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West Side Story (1961 film)--A Beautiful Combination of Many Things:

West Side Story Love & Romance Urban gang warfare Violence Death New York City Jets Sharks Natalie Wood Richard Beymer

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#1 miki

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 08:37 AM

This is my favorite musical.

 

The songs and music are the most beautiful I have ever heard in Broadway or Hollywood history. While I admire Stephen Sondheim, I always felt his lyrics are better than his music, therefore having Leonard Bernstein put the music to the lyrics was a magical combination.

 

I love the cast, George Chakiris is tough and dignified as Shark leader Bernardo, Rita Moreno is fiery as Anita, Russ Tamblyn brings humor and astounding acrobatic skill as Riff. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer have been criticized as Maria and Tony, but I think Wood is excellent at showing the sweetness and innocence of a new girl in  a strange land, she has a powerful final scene. Beymer may not be totally believable as a former street gang member, but he is good in the romantic scenes.

 

I love the cast overall, too, Det. Jim MacLeod.  Your points are spot-on, as well.  Richard Beymer, as Tony, was good in the romantic scenes, but the old "street" Tony  re-emerged after his buddy, Riff, was knifed to death by Bernardo, by stabbing Bernardo to death in retaliation for Riff's death.   Despite Tony's being gentle, tender and loving during the romance scenes between him and Maria, however, there were numerous times when the old "street" Tony seemed like he was waiting to re-emerge.


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#2 Kami Koren

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 10:24 PM

West Side Story really has it all.  Such an incredible film.  The music and lyrics are simply poetic, period.

For anyone interested, check out my more detailed review here: https://youtu.be/ZtBNQXZ28Mo



#3 johnm001

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 12:48 PM

I still think that Russ Tamblyn did a great job playing the role of Riff in the film version of West Side  Story, however, and that he should have also received an Academy Award.

I agree.  I really like him in it.



#4 miki

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 12:54 PM

Tamblyn got the role, when Michael Callan was unable to recreate his Broadway role, when Columbia refused to loan him for the film.

 

I still think that Russ Tamblyn did a great job playing the role of Riff in the film version of West Side  Story, however, and that he should have also received an Academy Award.



#5 johnm001

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 10:23 PM

 

 

Rita Moreno and George Chakiris received well-deserved Academy Awards as the Best Supporting Actress and Actor, but it would've been nice if Russ Tamblyn, too, had received that same Academy Award, because he, too, did such a wonderful job in his playing the role of Riff.  

Tamblyn got the role, when Michael Callan was unable to recreate his Broadway role, when Columbia refused to loan him for the film.


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#6 miki

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 07:20 PM

This is my favorite musical.

 

The songs and music are the most beautiful I have ever heard in Broadway or Hollywood history. While I admire Stephen Sondheim, I always felt his lyrics are better than his music, therefore having Leonard Bernstein put the music to the lyrics was a magical combination.

 

I love the cast, George Chakiris is tough and dignified as Shark leader Bernardo, Rita Moreno is fiery as Anita, Russ Tamblyn brings humor and astounding acrobatic skill as Riff. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer have been criticized as Maria and Tony, but I think Wood is excellent at showing the sweetness and innocence of a new girl in  a strange land, she has a powerful final scene. Beymer may not be totally believable as a former street gang member, but he is good in the romantic scenes.

 

Thank you very much for a nice post.   Your descriptions of the Sharks leader, Bernardo as being tough but dignified, and Rita Moreno being very fiery as Anita are totally spot-on, as are your descriptions of Natalie Wood as Maria, Russ Tamblyn as Riff, and Richard Beymer as Tony.  Maria was a strong girl, emotionally, and Richard Beymer was tender in the romance scenes, considering the fact that Natalie Wood, unfortunately, was openly hostile and resentful towards Beymer during the filming of West Side Story.  Anita, too, was emotionally a very strong girl, and so was Susan Oakes as the tomboy/Jets wannabe, Anybodys, who struggled for acceptance as an equal by the Jets, and achieved it, through dogged persistence, and the proof that she, too, could take care of herself.  

