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)