Why West Side Story is my Alltime Favorite Movie:

Hey, folks:

Although I’m new on this forum, and am still testing the waters, I finally decided to answer this question after checking it out afew times. Although this is kind of long, I decided that posting about why I love this great movie-musical classic so much was in order. Here goes:

West Side Story not only has a wonderful story behind it, but the cinematic technology, the dancing, the brilliant Bernstein musical score, and the talent that was brought to the film(except Richard Beymer, of course), all helped make West Side Story the wonderfully dynamic and great package that it really is.

The story of the love between a guy and a gal from two very different backgrounds, which grows amid the conflict between two warring street gangs i. e. the white ethnic American Jets and the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks, while the adults in authority watch as they rebel, is a wonderful story in itself, which has always appealed to me.

The beautiful musical score by Bernstein is so bright and exuberant, and wonderful to listen to, even when one’s not watching the movie or seeing a stage play of WSS.

The dancing is so magnificent. The fighting scenes are especially alive, as are the Cool, Dance at the Gym, and the America scenes. The Quintet and the Rumble are also great scenes. The idea that emotions can be expressed so vividly through dance and music is another reason for WSS’s appeal to me.

The photography, which is so rich, and t he costumes are terrific also, with rich color and glory, and the sets on which most of WSS was filmed look uncannily like the real thing!(meaning the urban background and city streets and alleys, etc)

Another reason that I love the film WSS as much as I do is because of the fact that WSS is also proof that, at least back then, that there didn’t have to be such graphic scenes and scenes of excessive gore and violence that seem to pervade many, if not most of ** today’s** movies. It’s also reminiscent of the time when movies had much more of a plot, a story, and, much more style and substance. This is not to say that there are no good movies beings put out today, but, unfortunately, good films these days are fewer and far between, in my opinion.

West Side Story is also in a class by itself, because, with relatively rare exceptions, it’s the only musical that was successful on both stage and screen. There are several reasons for this, I think:

A) The fact that when West Side Story was transferred from stage to screen, most of it was filmed on a gigantic soundstage with fantastically-designed sets that looked uncannily like real urban backgrounds, and therefore kept as a piece of theatre in itself.

B) The fact that many, if not most of the actors/actresses who had played in the original Broadway stage productions of WSS had been brought into the film,with some exceptions, of course) therefore the resource of talent was already there. However, I believe that Russ Tamblyn and Rita Moreno, and Simon Oakland were excellent, and Natalie Wood was OK as Maria. The only weak performer, in my opinion, as I’ve stated above, was Richard Beymer as Tony.

C) The story behind this great movie/musical was also a great resource which contributed greatly to this great movie classic’s success.

D) Unlike most musicals when they get transferred from the stage to the screen, West Side Story, perhaps because of all of the above-mentioned factors, especially the stage sets–didn’t get washed away in the outdoor scenery in the background the way most musicals, such as Oklahoma, Godspell, South Pacific, and most other movie musicals did.

West Side Story always makes me feel all different emotions whenever I watch the movie: smiling, laughing out loud, misting up, tension, which puts me at the edge of my seat.

I also believe, however, that part of the reason for WSS’s success is that the creators of this great movie/musical classic fought the good fight to preserve it and keep it as it was, and not make a cheap, updated revival out of it.

Another thing about West Side Story is that there’s definitely a strong element of truth to the MGM adage “Unlike other classics, West Side Story grows younger.” I believe that’s partly because, unlike other older classics, likeable as they are, West Side Story isn’t dated–in fact it’s as relevant today as it was back when it was made. Although West Side Story is fiction, in many ways it’s closer to realilty. Things such as urban gang warfare, racial/ethnic tensions, and people crossing the racial/ethnic/religious barriers to fall in love, date, and even marry are things that get played out in real life, even now. To paraphrase a certain adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As a devout fan of the film West Side Story who has also seen a half dozen really good stage plays of this great musical, I savor this great musical from beginning to end. With one rare exception back in mid-March 2001, when an afternoon screenng of West Side Story in our area conflicted directly with my (late) dad’s memorial, I have attended every single screening of the film West Side Story in our area, and, also saw another good stage production of WSS at a Boston play theatre last month.