 

Rita Moreno and George Chakiris received well-deserved Academy Awards as the Best Supporting Actress and Actor, but it would've been nice if Russ Tamblyn, too, had received that same Academy Award, because he, too, did such a wonderful job in his playing the role of Riff.  



#7 johnm001

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 11:53 AM

Well, Goldie's first husband is one of the Sharks, in WSS.



#8 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 28 February 2017 - 07:43 PM

Cut his hair? That's a weird reason to loose such a great role

 

Well I might have given up a career for the same reason.   When I was in High School in So Cal the brother of George Slaughter (producer of Laugh-In)  was my drama teacher.    I was one of the better drama students (best male in my humble opinion, ha ha),  and my teacher really liked my skills but he was rather conservative and didn't 'dig' long hair (I clearly had a hippie look).   His parents came to our class and 'mom' and I got along well.     He said he would introduce me to George but only if I got my hair cut!   Well I refused!  I wasn't going to conform!    

 

To this day I still dream about having an affair with Goldie.    :unsure:



#9 jaragon

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Posted 28 February 2017 - 07:03 PM

Robert Wise was set to cast Keir Dullea and Barbara Luna in the leading roles.  However, the Mirisch brothers (it was Walter Mirisch, I believe) got cold feet about an unknown cast, and decided that the film needed a "star."  So, that's when Natalie Wood got involved.  Dullea refused to cut his hair for the role, and lost the opportunity to play Tony.  Decades later, I was seated at his table at a fund-raising event and dinner, and asked him about it.  He admitted to being terrified to do the role, and used the hair cutting as his excuse to get out of it.

Cut his hair? That's a weird reason to loose such a great role


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#10 johnm001

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 06:29 PM

Robert Wise was set to cast Keir Dullea and Barbara Luna in the leading roles.  However, the Mirisch brothers (it was Walter Mirisch, I believe) got cold feet about an unknown cast, and decided that the film needed a "star."  So, that's when Natalie Wood got involved.  Dullea refused to cut his hair for the role, and lost the opportunity to play Tony.  Decades later, I was seated at his table at a fund-raising event and dinner, and asked him about it.  He admitted to being terrified to do the role, and used the hair cutting as his excuse to get out of it.


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#11 Det Jim McLeod

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 08:32 AM

This is my favorite musical.

 

The songs and music are the most beautiful I have ever heard in Broadway or Hollywood history. While I admire Stephen Sondheim, I always felt his lyrics are better than his music, therefore having Leonard Bernstein put the music to the lyrics was a magical combination.

 

I love the cast, George Chakiris is tough and dignified as Shark leader Bernardo, Rita Moreno is fiery as Anita, Russ Tamblyn brings humor and astounding acrobatic skill as Riff. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer have been criticized as Maria and Tony, but I think Wood is excellent at showing the sweetness and innocence of a new girl in  a strange land, she has a powerful final scene. Beymer may not be totally believable as a former street gang member, but he is good in the romantic scenes.


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#12 miki

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 03:02 PM

I’m back….with another diary about my all time favorite movie, West Side  Story.  

As I have written on here before, West Side Story  is a film that I never get tired of seeing over and over and over again.  This diary is about a whole bunch of reasons why.  Some of it will undoubtedly be familiar to all of you, and some of it will not.  

 

Afew days ago, on a forum called West Side Story/Live Journal, I noticed a post about the best romance films from the 1940’s through the 1960’s.  Along with My Fair LadyBreakfast at Tiffany’s, and a whole bunch of other films, some of which I’d heard of and others I hadn’t,  I was happy to see that West Side Story  was also included in this youtube video/list.   As I looked at the list, realizing that most of the films that were listed and posted about on this particular youtube video, I came to realize that, although West Side Story  was included as one of the best romance films of all times on this list, something else occurred to me:  

 

What makes West Side Story  such a beautiful and strong film is the fact that it’s a combination of a number of things.  Whatever anybody may think of the romance between  the ex-Jet leader/founder, Tony, and Maria (who are played by Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood), the younger sister of the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Shark gang leader, Bernardo, the romance between Tony and Maria is an integral and important part of the very story behind West Side Story.   

