by the fact that Hairspray premiered on Broadway in the same season as a revival of Gypsy.
  • Becoming the Mask: Gypsy grows into the role.
  • BSOD Song: "Rose's Turn"
  • Catch Phrase: "Hello everybody! My name's June! What's yours?" Later on, Louise uses that line with her stage name, and with a whole new meaning.
  • Cool Big Sis: Despite it all June does seem to regard Louise as this. Of course, Louise is Natalie Wood in the film version.
  • The Cover Changes The Meaning: "Let Me Entertain You" as sung by June, and then as sung by Louise.
    • "Everything's Coming up Roses" for people unfamiliar with the show is a happy, upbeat song. On stage, it's terrifying.
  • Cut Song: "Tomorrow's Mother's Day," "Momma's Talkin' Soft," "Nice She Ain't," "Smile Girls," "Who Needs Him?" and "Three Wishes for Christmas." All gloriously restored on the 2008 revival cast recording.
  • Dark Reprise: "May We Entertain You", the innocent vaudeville song June and Louise sang as children, slowed down and turned into the stripper song "Let Me Entertain You".
    • In addition to being a Crowning Music of Awesome, "Rose's Turn" contains reprises of and lyrical callbacks to about half of the songs in the show.
  • Dawson Casting: 20-something Natalie Wood played Louise as both a teenager and a young woman. Granted, she was small enough to get away with it.
  • Downer Ending: Some revivals don't have Rose and Gypsy reconcile, instead leaving Rose all alone.
  • The Gimmick: The three strippers that Rose and Louise meet sing about you “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” in order to stand out from the crowd. Electra covers herself in lights, Tessie Tura uses refined ballet moves, and Mazeppa uses a trumpet. Later, when Louise is more or less pushed into a stripper role, she takes their advice to heart. Her gimmick is speaking directly to the audience.
  • Henpecked Husband: Poor, poor Herbie. Arguably made worse by the fact that he and Rose never actually get married.
  • Imagine Spot: "Rose's Turn".
  • Informed Ability: Subverted in "Ya Gotta Have A Gimmick."
    Miss Mazeppa: It's not enough to have no talent.
  • Ironic Echo: "Hello everybody, my name's Gypsy, what's yours?"
  • It Will Never Catch On: Jack Benny was going nowhere, according to Rose.
  • "I Want" Song: "I Had a Dream", "If Mama Were Married", "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn".
    • Arguably most of the Musical.
  • My Beloved Smother: Rose plays this trope to a T
  • The Musical: Based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee.
  • Nice Guy: Herbie.
  • No Indoor Voice: Miss Mazeppa.
    • Mama Rose as well.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: The kids in the act are never older than ten, no matter what anyone says. To drive this point home, every year there are only ten candles on their cakes. In Real Life, Rose actually faked their birth certificates to make them seem three years younger.
  • One of the Boys: Tulsa, one of the boy dancers Rose picks up, says he and the guys all consider Louise this. She is not flattered.
  • Pretty in Mink: Notably a white rabbit coat, muff, and hat June wears for one of the acts, and a mink coat Gypsy wears that she lets her mother wear at the end.
    • The first film version even had Gypsy wear a dress with a slit skirt of white fox.
  • Referenced By: In Airplane!, Ethel Merman has a cameo as a shell shocked veteran who thinks he's Ethel Merman, and "he's" singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses".
    • Also, Mama Rose of the 1993 TV adaptation is Winifred Sanderson, who now says, "Hello, Salem, my name is Winifred! What's yours?"
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Louise for her first performance as Gypsy.
    "I'm a pretty girl, Mama."
  • Sidekick Song: "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" for the strippers (also a Crowning Moment of Funny) and "All I Need is the Girl" for Tulsa.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Rosalind Russell as Rose manages a one-woman example and even won a Golden Globe.
  • Stage Mom: Rose is probably the poster child and provides the page image.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Louise and June - though Louise is probably not a tomboy by choice.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Of Gypsy Rose Lee and Baby June, who'd later adopt the stage name June Havoc.
    • June was not very pleased with how she was portrayed in the musical, but was paid to keep her mouth shut for her sister's sake. The musical caused a the tension in their relationship to grow until Gypsy became ill later in life and died. Gypsy Rose Lee herself often embellished elements of her life when she told stories from her past.
  • Villain Protagonist: Just how bad she seems can vary depending on the production, but if there's any villain in Gypsy, it's Momma Rose.
  • Westminster Chimes: The final cadence of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" is a modified version.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: June is never seen and barely mentioned after she runs away. It's never discussed what becomes of her.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Mama get married today.


Gay Purr-eeFilms of the 1960sHatari
The Gumball RallyCreator/Warner Bros.The Hangover
Guys and DollsThe MusicalHair

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