Blake Edwards has taken criticism, especially in light of his wife, Julie Andrews, being a frequent lead in his films, that his female leads are strong to start, but fall apart when love collides with them.
That is a valid observation.
But who doesn’t lose their head a little bit in the throes…
I’m pretty sure the WHOLE FREAKING COUNTRY shipped these two okay.
so i watched star! ah this over-long musical epic let me tell you
julie andrews in practically every scene. yes pls.
julie andrews playing a star and looking like a star. serious babetown.
julie andrews being thrown about the stage AND SINGING AT THE SAME TIME
burlington bertie omg fave such talent. bonus julie in tux.
This movie. THIS MOVIE
- Emily Barham from “The Americanization of Emily” (1964)
Julie Andrews and James Garner in The Americanization of Emily is probably the sexiest thing ever.
I completely agree.
I think I just died and went to heaven
Hey, don’t ya worry ‘bout Mama! ;D
One of the blogs I follow recently posted a scan of this photo, incomplete and discolored. I searched and found the complete photo, corrected it slightly and here it is.
Julie Andrews, as Victor and “Victoria”. By Irving Penn, for Vogue Magazine, 1982.
Continuing our series of Stephen Sondheim-related Julie makeovers, the previous post raised the landmark 1959 musical, Gypsy, for which Sondheim wrote the brilliant lyrics. Based on a range of evocative homologies between the show and Julie’s biography and image, it was suggested the role of Louise/Gypsy might have made an interesting, if unorthodox, casting possibility for Julie in her early career. The role of Louise/Gypsy is a terrific one, to be sure, and it forms a crucial element of the show’s dramatic structure, but it is ultimately just a supporting part. Furthermore, the extreme youth of the character means it has a very limited professional ‘shelf life’ and is really only available to a performer in her teens or twenties.
There is, however, another role in Gypsy—dare we say, the role in Gypsy—that demands consideration, and it’s one where the age range is much more flexible, and that is of course the lead star role of Madame or “Mama” Rose. Despite its title, Gypsy is ultimately all about Rose, the ruthlessly ambitious stage mother who tries to live her thwarted dreams of theatrical stardom through her two hapless daughters. Indeed, the intentional misfit between the show’s title and the narrative’s actual primary focus on Rose highlights one of Gypsy's key themes: namely, the disillusionment of failure and unrealised ambitions. All her life, Rose has desperately longed for the spotlight of fame but it was never her name on the marquee. Instead, she was relegated to the thankless and ultimately embittering condition of secondary support, a life of being “M-m-m-momma” and “scrapbooks full of me in the background”.
Rose is arguably one of the most complex, certainly one of the most unusual, characters written for an American musical. Described by The New York Times in its review of the original 1959 production as “the mastodon of all stage mothers” (Quinn, p. 6), Rose is a ruthless and ofttimes insensitive woman who forsakes almost all the ideal virtues of the typical musical heroine. However, she is also revealed as a very human character, and much of the brilliance of Gypsy issues from the way in which—through layered moments of everything from comedy to drama to pathos to tragedy—it deftly manoeuvres the audience to understand, sympathise and eventually identify with this seemingly unpleasant, potentially monstrous, but also deeply real figure of flawed humanity.
It’s for this reason that the character of Rose has become something of a gold standard in traditions of female musical star performance. Described analogously as everything from the “Mother Courage" and "Willy Loman" to "Hamlet" and "King Lear" of American musicals, the part of Rose is “[f]or musical theatre actresses,…the ultimate test and crowning triumph” (Hishak, p. 69). Certainly, the role proved a career highpoint for Broadway’s original Rose, Ethel Merman. As discussed in the last post, Gypsy was expressly developed for Merman and, from the outset, it was framed as a new, career-defining challenge for the legendary star. Caryl Flinn (2007) writes: “Gypsy was easily [Merman’s] most ambitious musical, demanding more work and nuance in terms of acting than all her previous roles put together…and Mama Rose’s impact was so great that, as one Broadway historian said, it ‘swept aside all [of her] other characters’” and left ‘a permanent imprint on Ethel’s persona’” (p. 293).
