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Otto
09-23-2005, 08:06 PM
The lyrics to a number of the songs from West Side Story were changed when it went from stage to screen. The reasoning behind some of them is pretty obvious (censors weren't going to pass lyrics like "My father is a bastard / My ma's an S.O.B." in 1961) but why were the lyrics to "America" changed so extensively?

Stage lyrics (http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/america.html)
Movie lyrics (http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/america_movie.html)

FriarTed
09-23-2005, 08:47 PM
The lyrics to a number of the songs from West Side Story were changed when it went from stage to screen. The reasoning behind some of them is pretty obvious (censors weren't going to pass lyrics like "My father is a bastard / My ma's an S.O.B." in 1961) but why were the lyrics to "America" changed so extensively?

Stage lyrics (http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/america.html)
Movie lyrics (http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/america_movie.html)


Basically, the stage lyrics is Rosalia talking about what she'll do in San Juan, PR, while Anita is extolling how great America is & how bad SJ,PR is.

The movie tho makes this a debate between Anita & Bernardo about the ups & downs of living in America vs. PR. Stage lyrics pro-America; Movie lyrics back&forth.

Otto
09-23-2005, 09:08 PM
Right, but why change the plot point and thus the lyrics? And why change lyrics like those in Anita's intro, which don't need to be changed to make the new point? Does anyone (other than perhaps Leonard Bernstein) think that
Puerto Rico,
My heart’s devotion--
Let it sink back in the ocean.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing,
And the money owing.
And the sunlight streaming,
And the natives steaming.
is really a better lyric than
Puerto Rico . . .
You ugly island . . .
Island of tropic diseases.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing . . .
And the money owing,
And the babies crying,
And the bullets flying.
from the original? Was there some worry that people might be offended by the original lyrics? I'm interested in the thinking behind the decisions.

Tracy Lord
09-23-2005, 11:04 PM
Firstly, the lyrics to West Side Story were written by a young Mr. Stephen Sondheim, not Bernstein. :)

As for changing the plot point, I like it better as the men vs. woman point-counterpoint than the Random Chorus Girl vs. Everybody point-counterpoint.

For the Anita intro, maybe "bullets flying" was deemed unuseable for some reason?

The West Side Story stage-screen change question that's always bugged me, however: Why switch "Cool" and "Gee, Officer Krupke"? I saw the stage version about two years ago, and with the songs in their original places, there's a whole different energy to both of them (but especially "Officer Krupke" -- the Jets sing it after the rumble, with two boys dead and Tony on the lam, there's a whole new level of anxiousness and whistling in the dark underpinning it).

MaxTheVool
09-23-2005, 11:14 PM
Doesn't the movie version change "sperm to worm" to something else lamer?

don't ask
09-23-2005, 11:22 PM
Doesn't the movie version change "sperm to worm" to something else lamer?

It became "birth to earth."

don't ask
09-23-2005, 11:35 PM
The message board at West Side Story (http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/news/news.html) may be a good source for an answer.

Otto
09-24-2005, 01:18 AM
The West Side Story stage-screen change question that's always bugged me, however: Why switch "Cool" and "Gee, Officer Krupke"?
There's a trivia entry at IMDB about that:
In the original Broadway production, the placement of "Gee, Officer Krupke" had more to do with the scene-changing requirements of a live performance than with dramatic logic - and many theatergoers felt the sassy, light-hearted tone of the song seemed particularly out of place following a scene in which two prominent characters have been killed. The movie rectified that complaint by placing the song before the plot-wrenching rumble - switching it with "Cool", which originally related to pre-rumble behavior but even more meaningfully relates in the film to post-rumble behavior.

Sampiro
09-24-2005, 01:53 AM
[Hijack]I've never heard this confirmed, but I'm told that Sondheim wrote Somewhere for a closeted male lover he was breaking up with. Does anybody know if it's true? (The lyrics (http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/somewhere.html) certainly work for a gay relationship in the 50s.)

stuyguy
09-24-2005, 07:33 AM
For the Anita intro, maybe "bullets flying" was deemed unuseable for some reason?

Just a theory here. In 1954 a number of Puerto Rican separatists shot up the House of Representatives, wounding several members. Maybe the powers that be thought the original lyrics would be too inflammatory to the movie-going population at large to keep as written.

stuyguy
09-24-2005, 07:49 AM
Right, but why change the plot point and thus the lyrics? And why change lyrics like those in Anita's intro, which don't need to be changed to make the new point? Does anyone (other than perhaps Leonard Bernstein) think that

is really a better lyric than

from the original? Was there some worry that people might be offended by the original lyrics? I'm interested in the thinking behind the decisions.

From the book "Sondheim & Co." we learn that, after Westside Story opened on Broadway a minor outcry from the Puerto Rican community about a line in the lyrics of Anita's intro -- namely the crack about "tropic diseases" -- prompted an article in the NY Times. The piece pointed out that "Today, Puerto Rico has no significant disease problems related to its tropical climate."

