A fascinating look at the making of "West Side Story".
Included among the special features of the limited edition DVD of "West Side Story" is this magnificent documentary on the making of the film. We follow the show from it's inception as an idea in Jerome Robbins' mind through a 40th anniversary screening at Radio City Music Hall. Along the way we learn much about the collaborative process that brought the show to fruition on stage and the particular demands faced by the producers in adapting it to the screen. Of particular interest is the attempt to have the film directed by two men, Broadway director Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Art and commerce would collide and the exacting Robbins would be sent packing, much to the dismay of his cast. It is also of interest to note that the two distinct changes from the Broadway production were actually planned by it's Broadway creators: Stephen Sondheim always fought for the reversal of "Cool" and "Officer Krupke" and Robbins himself decided to add the men to the "America" number ("elevating it to the heavens", as Rita Moreno remembers).
The viewer learns that Natalie Wood was not always slated to be dubbed, and we hear her high-school soprano renditions of "I Feel Pretty" and "Tonight". (Marni Nixon should surely be given a medal for her ability to be faithful to Natalie's interpretations while literally giving her voice.) More surprisingly, we learn that Russ Tamblyn was dubbed on the opening "Jet Song" by Tucker Smith, who plays Ice in the film and also sings "Cool". Tamblyn's rougher track was certainly serviceable, but co-producer Saul Chaplin believed in leaving the dancing to the dancers and the singing to his professional singers. We do not hear Rita Moreno's original "A Boy Like That", but her concept of the song and her frustration with the dubbed result is quite fascinating.
Indeed, all of the interviewed parties (Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Harold Prince, Wise, Moreno, Tamblyn, Richard Beymer, Tony Mordente and many others) contribute to a vivid picture of the process of creating one of the most durable classics of two distinct mediums, the Broadway stage and the Hollywood film. You will watch the great "West Side Story" with enhanced appreciation after viewing this documentary.
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