Gypsy Rose Lee – Intellectual Stripper

Day 247 of Colourisation Project – January 9

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

An American icon, immortalized on both the burlesque and Broadway stages, she was one of the world’s most famous strippers. Long before Dita Von Teese there was Gypsy Rose Lee, famous for putting the tease in striptease in the 1940s.

Gyspy Rose Lee

Publicity Still – Gypsy Rose Lee – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Born Rose Louise Hovick in Seattle, on this day, January 9 in 1911, she earned a reputation as a demure stripper with a touch of class. She was renowned for her entertaining and witty onstage trademark “intellectual recitation” and a strip style teasingly executed without really taking much off. What she wore and how she discarded it created a fascination that audiences both male and female couldn’t get enough of.

It was her 1957 autobiography, Gypsy: A Memoir, which secured her lasting fame. Laying herself bare so to speak, it was written after her mother’s death, and detailed her volatile relationship with her brutally pushy stage mother. It was an immediate bestseller and soon adapted for the musical stage. With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, it premiered in 1959 and is considered by many to be one of the best Broadway musicals of all time.

Gypsy’s life has twice been made into movies, first in 1962, titled simply Gypsy, starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. The film was a great success, and helped cement Gypsy’s legend.  It was remade in 1993 with Bette Midler playing her mother, and Cynthia Gibb as Gypsy. Once again it was a huge hit.

Gypsy’s sister, Hollywood actress, June Havoc did not like the way Gypsy portrayed her. However she was persuaded not to publicly oppose the memoirs and received a payout for her silence. The sisters became estranged for a while and June, in turn, wrote her own versions of the story in Early Havoc and More Havoc.

As well as writing her memoirs, Gypsy was also a novelist. She wrote two mystery thrillers, Mother Finds a Body and The G-string Murders, which was adapted for film as Lady of Burlesque starring Barbara Stanwyck in 1943.  In 1943 she wrote the play, The Naked Genius which again was adapted for film in 1946 as Doll Face.

Three times married, Gypsy had one child, a son Erik, fathered by Otto Preminger. Gyspy Rose Lee was a heavy smoker and died within four months of being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1970. She was 59 years old.

Just to give you an inkling of her prowess, I leave you today with this fabulous clip the 1958 film noir, Screaming Mimi, performing Put the Blame on Mame, with her clothes on. She was 47 at the time.



“I wasn’t naked, I was completely covered by a blue spotlight.”    –   Gypsy Rose Lee

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Hollywood, Photography, USA, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Gypsy Rose Lee – Intellectual Stripper

  1. One of my favorite movies (the Rosalind Russell version) and stage plays! I had no idea that Ms. Lee was also a novelist. I may just have to go and find one of her books, as well as June’s story (which I knew nothing about either). Enjoyed the clip 🙂


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