West Side Story (film)

West Side Story (film)

Infobox Film
name = West Side Story

image_size = 215px
caption = film poster by Saul Bass
director = Jerome Robbins

cite book
last= Munden
first= Kenneth W.
title= The asshole Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1961-1970
origyear= 1997
publisher= University of California Press
isbn= 978-0-520-20970-1
pages= p1206
chapter= West Side Story (1961)
Robert Wiseibid]
producer = Robert Wiseibid]
writer = Jerome Robbins
Arthur Laurents "(play)"
Ernest Lehman
starring = Natalie Woodibid]
Richard Beymeribid]
music = Leonard Bernstein "(music)"
Stephen Sondheim "(lyrics)"
cinematography = Daniel L. Fapp, ASC
editing = Thomas Stanford
distributor = United Artists
released = 18 October fy|1961
runtime = 152 mins.
language = English
budget = $6,000,000
gross = $43,700,000
website = http://www.mgm.com/title_title.do?title_star=WESTSIDE
imdb_id = 0055614|

"West Side Story" is a 1961 film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. It is an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, adapted from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and was photographed by Daniel L. Fapp, A.S.C. in Super Panavision 70.

The action was filmed largely in Los Angeles on sets designed by Boris Leven, although the film's opening sequence was shot on the streets of New York City, mainly in the area where the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University now stands. The construction of the new campus was halted to allow completion of the sequence.Fact|date=September 2007 Jerome Robbins, who had directed the stage version, was responsible for planning and directing all music and dance sequences in the film, as well as all the fight scenes. When approximately 60% of principal photography was complete, the producers became concerned that the production was over-budget and Robbins was fired. His final contribution before leaving the film was to write out the staging for the rumble. [cite book
last = Vaill
first = A.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins
publisher = Broadway Books
date = 2006
location = New York
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 9780767904209

The film was released on October 18, 1961ibid] through United Artists. It received praise from critics and the public and became the second highest grossing film of the year, domestically. The film won ten Academy Awards in its eleven nominated categories as well as a special award for Robbins, including Best Picture. The soundtrack album made more money than any other album before it.


The film opens with a fight set to music between an American gang, the Jets, and a rival gang, the Sharks, who have moved into the Jets' territory from Puerto Rico. We are introduced to the leader of the Jets, Riff (Russ Tamblyn), and the leader of the Sharks, Bernardo (George Chakiris). The Sharks start the fight when they jump Baby John, one of the most developed characters.

The police arrive, led by Lieutenant Schrank (Simon Oakland) and Officer Krupke (Bill Bramley), and demands that the gang disperse.

When they are alone, the Jets begin to discuss what they will do about the Sharks, and Riff tells them that they will end the conflict on their terms by challenging the Sharks to one last all out fight, or "rumble", and they will deliver the challenge to the Sharks at the dance being held that night at the local gym, which is considered neutral territory. Action (Tony Mordente) asks to be Riff's lieutenent for the challenge and council, but the Jets leader insists on using Tony (Richard Beymer), Riff's best friend, and co-founder of the Jets. Tony has since begun to drift away from the gang, and the Jets think he doesn't belong any more. Riff tells them firmly that once you're a Jet, you stay a Jet and reassures them of their invincibility before going off to find his friend ("Jet Song"). Riff meets Tony, who now has a job at a local store run by a man named Doc (Ned Glass), and tries to persuade him to come to the dance at the gym that night. Having no real interest in the Jets' conflict with the Sharks, Tony initially refuses and tries to explain to Riff that lately he expects something very important will be coming into his life, but later reconsiders out of loyalty, when he thinks about what might happen there ("Something's Coming").

We are then introduced to Bernardo's sister, Maria (Natalie Wood). She is complaining to Bernardo's feisty ladyfriend, Anita (Rita Moreno), that she never gets to do anything exciting. Bernardo arrives and takes her to the dance, where she meets some friends, Rosalia and Consuelo. Bernardo meets up with his friends. The Jets meet, and a dance montage takes place ("Dance At The Gym"). Glad Hand (John Astin), the chaperone at the dance, tries to make the gangs mix with a get-together dance, but when he is not looking, the boys swap back to their original partners.

