There have been two different film versions of ‘Gypsy’ since the show first opened. The first version was released by Warner Brothers in 1962, with the second released in 1993 as a television movie. There has been much talk of a new film version that has been rumoured to star Barbara Streisand in the lead role of Mama Rose.
Gypsy 1962 Film
The first film version of the musical was released in November 1962 by Warner Brothers pictures. The screenplay was based on the book of the stage musical, adapted by Leonard Spigelgass. The original plan was to release a straight dramatic version based directly on the source material, the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. The rights to the story were tied up with the musical, and so the film was released as an adaptation of the stage musical. Rosalind Russell starred as Rose, but despite her experience in stage musicals she was unable to vocally deliver the demands of the role. Whilst she did sing both on set and in the studio, her voice was ‘blended’ with that of Lisa Kirk, the end result mixing the two together to create one single voice. Natalie Wood starred as Louise, hot off the back of her success with ‘West Side Story’ the previous year. Unlike ‘West Side Story’, Wood sang her own songs in ‘Gypsy’, and even sang her songs live on set rather than in the studio. Karl Malden starred as Herbie, along with Suzanne Cupito as Baby June and Paul Wallace as Tulsa.
The film was a faithful adaptation of Laurents’ book and kept the plot and structure of the musical. The song list remained the same, although ‘Together Wherever We Go’ was deleted from the release due to issues with length. The film grossed around $6 million, making a profit off the $4 million budget.
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Music Adaptation or Treatment. Rosalind Russell won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Comedy. The film was nominated for 5 further Golden Globes, but failed to win any others.
Gypsy 1993 Film
Emile Ardolino directed a musical television film of the musical which was originally broadcast on CBS on December 12, 1993. The screenplay was by the original book-writer Arthur Laurents, and the film featured the score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim.
The adaptation starred Bette Midler in the role of Rose Hovick, alongside Cynthia Gibb as Louise, Peter Riegert as Herbie and Jennifer Rae Beck as June. Midler had proved herself as a singer and actress in a number of stage and film roles, along with multiple Grammy Award winning albums. She provided her own vocals for the film, bringing a similar quality to the role as the original Rose, Ethel Merman. Broadway star Christine Ebersole also co-starred in the film as stripper Tessie Tura.
The score featured the original orchestrations by Sid Ramin and Robert Ginzler. The musical numbers were choreographed by Jerome Robbins who had also directed the original Broadway production. Midler won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film, and the production was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film. It was also nominated for 12 Emmy Award, winning the award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Musical Direction.
Gypsy 2014 Film
There has been much talk of a modern film adaptation of ‘Gypsy’ that is currently labelled as being in pre-production. After being off-and-on for a number of years, Universal Pictures announced last year that the project was now back on, with Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) attached to write the screenplay. The project will be co-produced by Barbara Streisand and Joel Silver, with 70 year old Streisand set to star as Mama Rose. The project was initially shelved after the original book writer Arthur Laurents had been against it, withdrawing permission for the rights. Whilst he wasn’t opposed to the project as a whole, he didn’t want Warner Brothers in charge of the film, but later agreed to the project after Universal Pictures stepped forward with an offer. Laurents died in May 2012 at the age of 93.