(pardon my rambling)

West Side Story is really just Romeo & Juliet modernized and set in New York City with singing and dancing.

That said, it’s a fun show. I can’t sing, so I wasn’t cast in it, but did work tech on a production years ago.

I grew up with 60s musicals, and it’s definitely one of my favorites.

Right, daddy-o. Cut the jabba wabba.

Last year for Christmas I got a hardcover book that was the original libretto, published some 5 years before the movie came out. It was really interesting to see what changes were made for the movie. For instance, Cool and Officer Krupke were swapped to different acts. And this line:

He’ll walk in hot and tired, poor dear
Don’t matter if he’s tired, as long as he’s near

Was originally

He’ll walk in hot and tired, so what
Don’t matter if he’s tired, as long as he’s hot

It was restored to the original when I saw it on Broadway.

I do have to wonder how a poor Puerto Rican girl managed to aquire such an awesome apartment. I want that door!

The dance scenes kill it for me. I mean, I get that it’s a Broadway musical and all, but still. Gangs don’t resolve their differences by dance-offs. They don’t now, and they didn’t in the 50’s. The whole “Crazy! Cool!” sequence thoroughly took me out of the movie.

I always loved the part at the dance when Tony and Maria first see each other and the rest of the world fades away and it’s just the two of them. Hell, I love the whole movie. The music is wonderful and the choreography is amazing.

What you have is the perfect convergence of a great writer, great composer, great director, great choreographer, and a great cinematographer. Unequaled before or since.

Has anybody seen the most recent Broadway revival? I’ve read it’s “grittier” (which obviously wouldn’t be hard) but I’ve wondered if they went grittier as in the revamped Cabaret or as in “The Jets are even angrier when they dance”.

The America number from the newest production (and the showstopper for any production and the movie).

WSS is my absolutely favorite musical, primarily because the music is so absolutely wonderful.

It’s not my favorite movie, or even my favorite musical movie, however, although I’m not sure I can clearly articular why. It has some wonderful parts, but I find it hard to fully buy into it.

I think Chicago, for instance, is a much better movie adaptation of a significantly worse musical.
If you want a truly timeless movie musical, I’d go with The Sound of Music.

And yet, it shows that, despite all these strengths, two woefully miscast leads can do a great deal to undermine their collective efforts.

Make no mistake that the first 10 minutes of the film are nothing less than brilliant, and that the acting ensemble is by-and-large very strong (w/Russ Tamblyn the genuine standout; the wrong gang member won the Oscar that year) and the subsequent numbers are inventively staged and well-executed (and, in the case of “America”, an improvement over the Broadway version).

But a big chunk of the movie dies with Riff & Bernardo, and with only one good number (the magnificent “Cool”) with still almost an hour remaining, we’re left with Beymer & Wood, and they are B-A-D. So the movie (IMHO) slowly fizzes out and dies a slow death, with the final scene having neither the gravity or catharsis it rightfully deserves (though the Saul Bass closing credits do provide a final pick-me-up).

For me, a great movie should not be so lop-sided, but I can’t remember the last time I could even bear to sit through WSS start to front without FFW or chapter-jumps, since the most worthwhile moments–the songs & dancing–so seriously outweigh the rest (even more so than is typical for a musical). Without a doubt many great moments, but I wish I could say the sum was greater than the parts.

I saw it for the first time when I was about ten years old, so I was too young to realize that dancing in movies was not realistic.

In fact, that may be why I never got the general criticism I sometimes hear about movie musicals – “they’re not realistic” – I saw so many of them when I was really young.

I agree that Beymer and Wood aren’t the best actors.

And yet, in that last scene, when Maria says “… and still have one bullet left for me!” I always tear up.

I’ve told this story before, but I still think it’s hilarious.

Years ago I met an actress at an audition for something or other. She told the story of when she was in the cast for an amateur production of WSS.

