West Side Story is the award-winning adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy, "Romeo and Juliet". The feuding families become two warring New York City gangs- the white Jets led by Riff and the Puerto Rican Sharks, led by Bernardo. Their hatred escalates to a point where neither can coexist with any form of understanding. But when Riff's best friend (and former Jet) Tony and Bernardo's younger sister Maria meet at a dance, no one can do anything to stop their love. Maria and Tony begin meeting in secret, planning to run away. Then the Sharks and Jets plan a rumble under the highway - whoever wins gains control of the streets. Maria sends Tony to stop it, hoping it can end the violence. It goes terribly wrong, and before the lovers know what's happened, tragedy strikes and doesn't stop until the climactic and heartbreaking ending.Written by
In 2010, Stephen Sondheim (who wrote the lyrics) told "Fresh Air" interviewer Terry Gross that while he was writing the stage musical, he originally wanted the show to be the first one in Broadway history to use the words "fuck" and "shit" in its song lyrics. He wanted the end of the song "Gee, Officer Krupke" to be "Gee, Officer Krupke/Fuck you!" (instead of what it became, which is "Gee, Officer Krupke/Krup you!"), and he wanted the lyrics in "The Jets Song" to be "When you're a Jet/If the shit hits the fan" instead of "When you're a Jet/If the spit hits the fan". However, the show's writers were informed that if the Original Cast Album contained those profanities, it would have been illegal to ship the record across state lines. So Sondheim made the substitutions for those words that appear in both the stage show and the movie. See more »
In the opening number, which was shot on location in NYC, the playground is easily 300 feet x 300 feet in size. Later on, when it is obvious they were on the studio back lot, the playground has shrunk to around 30 feet by 30 feet. See more »
[the Jets dance across the streets of New York, eventually coming to a playground where they toss around a basketball. The ball is intercepted by Bernardo, leader of the Sharks]
[snaps fingers at Bernardo]
[Bernardo drops the ball, Riff picks it up]
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The credits at the end of the movie appear as graffiti on street signs. See more »
In 2011, as part of the 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray release, a new score, closer to the original theatrical version, was orchestrated by the Leonard Bernstein Estate. It was performed live by the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics at screenings with the original score excised. (The original vocals were retained.) The New York performance was at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, built atop the movie's filming locations. See more »
In An Era of Great Musicals, "West Side Story" Was Among the Best
When they say they don't make movies like they used to, this is the sort of film they are talking about. Despite its flaws (and there are some), it is easily one of the best musicals ever made. Beginning with the overture and the opening scenes of New York City, circa 1960, it almost screams "classic." Some have criticized Natalie Wood's Maria (her dubious accent and the dubbed-in singing) or Richard Beymer's Tony (his slightly smarmy interpretation of the ex gang member gone straight), but the fact remains, their wholesome, fresh-faced characterizations defined the roles. And you simply can't top the film's instrumental score, its great songs ("Maria," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty," "A Place For Us," "I Have a Love," and "Officer Krupke"), its excellent choreography, or its very effective cinematography. Rita Moreno, as Anita, delivers what was probably her best performance in the movies, in particular her dancing and singing in "America," while Russ Tamblyn, as Rif, the charismatic leader of the Jets, is seldom given the credit he deserved. Natalie Wood on the rooftop, anticipating another meeting with her newfound love, is a vision of grace and innocence, while George Chakiris as her brother Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, is very convincing as the persecuted immigrant/mean-spirited hoodlum. And its not as if these are the only actors who did a great job. A number of the other supporting roles are delivered with memorable professionalism, too. In fact, the cast as a whole is superb.
This movie poignantly (if simplistically) explores the purity of first love, while tackling intolerance and racism head-on, avoiding the tired, politically correct clichés that movies of today too often wallow in. Despite the simplicity of the story, it is always an emotional experience, no matter how many times you've seen it. While it is true that the Academy Awards have become very politicized, and no doubt always were to a degree, this movie snagged ten of them when great movies were being turned out almost as often as mindless pap is today. Not to be missed.
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