Liz Smith: Is Everything Coming Up Roses For Barbra? Will She Be “Swell, Great, Have the Whole World on a Plate” as Mama Rose?
“MAMA, WE have to stop this, I can’t go on screaming this three acts every day. I’m getting an ulcer.”
“You think I’m not?”
“Yes, I think you’re not. And if you want an ulcer mama, get one of your own, you can’t have mine!”
So it was between Gypsy Rose Lee and her voracious mother, Rose, in the sizzling argument that leads to “Rose’s Turn” in the best damn musical ever: “Gypsy.”
Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ masterpiece has spawned four Broadway revivals since its original production with Ethel Merman in 1959 … an unfairly-maligned big-screen version, with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood … as well Bette Midler’s made-for-TV movie. Stars as varied as Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone have won screaming ovations (and some Tony awards) for standing at the edge of the stage, belting out Rose’s final cry for recognition — “For me! For me! For Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
I’ve always said that “Gypsy” is such a perfect show, I’d see it no matter who is cast. I’d go see “Gypsy” with Snooki as Mama Rose and Kim Kardashian as the famous ecdysiast.
But there’s nothing like a great star to lift great material, and now — once again — it seems that Barbra Streisand is dead serious about bringing “Gypsy” to the screen. The legend has lured Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park,” “Downton Abbey”) to adapt the Laurents book. This has been a dream project for Streisand fans, but nobody thought, at this point, it still had a chance. Barbra herself expressed interest in “Gypsy” over the years, but plans always fell through, as they usually do in movie-making. (Mostly, people in the industry talk about movies that never see the light of day. But, it gives them something to do over lunch.)
Miss Streisand is set to produce, along with Joel Silver, for Universal. As yet, Barbra has not announced plans to direct as well. Look, no matter who officially directs, Barbra tends to get her way.
With a still-magnificent voice, Barbra could lay ‘em in the aisles singing the Sondheim/Jule Styne score. And dramatically, it would be fascinating to see what Barbra might do with the character of Rose, the mother who pushed and pushed, but never gave enough real love or a compliment that wasn’t backhanded. Barbra’s own issues with a withholding mother are well known.
Barbra Streisand will be 70 next month. If this project goes forward, she will be the most mature Mama Rose ever. She doesn’t look 70. And I’m sure she doesn’t feel 70. It’s just a number — okay?
The star does have a movie coming out this year — “The Guilt Trip,” a comedy with Seth Rogan. Her admirers anxiously await that.
But “Gypsy?” Heads are already spinning.
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ANOTHER project that has been off and on the burners for years has been a big-screen version of the old “Honey West” series, which made a cult figure out of Anne Francis — she of the scratchy bedroom voice and the sexy mole near her mouth.
As a lady detective with aggressive attitude, Francis knocked out villains with karate chops while dressed in the hippest mid-1960s gear — lots of fetishy leather bodysuits, too. And she had a pet ocelot, named Bruce. The series ran only two seasons, but that was enough to burn Miss Francis and her liberated ways into the brains of a generation.
Now, fresh from her Oscar nomination for “My Week With Marilyn,” Michelle Williams is said to be on tap … or considering … or has an outline for a screenplay somewhere in her purse … to play Honey West.
Miss Williams seems too soft and passive to play such a kick-ass character, but perhaps that’s why she wants to try it? After moping around as Marilyn, Michelle might want to do something to shake up her psyche.
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PAUL REUBENS, aka Pee-wee Herman, is rumored to be re-teaming with director Tim Burton for a remake of — get ready for it — “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” This was an absolutely awful, wildly entertaining 1964 kids film. The plot? Santa Claus kidnapped by Martians!
Anyway, Mr. Reubens loved the movie, as a child and as a camp-appreciating adult. He has been in touch with Burton, who made his full-length directorial debut with Paul in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” Burton, who has gone from one wild screen adventure to another — “Batman,” “Beetlejuice,” “Corpse Bride,” “Alice in Wonderland” — has been talking to Lady Gaga, the B52s and composer Danny Elfman about contributing music.
We don’t know if Mr. Reubens intends to play Santa or one of the Martians. Still, if I had to bet, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” seems more likely to happen than “Gypsy.”
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SO, WHEN Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) and the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) come to tea, what does one serve — aside from tea? Well, if you are the chairman of London’s famous Fortnum & Mason food store, you give them picnic hampers, with chocolate goodies, a variety of teas and … dog biscuits. “One thing all the ladies have in common is the love of a hound” said one observer. (No, not a hound dog — that’s another story of royal life.)
The three titled women were visiting the store to promote an upswing in the central London business district. The doggie bits were called “Hearty Treats for Happy Hounds” and it was “a little bit of fun for all.”
Believe it or not, British royals need a “bit of fun.” Despite the obvious compensations, it’s a terribly confining life. That’s why Princess Diana, royalty’s most fabulous rebel, wanted out and away so desperately.