Gypsy

As a pre-birthday treat (today I’m 56), I invited a friend over to watch “Gypsy” last night. We’d both seen the film as teenagers and identified with the daughters first time around.

If Momma was married

I’d get all those hair ribbons

Out of my hair

And once and for all

I’d get Momma out too…

Natalie Wood’s Louise was so lovely, so poignant! But this time we found Momma a much more sympathetic character. Rose is pushy, sure. She won’t let her babies grow up and get lives of their own. She wants them to live HER dreams and resents it when they break free to pursue their own. Her ambition for her daughters drives her to turn away the one man who truly loves her, warts and all. (And Karl Malden is sweet and funny, nose and all.)

But the incomparable Rosalind Russell brings such warmth to the character of Rose that you can’t hate her — not when you’ve got teenaged daughters of your own. Sometimes Momma does know best (not that you could ever tell them that…) and sometimes a push is what it takes to launch those babies from the nest.

Of course, it’s not only the story that makes “Gypsy” so delightful. The songs are unforgettable, with some numbers so over-the-top that you can’t believe they were from the unenlightened era of June Cleaver.  “You Gotta Have a Gimmick,” for example:

Makes me feel old, watching this musical forty years later. But I feel lucky to have had such wonderful movies available when I was growing up, even if we did have to watch them with commercials. There I was this morning, humming “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” as I cleared away the breakfast dishes, ignoring out my seventeen-year-old’s morning grumpiness. With songs like that, you can ride out the storms of female adolescence.