I'll bet that that statistic promted the lyric change.

stuyguy
09-24-2005, 07:53 AM
Damn. The quoted excerpt from Otto's post did not carry over to my post above. Sorry.

The stage version lyrics in question are as follows:

Puerto Rico . . .
You ugly island . . .
Island of tropic diseases.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing . . .
etc.

DocCathode
09-24-2005, 11:04 AM
WAG

They changed the lyrics to avoid offense and get more profits. Low income Puerto Rican families were not going to be able to afford theatre tickets. They wouldn't be spending money and won't be there to be offended. They could afford movie tickets. The lyrics remain harsh enough for people to nudge eachother and say "This is just like the arguments your father and tio Jose have." without risking "They are insulting our homeland and us!".

BTW

My favorite reworking of any of the songs is version of Maria sung as part of the show Kraken Wise

The most frightening sound I ever heard:
Cthulhu, Cthulhu, Cthulhu, Cthulhu . . .
All the unholy sounds of the world in a single word . .
Cthulhu, Cthulhu, Cthulhu, Cthulhu . . .
Cthulhu!
I worship a god named Cthulhu,
I greet each morn with screams
For he shows his will in dreams
To me.
Cthulhu!
I worship a god named Cthulhu,
And suddenly I've found
How frightening a sound
Can be!
Cthulhu!
Say it loud and see cities falling,
Say it soft and feel the tentacles crawling.

Cthulhu,
I worship a god named Cthulhu!

The most unholy sound I ever heard.
Cthulhu.

JRDelirious
09-24-2005, 12:53 PM
Actually, as a boricua myself, I always have found "let it sink back into the ocean" to be a whole lot more clever a diss that "island of tropical diseases", AND when you look at it closer, a more cutting one -- theatre Anita has material, tangible reasons for not wanting to look back, of a kind that anybody could agree with (diseases, flying bullets, no roads, no electricity), and rebules Rosalía for looking back thru rose-colored glasses; movie Anita simply doesn't care for PR anymore because she likes it better in NY, but the Sharks point out to the girls that life in the NY ghetto ain't that much of a Great Leap Forward either.

("The natives steaming", OTOH, is a pathetically lame line. Oy...)

The change in the focus of the song also gives it better "legs" in the sense that "yeah, life's great in America, but we still have social problems here, too" remains a valid and relevant sentiment to this day and you don't have to be a recent immigrant to dig it. While the original version is really not affirmatively pro-America but rather a statement that "Life sucks in other countries! How great to be in America.", which has a much narrower appeal.




Also , as stuyguy points out, the depiction in the Theatre lyrics would have been what an Anglo, reading newspaper articles in the late 30s or early 50s, could have imagined things were like... but by 1960 things were a-changin' fast (and even for 1950-54 it was inaccurate to talk of "always bullets flying", as THAT situation was rather a series of specific violent incidents: "always bullets flying" would not be how somenone who lived it would put it.) The original depiction of SJ was actually of your Generic Latin American Backwards 3d-World Hellhole... which when describing a real place can be quickly rendered inaccurate by history. Theatre Anita's depiction of the misery Rosalía would find back in san Juan, by 1960, would have only applied to the SJ slums of the time, like Fanguito or Martín Peña... rather than the average working class neighborhood.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
09-24-2005, 02:52 PM
The only change I remembered was Anita's verse in "Tonight":

[stage]
He'll walk in hot and tired,
So what?
Don't matter if he's tired,
As long as he's hot

to

[movie]
He'll walk in hot and tired,
Poor dear
Don't matter if he's tired,
As long as he's here

anyrose
09-24-2005, 03:05 PM
The only change I remembered was Anita's verse in "Tonight":

[stage]
He'll walk in hot and tired,
So what?
Don't matter if he's tired,
As long as he's hot

to

[movie]
He'll walk in hot and tired,
Poor dear
Don't matter if he's tired,
As long as he's here
*that* changes is a pure "change it to get a G rating" ploy

also - the last line in "Gee, Officer Krupke"
I am drawing a blank on the movie version of the lyrics and stage directions
We did a production of WSS in high school - and the last line "Krup you!" and one row of buys kneeling down with one arm stretched out to the side, and a row of boys behind them step forward and swing an arm under and up in front of the first row's arms - thus making the classic two arm "F-you" gesture en masse

anyrose
09-24-2005, 03:06 PM
*that* changes is a pure "change it to get a G rating" ploy

also - the last line in "Gee, Officer Krupke"
I am drawing a blank on the movie version of the lyrics and stage directions
We did a production of WSS in high school - and the last line "Krup you!" and one row of buys kneeling down with one arm stretched out to the side, and a row of boys behind them step forward and swing an arm under and up in front of the first row's arms - thus making the classic two arm "F-you" gesture en masse
and that sentance is why I always got "D"'s in grammar :D

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