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60th Anniversary West Side Story Cast Interviews


moviebug62
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I was very moved to see the three main stars of West Side Story again, especially finding out that they are still friends after 60 years.  I remember seeing West Side Story in the theatre back in 1961.  I still own the mono version of the LP soundtrack.  It was the very first LP I ever bought.

My only disappointment with the interview was Rita mentioning that all the Shark dancers should have been Latinos.  To me, they hired dancers for their talent, not their ethnicity.  Perhaps they should have hired a real policeman to play Officer Krupke, instead of the competent actor they did?   She did not mention that George Chakiris is of Greek heritage and not a Latino either.  I had such a huge crush on him, even though I was only 12 at the time.  And Rita made it very clear that she thought Natalie was miscast by playing a Latina.  I thought acting was about becoming the person that you are not in real life.    That's why it is called "acting."  I sincerely think this was Natalie's best movie role and she should have been nominated for an Oscar as well.

Being a Latina hasn't seemed to hurt Rita's career.  She's done great work over the years and has been extremely popular.  And she looks absolutely wonderful for 89!  She's entitled to her opinion, but it seems petty after 60 years.  BTW I probably will not see the movie remake bc you cannot top perfection.  The remake will definitely bring more interest in seeing the original masterpiece again.

 

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In total agreement with your comments  I absolutely love Rita. Have admired her career where her roles were not exclusively Latina. The film she was in prior to WS Story was The king and I. She portrayed a Persian character. BTW Dorothy. Dandridge was originally considered for that role but that's another long story. George is the son of Greek immigrants as you mentioned. Let's not forget Natalie wad the daughter of Russian immigrants. On Broadway Carol Lawrence

( Italian American) was Maria. Let's not forget the great Chita Rivera , a fellow Latina was Anita on Broadway.  Still love you Rita. :)

 

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15 hours ago, moviebug62 said:

She did not mention that George Chakiris is of Greek heritage and not a Latino either. 

She did mention she didn't like how they made him look so bronzed it was if they held him by his ankles and dipped him in a barrel of tanning gel. But since he was there, she was more diplomatic when referring to him than to Wood, I thought.

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5 hours ago, Cece222 said:

I guess no one watched last night.

I watched! It was interesting, though really drawn out with all the actors telling each other how much they loved each other, though Russ Tamblyn had a little zing in telling some anecdotes about Jerome Robbins. It was very long. The movie didn't start until 33 minutes past the hour. I was sad to not see Richard Beymer there.

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48 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

I watched! It was interesting, though really drawn out with all the actors telling each other how much they loved each other, though Russ Tamblyn had a little zing in telling some anecdotes about Jerome Robbins. It was very long. The movie didn't start until 33 minutes past the hour. I was sad to not see Richard Beymer there.

The in-person festival discussions before (and sometimes after) a screening are usually 15-20 minutes or so, but they can run longer.  The opening night film usually is one of the longer ones, often running half an hour or more, like this virtual one did, typically because there's not another film being screened at the venue later (opening night is always at the TCL Chinese Theatre).  At the other venues during the rest of the festival, there's a tighter schedule because it's non-stop films from around 9am to around midnight at most of houses.

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1 hour ago, sewhite2000 said:

I watched! It was interesting, though really drawn out with all the actors telling each other how much they loved each other, though Russ Tamblyn had a little zing in telling some anecdotes about Jerome Robbins. It was very long. The movie didn't start until 33 minutes past the hour. I was sad to not see Richard Beymer there.

I had missed the very beginning and thought perhaps they had mentioned why Richard Beymer wasn't there. Did they, by chance? From what I've read about him, though, he considered nearly everything he appeared in until he started becoming a filmmaker himself a "bad performance" and he felt that even at a young age he was meant to be a character actor. This could explain why he wouldn't want to be part of the celebration.

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I watched the interviews and I loved seeing the cast members together again.  I also agreed with Rita's comments about the casting and the use of brown-face, I can see how she'd find that disappointing.  I did think it was a little awkward with George Chakiris being right there; however, I have read Rita's comments on her disappointment with some of the aspects of West Side Story previously, so perhaps this is old hat to George.   I don't think Rita blamed George.  After all, he was cast just like Natalie Wood was.  I actually prefer Natalie in her other films over this one.  There is just something about her in this film where I feel like she's out of place and I do not like Marni Nixon's dubbing.  That is really out of place, imo.  I cannot help but think of Potsie from "Happy Days" every time Richard Beymer was on screen.  I like West Side Story, but there's just something about it that keeps it from ranking in my top 5 of musicals.  It might be in my Top 10, maybe a #8 or #9; but I have other musicals that I love much more.  I've seen this film about half a dozen times, I've even seen it in the theater, and I plan on making my husband watch it again with me in the theater at the end of the year.  After watching it again yesterday, I realized that I really don't care about Tony and Maria's story.  Their story is meh.  I want more of the Bernardo/Anita story with special appearance by Riff! 

For me, I watch West Side Story for the fantastic dancing, music and sets. 

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Hi

I have it on DVR so I will watch it later because I am a big fan of West Side Story 1961.

Thank you all for sharing. Personally, they should have asked the rest of the surviving dancers to at least  do a clip of 2 minutes. They were all fantastic dancers and they deserved praise as well. Natalie Wood gave a good performance. I love it when a child actor/actress grows in the film business, not too many made the transition. She has an amazing body of work for the 43 years she graced this planet.

