Film great Charlie Chaplin adored her. How's that for a compliment? She was a good actress, a good singer and an extraordinary dancer who had more than one Tony Award in her possession for her Broadway artistry. She was the Southern California-born Gwen Verdon. While most of the film lovers on Twitter seemed to pounce on the Netflix arrival of MANK and follow their viewing of it with arid, overlong essays on its narrative structure, I went over to Amazon to watch a fascinating documentary about Verdon entitled MERELY MARVELOUS: THE DANCING GENIUS OF GWEN VERDON. I was captivated for the entire 1 hour and 22 minutes. Not only was she a terrific dancer, she was a great mother, a great friend and a real mensch.
To make money to raise her first kid, she got work in nightclubs before booking the Hollywood studio work with Jack Cole. She studied how nightclub entertainers moved. She also went to burlesque joints to study how the strippers moved. All this information would serve her well later on Broadway.
I was told once by a reliable source that, had he lived, Bob Fosse was very interested in directing a new film version of GYPSY starring Liza Minnelli. He felt that the first version, starring Rosalind Russell, was too "candy box" in its look and tone. He wanted to bring out more of the story's emotional darkness and the drama that was evident in the play. Minnelli was keen on doing this. As a teen, Fosse had done dance numbers in between strip acts at a burlesque joint. Verdon has studied strippers in performance. I bet that, together, they could have delivered one helluva gritty remake of GYPSY.
Verdon's loving daughter, Nicole Fosse, speaks on camera as do Chita Rivera, songwriter John Kander, actor Tab Hunter and others who loved and worked with Gwen Verdon. Another one of those people is Harvey Evans. Harvey danced in the original Broadway production of WEST SIDE STORY and he's one of the Jets in the Oscar-winning 1961 film version. That's Harvey in the lower right-hand corner.