The Law Library’s current display, “Dance of Faith: The Copyright Contest Over Gypsy,” highlights the career of Faith Dane, who first came to widespread fame acting as Mazeppa in the stage and screen versions of the musical Gypsy. Faith’s Mazeppa had an act that included blowing “Reveille” on a military-style bugle while doing her “bumps and grinds.” On the Broadway stage, she leaned far forward and blew the horn between her legs. According to contemporary accounts, the 45 second number was a show stopper. For the film version, the director feared the signature move was too lurid, so Faith was told to execute a deep backbend instead.
Faith had developed the original routine during her own years on the burlesque stage, so it chafed when the director and choreographer received all the credit and royalties. Faith sued, but Justice Aurelio of the New York Supreme Court found that the “story” of Mazeppa’s failed to warrant copyright protection because it did not “tend to promote the progress of science or the useful arts,” and that “You Gotta Have a Gimmick!” succeeded “only through talent and ingenuity of the song writer” (Dane v. M & H Co., 136 U.S.P.Q. 426 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1963). In Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance, a book in the Law Library’s collection, author Anthea Kraut finds that this attitude represents the diminishment of the so-called lower arts as well as of women’s contributions to choreography.
The display also mentions two legal news sources to which the Law Library provides access — Law 360, which provides news about more than twenty legal practice areas, and the Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, which includes comprehensive news about important intellectual property cases, statutes, and trends. Our Copyright Law research guide is part of the Library’s expanding collection of guides to help you research the law.
As a bonus, the display includes a trumpet as a tribute to Faith, who lives in DC, and two LPs: one the Gypsy Broadway cast recording and the other the Gypsy film soundtrack.