Such is the sense of acting gravitas surrounding the role of ‘Mama Rose’ that it has attracted a steady line of theatrical luminaries, all determined to take on the challenge and hit the heights. Moreover, the character of Rose is so shaded and multifaceted that it has generated a striking range of diverse interpretations, with each actor crafting sometimes radically different Roses and leading to endless discussions and even polls among theatre fans about the relative merits of each version. In a further sign of the part’s extraordinary dramatic cachet, every female actor who has ever played Rose on Broadway—Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone—has been nominated for a Tony Award, with Lansbury, Daly, and LuPone all winning in their respective years.
Indeed, some commentators suggest that, almost uniquely among musical theatre properties, Gypsy has been transformed into a kind of star-driven theatre sport where the emphasis and main draw is the spectacle of seeing an iconic star take on and reinvent ‘Rose.’ John M. Clum (2011) asserts that Gypsy "has become the musical version of an operatic vehicle, like Tosca—a classic aficionados go to see again and again because they want to see what different great performers will do with its central role” (p. 314). In a similar vein, Holley Replogle-Wong (2011) argues that Gypsy is the quintessential “diva musical” where the accent is not only on glorifying the female star but on providing fans with an opportunity to see how that star will take on a paradigmatic diva role (p. 386). “In an important way,” she writes, “the performance is no longer really about the role itself, that is, the character in the drama, but rather about the audience’s desire to watch a star taking on the role and making it her own, and seeing that reflexive give and take between the diva and the diva role” (p. 387).
Within such a context, the inevitable is begged: what kind of Rose would Julie Andrews have made? There is no manifest evidence to suggest Julie was ever approached to play the part and, as will be discussed directly, it’s an unlikely casting prospect. However, given the frequency with which Gypsy has been revived and recreated, surely some producer somewhere sometime must have raised her name in connection with the role, even if only as a pipe dream or a left-of-field hypothetical…and, if they didn’t, well, we’re doing it now!
On paper, Julie would seem to be the very antithesis of everything typically associated with Mama Rose. Her Englishness, ladylike gentility, trained legit singing style, air of earnest optimism, and, last but not least, sanctified position in the collective cultural consciousness as the uber-nurturing Good Mother would all seem to mark Julie as as a patently improbable candidate for the part of “the stage mother from Hell.” Yet, perhaps, we shouldn’t rush to dismiss the idea out of hand too quickly. Casting against type can often be an interesting and productive strategy of artistic revisionism, and, as suggested, the part of Rose is so rich and dynamic, it admits a variety of different takes.
Julie certainly wouldn’t and couldn’t have been the type of brassy, take-no-prisoners, larger-than-life Rose as portrayed by Merman or later big-voiced belter types such as Bette Midler and Patti LuPone. Her Rose would have inevitably been gentler, lighter in tone and more mannered in style…a faded Rose with defensive delusions of grandeur, more petit bourgeois Blanche du Bois than blue-collar Norma Desmond. In this sense, she’d have possibly been akin to the revisionist Roses of performers like Angela Lansbury, who brought a touch of class and tragi-comic levity to the part, and Bernadette Peters, who infused the role with a physical sensuality and tremulous vulnerability. Moreover, had Julie tackled the role later in her career, say in the eighties or nineties when, as discussed in an earlier post, her voice had acquired a thicker, more shaded sound and she was seemingly more prepared to let go and take risks in her musical style, it could have produced interesting results. Would it have worked? Who knows…but it’s certainly fun imagining!
Clum, John M. “Acting.” The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical. Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris, Stacy Wolf, ads. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011: pp. 309-319.
Flinn, Caryl. Brass Diva: The Life and Legends of Ethel Merman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.
Hischak, Thomas S. Through the Screen Door: What Happened to the Broadway Musical When It Went to Hollywood. Lanham, MD: Scarecow Press, 2004.
Quinn, Carolyn. Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2013.
Replogle-Wong, Holley. “Stars and Fans.” The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical. Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris, Stacy Wolf, ads. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011: pp. 378-391.