Tony ran out onto the streets yelling “Come and get me too, Chino!” Chino, knowing his cue, went to the prop table to get the gun. But it was missing. Not knowing what else to do, he grabbed a switchblade, ran out onto the stage, and stabbed a very perplexed Tony. Then Maria went out, picked up the knife, and said “How does this knife work, Chino? Like THIS? How many of you can I stab, and still have… one… uh… stabby… for me?”

Some interesting info about the musical that I came across and posted in an earlier thread.

:rolleyes: If you want realism, don’t watch a musical. There’s a difference between reality and art.

But the most unrealistic part: You go into a Puerto Rican neighborhood and yell “Maria” . . . and ***only one ***girl comes out?

Kinda like yelling “Anthony” out the window in the Italian North End of Boston.

This is a tritone, no? From the R to the A in Maria?

I always think the Simpsons opening theme and Maria sound very much alike (both have tritones).

I think it was mentioned in an earlier thread that Sondheim regretted some of the lyrics . . . that they sounded like they were coming from him, rather than the characters.

Here is a synopsis of a golden oldie-but-great keeper of a movie:

Set on the West Side of 1960’s Manhattan and based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, although fiction, depicts much of what freqently occurs in real life, even today; urban gang warfare, racial, ethnic and cultural tensions and prejudices, and the breaching of (formerly) taboo barriers along the afore-mentioned lines to fall in love, date and even marry.

Two warring NYC street gangs, the European-American Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks, are in conflict over the same small territory that they must share, and tensions are steadily rising. Tony, the ex-Jets leader and founder, who now works fulltime at Doc’s Candy Store, is persuaded by his old friend, Riff, who now leads the Jets, to attend a dance that night at a local gym. Reluctantly, Tony agrees.

After a failed “get-together” dance for the Jets and Sharks that’s been orchestrated by social worker “Glad Hand” turns into a tense competition between the two gangs, Tony comes in, late, is greeted and embraced by Riff and his girlfriend, Graziella, and ultimately spots Bernardo’s sister, Maria, from across the room. They meet, fall in love and begin to dance together and are broken up by an enraged Bernardo. Tensions between the two gangs, already high and on the rise, now escalate sharply, and ultimately result in a War Council, followed by a deadly rumble. The rumble, which starts out as a “fair” fist fight between Jet member Ice and Bernardo, which fails after Tony attempts to stop it. A knife-fight between Riff and Bernardo then ensues. Riff is knifed by Bernardo, and Bernardo is knifed by Tony, and a melee immediately erupts between the two gangs. The Jets and Sharks then flee the police and go into hiding. Ice, who’s taken over the Jet gang leadership, admonishes the Jets to “keep cool”. Tony, meanwhile, hides out in Maria’s bedroom, which is figured out by Anita. Tony escapes through the bedroom window, is found by Anybodys, a tomboy girl, and is sent over to Doc’s to hide in the cellar. Determined to protect Tony from Chino, the Jets taunt and rough up Anita, who has come to warn Tony about Chino. Angered at being humiliated by the Jets, Anita tells them that Chino found out about Tony and Maria and shot her. The message is then relayed to Tony by Doc, and Tony goes running into the street and calls for Chino to “get him, too”.

Plans for quality time on the part of Anita and Bernardo, as well as newly-pledged love in the Bridal Shop by Tony and Maria, ultimately go up in smoke, due to the deaths of Riff and Bernardo, as well as Tony, at the hands of Chino, who has, in turn, avenged Bernardo’s death. After Maria gets between the Jets and Sharks on the playground to prevent them from clashing once more, she cries out that they all killed Tony, Riff and her brother, Bernardo through their hatred. Tony has died in Maria’s arms, and several Jets and Sharks converge to carry Tony’s body off. For at least a moment, the two gangs have reached an understanding resulting from tragedy.

All of the above having been said, I believe that, unlike many, if not most movies about gang violence, which seem to glorify it, West Side Story depicts a **different **message; the destructive consequences of prejudice and hatred, and the senseless of gang violence, yet with a glimmer of hope at the end of the long, dark tunnel.

Merged threads, since independentminded’s latest post was also about West Side Story.