What did Jane Fonda, Demi Moore, and Elizabeth Berkley have in common? They disrobed on the big screen. Gypsy Rose Lee would disapprove of it, although hers would be a dignified way of striptease. H. L. Mencken, a cultural critic during the studio era, dubbed it as ecdysiast.
Rose, who was born on January 8, 1911, published "Gypsy: A Memoir" in 1957. Mervyn LeRoy, whose directorial talents could be compared to Billy Wilder, adapted her autobiography to the big screen. "Gypsy" might be too long for some moviegoers, its episodic treatment could drag them before screening time reached its midpoint. LeRoy opted for fantasy, with sexual entertainment in fleeting moments before the dramatic final scene. The Californian filmmaker knew the studio era too well, and Gypsy Lee Rose's life would fit it. Demanding stage mothers, dashed dreams, and unexpected successes would be part of the old Hollywood formula, and those who knew Rose could forgive her for embracing it. Her life might have more heartbreak, even contain salacious details that wouldn't pass the Motion Picture Production Code. Rose did it her way, though.
Rose Thompson Hovick had big plans for her two daughters, Rose Louise and Ellen June. The younger one was the more talented of the siblings, and her stage mother would grab on any opportunity that came their way. June resented her mother's overbearing ways, eloping with a vaudeville actor named Bobby Reed. Her mother was hurt, yet June managed to carve a career in film and stage. Rose Louise doesn't have June's talent in singing, dancing, and acting. However, an accidental appearance in a burlesque house in Wichita, Kansas seemed to be a twist of fate. Gypsy Rose became famous for partially shedding her clothes on stage (or going all the way). She even tried her luck in Hollywood. She had a short-lived acting career, though.
Natalie Wood portrayed Gypsy Lee Rose, giving the burlesque entertainer the innocence that would uplift this musical drama. If Rose were around nowadays, she would be tempted to venture into reality TV. Mamma Rose could be Kris Jenner, and they would achieve fame in a short time. Then again, mother and daughter might have second thoughts. After all, they believed in the American Dream. The saw the noble concepts behind it, and they were willing to go against the tide. Mother and daughter didn't regret how their lives turned out, even wondered what could happen if June didn't give in to her rebelliousness. The spotlight was their refuge, which provided momentary happiness. An empty theater would be the other thing they would recall next, and they rather not stay there longer.
LeRoy's biographical film didn't include June's whereabouts if the sisters managed to keep in touch during the height of their popularity. It wasn't hard to guess that Gypsy parted from Mamma Rose, yet daughter would financially support her mother. Blood would be thicker than water, and this could be the moral lesson of her story. Otherwise, readers (and viewers) would wonder why fate couldn't be kinder to them. It might have something to do with their gender, though.