I also agree that Spielberg should not mess with perfection for the sake of righting an ethnic situation that did not diminish the impact and greatness of this Academy Award winning film. It may have been a good idea at the time for an African American film director to direct The Color Purple, but no one is going to do that film over because it was directed by a Caucasian director, are they?

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That discussion was great! I loved having a nice long interview, not one of those rushed things you usually have to do for the regular intros. I really felt like I was at the Film Festival! I've been enjoying all the special stuff on HBO Max and on the live TCM channel. I've always wanted to go and now it's here in my living room. Great stories about WSS and cool to learn they really are friends. Such a fun way to give a fresh perspective to the film. I'm glad Russ Tamblyn got tumbling thrown back in the movie.

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5 hours ago, Oneeyeopen said:

I also agree that Spielberg should not mess with perfection for the sake of righting an ethnic situation that did not diminish the impact and greatness of this Academy Award winning film. It may have been a good idea at the time for an African American film director to direct The Color Purple, but no one is going to do that film over because it was directed by a Caucasian director, are they?

I don't think they're doing the remake just to "correct" the racial casting, but to bring the story to a whole new generation. We obviously still need this lesson. I think the original movie is a masterpiece, so I agree it's silly to try to even come close to the original, but I also want more movie musicals made, so I'll take it. And like Russ Tamblyn said, the remake will only call people's attention to the original.

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I love the movie and was so happy to see the three of them there. Hearing Anita, Nardo and Riff share anecdotes was heartwarming.

Then Mankiewicz teed up a softball for Rita and I lost a lot of respect for her which is hard for me. She has always been my favorite in that movie. She dominates every scene she’s in. The Rita that was so excited and humbled by winning that Oscar is not the same person in that panel. She has clearly developed an axe to grind based on race which is disappointing. Her contempt for Natalie Wood is so transparent it comes across as catty and jealous. Complaining she’s not racially qualified to act in a movie roll? Please.  It also belittles George Chakiris roll in the movie who is also not Puerto Rican. 

I’ve read complaints about the Sharks make-up. It’s ridiculous. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME COLOR! There are scenes when the Sharks and the Jets are so close in color hue they look like they’re all on the same team. If you want to complain about anything, complain about continuity of  make-up. It’ s still dopey but at least it’s valid. 

I’m going to be generous and hope that Rita knows better, she’s just trying to gin up some phony controversy for Spielberg. 

 

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1 hour ago, Roy Cronin said:

I haven't read it, but did Rita make her views of Natalie known in her autobiography published a few years back?

Or are these latest comments completely revelatory?

A 2014 article in Latin Trends on her "new memoir" indicates that's when she went public with both these odd peeves. For comparison there's a short archived interview with Natalie from 1962 on her "winning the wonder roll" of Maria.

"She writes about her “disdain” for the makeup that was used on the Puerto Rican actors to make all of the Sharks the same color. And she has some not so kinds (sic) things to say about the female lead, Natalie Wood.

It was uncomfortable for Hispanics to see Natalie Wood play Maria, especially because we’d heard that Natalie hadn’t wanted the part, but had been so prevailed upon to take it that she couldn’t refuse,” Moreno writes.

She goes on to say that Natalie seemed “uncomfortable” with the group of dancers, who were largely Hispanic."

https://latintrends.com/rita-moreno-reveals-all-in-new-memoir-including-near-fatal-love-affair-with-marlon-brando/

https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/natalie-wood-becomes-maria

 

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On 5/8/2021 at 9:36 PM, Moe Howard said:

I love the movie and was so happy to see the three of them there. Hearing Anita, Nardo and Riff share anecdotes was heartwarming.

Then Mankiewicz teed up a softball for Rita and I lost a lot of respect for her which is hard for me. She has always been my favorite in that movie. She dominates every scene she’s in. The Rita that was so excited and humbled by winning that Oscar is not the same person in that panel. She has clearly developed an axe to grind based on race which is disappointing. Her contempt for Natalie Wood is so transparent it comes across as catty and jealous. Complaining she’s not racially qualified to act in a movie roll? Please.  It also belittles George Chakiris roll in the movie who is also not Puerto Rican. 

I’ve read complaints about the Sharks make-up. It’s ridiculous. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME COLOR! There are scenes when the Sharks and the Jets are so close in color hue they look like they’re all on the same team. If you want to complain about anything, complain about continuity of  make-up. It’ s still dopey but at least it’s valid. 

I’m going to be generous and hope that Rita knows better, she’s just trying to gin up some phony controversy for Spielberg. 

 

Not so. Rita's comments were similar if not verbatim of what she wrote in her memoirs some years back (which I've read). She has her points.

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3 hours ago, Roy Cronin said:

I haven't read it, but did Rita make her views of Natalie known in her autobiography published a few years back?

Or are these latest comments completely revelatory?

Yes, she did (sorry, didn't read yours before posting mine).

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1 hour ago, Hibi said:

Someone should tell Chakiris to stop dying his hair. He's pushing 90 and not one grey hair on his scalp or beard??? Really believable.

If I didn't know that that was George Chakiris, I would have never recognized him.

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