 

While West Side Story  is about Tony and Maria’s romance, which eventually goes up in smoke due to the hatred and conflict between the warring Jets and Sharks, West Side Story  is also about a number of other things, as well.  

 

West Side Story  takes place in a rough and run-down urban area,  on the West Side of 1950’s-1960’s Manhattan, in the United States’ largest city:  New York.  West Side Story  is also about urban gang warfare, racial and ethnic tensions and hostilities, and conflict with the law, as well, as well as love and romance between two people of different racial/ethnic/cultural groups, all of which occur in real life, throughout the United States and throughout the world, generally.  

 

West Side Story is also about rebellion and forbidden love, as well as tribal friendship and loyalties.  It’s also about how our society has left groups of have-nots to compete with the crumbs that have been left to them by our society and our system, which is something that the Jets’ and Sharks’ competition for a small piece of turf is clearly indicative of, if one gets the drift.  

 

West Side Story  is also about the cruelty and hatred that the Jets and Sharks not only inflict upon each other, but about the cruelty and hatred allocated to both gangs by law enforcement,  but there are also very kindly and caring adults (such as Doc, the candy store owner, and Glad-Hand, the social worker, at the Gym), who try to help them, and steer them in a better direction.  

 

If West Side Story  is about all of the above-mentioned things, it’s about exuberance, arrogance, love of dance, and fun, as well, which are all indicated in the Dance at the Gym and the America  scenes.  The Officer Krupke  scene also indicates the humor (albeit rather wry) in WSS, as well.

 

 West Side Story  is also about rebellion in the form of women/girls attempting to break away from the old, traditional values.  Maria, Anita and Anybodys are the strongest women in West Side Story, for that particular reason.  Maria rebels and falls in love with Tony, and Tony by falling in love with Maria. Anita, who clearly disapproves at first, unlike Bernardo, comes around to accepting Maria and Tony’s love, albeit grudgingly.  Anybodys is persistent in gaining acceptance by the Jets as an equal and one of the gang, proving her toughness, resourcefulness, and her ability to take care of herself, and she finally does gain acceptance by the Jets.  

 

The Rumble scene in West Side Story is the climax, where tensions ultimately explode, thus resulting in the deaths of Riff, Bernardo and Tony, and yet the Cool scene is  the anti-climax, where hot blood is cooled by Ice, who takes over the Jet gang leadership after Riff’s death during the Rumble, after both the Jets and Sharks flee the police and go into hiding.   

 

Yet, while West Side Story  is about the harsher side of life in a run-down, rough urban area, there are gentler aspects, as well, such as the short-lived romance between Tony and Maria, the way both the Jets and Sharks romanced with their girls, and the fact that “Glad Hand” and Doc were gently trying to steer both gangs in a better direction.

 

 West Side Story  is also about possible redemption between people through intergroup reconciliation, which is strongly indicated by the fact that several Sharks and several Jets come together to carry Tony’s body off after he’d been shot to death, partly due to jealousy on the part of Bernardo’s friend, Chino, also a Shark gang member, and partly due to retaliation for Tony’s having stabbed Bernardo to death in retaliation for his having stabbed his (Tony’s) old buddy, Riff to death during the Rumble.

 

All told,  West Side Story  is a story that is greatly emphasized and told in the form of beautifully-choreographed dancing by the late Jerome Robbins, fabulous cinematography by Daniel Fapp and others, great scenery design as well as some local city streets filming on Manhattan’s West Side, and a brilliantly intense Leonard Bernstein musical score, as well as Stephen Sondheim’s great lyrics.  

 

All told, just the right people were chosen for the cast of this great, golden oldie-but-keeper of a classic film.  I also forgot to say that Officer Krupke and Lt. Schrank also epitomized the cruelty that was shown to both the Jets and Sharks in the form of hatred and insults to their ethnic and/or familial backgrounds, as well.  

West Side Story, as a musical, for the reasons that I mentioned above, is one of the very rare musicals that is beautifully successful on screen, as well as on stage.  The great colors that are used in this film, especially the use of a lot of red, indicate much of the passions that are ignited in this film, also.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: West Side Story, Love & Romance, Urban gang warfare, Violence, Death, New York City, Jets, Sharks, Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer

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