Movie Review By Heather Clisby
Every few decades or so, a woman comes along who defines every sense of that word. While she lived, Gypsy Rose Lee was such a woman. As a child performer, Burlesque stripper, Broadway star, author, film actress and, finally, television talk show hostess, she worked steady from age five until her death at age 56 in 1970, as she once said, "Honey, I go where the dough is."
As a self-described "keeper of the flame," Gypsy's son, Erik Lee Preminger, has put together a film collage that illustrates her glorious life and career. With Preminger doing a live narration, "Gypsy Rose Lee's Home Movies" is a highly personal look at an extraordinary human being that lived and breathed show business.
As the subject of the hit film "Gypsy" starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood, Gypsy once described herself as having "no major talents." It was true; actually, she had neither a gift for singing nor dancing but could fill up a stage with her personality alone.
Preminger, the son of film producer, Otto Preminger, is an interesting fellow in his own right. As the only 'stripling', of the famed show queen, he became Gypsy's stage manager and dresser at age eight. Though she married three times, they were all disappointments and her son remained the only steady man in her life. Erik, in fact, did not know who his father was until age 22; previously, when he'd inquired about the identity, Gypsy was indignant. "It's none of your business!" she replied.
This patchwork of film - which includes both personal and public footage - is likely to make a Gypsy fan out of anyone; she is such a lovable, confident and engaging character who never once took herself seriously. As for the famous strip act, which Preminger insists never changed for 25 years, it is miles away from the all-nude, bump-and-grind business going on today. Gypsy's audience consisted of as many women as men and in Puritanically rooted America, she was a pioneer at bringing sexuality and laughs together and dared fans to hoot at their own hang-ups.
It's typical that the most miserable stop in Gypsy's multi-faceted career was 1938 Hollywood, spent as a watered-down actress using her given name, Louise Hovick. The confines of the film industry proved suffocating for the lively Gypsy and she fled back to her roots, the stage.
Gypsy was one of those unique figures who didn't bother waiting for the world to define her, she merely set about carving her own niche and she was the definition of enchantment. Thank you, Erik, for stoking the flames.
© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 10/28/98
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