In the midst of all the excitement, Tony and Maria see each other, and immediately fall in love. They begin to dance, but are interrupted by Bernardo, who angrily orders Maria home, and tells Tony to stay away from his sister. Tony leaves in a happy daze ("Maria") while Riff challenges Bernardo to the "war council", for which they agree to meet at Doc's Candy Store.

Back at the Sharks' tenement building, Anita defends Maria's right to dance with whom she pleases, as do the other girls, but Bernardo will not listen. A bitter argument ensues, in which it emerges that the girls love their life in America while the boys hate it ("America").

Tony visits Maria at her tenement block, mirroring the balcony scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and they confirm their love ("Tonight"). They arrange to meet the next day at Madame Lucia's bridal shop, when Maria has finished her work. The same night, after the dance, the Jets and Sharks meet to decide where their planned rumble will take place. Before the Sharks arrive, the Jets, accompanied by Anybodys (Susan Oakes), a tomboy who desperately wants to be one of them, are visited by Officer Krupke, who warns them not to cause trouble on his beat. When he leaves, they lampoon him, along with judges, psychiatrists and social workers ("Gee, Officer Krupke"). Tony bursts in while the Jets and Sharks are in conference, and demands that they have a fair fist fight instead of a rumble. Riff agrees, and Bernardo reluctantly accepts.

The next day, Maria and her friends are working at the bridal shop, and Maria is in an unusually happy mood. The other girls wonder what has come over her, and Maria explains ("I Feel Pretty"). Tony arrives. Everyone except Maria and Anita has left. Anita likes the couple, but is clearly afraid of what might happen if Bernardo knows they are seeing each other. She demands that Maria be home soon, then goes home to pretty herself up -- she and Bernardo have arranged to have a little quality time after the Rumble. Maria demands that Tony stop the fight altogether, but before Tony leaves, they pretend that the bridal clothes in the shop are for them, and imagine their engagement and wedding ("One Hand, One Heart").

Next is a musical montage showing everyone's respective feelings. The Jets and Sharks are ready in case the fight becomes a rumble after all, Tony and Maria are looking forward to seeing each other that night, and Anita is getting ready for her date with Bernardo ("Quintet").

The fight, which is between Bernardo and Ice (Tucker Smith), Riff's second in command, is about to begin when Tony appears. When Tony tries to stop the fight, Bernardo attacks him. When Tony does not retaliate, the Sharks mock him. Unable to stand by and watch while his best friend is mocked and humiliated, Riff punches Bernardo, trying to defend Tony, and the two gang leaders draw their switchblades ("The Rumble"). Tony tries to stop Riff, but Ice and Tiger hold him back. In the midst of the fight, Bernardo kills Riff. Before the stunned members of both gangs can react, Tony, enraged at the murder of his best friend, picks up Riff's blade and stabs Bernardo, killing him instantly. This sets off a free-for-all amidst the gang members. As police sirens start blaring in the distance, everybody takes off, leaving behind the bodies of Riff and Bernardo.

Blissfully unaware of what has happened, Maria is waiting for Tony on the tenement roof. She is still in a gay mood, and dances around the roof, until another Shark, Chino (Jose DeVega), who loves her, appears, worn out from the fight. Without thinking, Maria demands to know what has happened to Tony, betraying her feelings. Angered, Chino tells Maria that Tony killed her brother, then leaves. Tony arrives as Maria prays that Bernardo is not dead; realizing that it's true, Maria lashes out at Tony, who can only tell her what happened, and asks her to forgive him before he goes to the police. Maria finds that in spite of everything, she still loves Tony and begs him to stay with her. They reaffirm their love ("Somewhere").

Ice has taken over as leader of the Jets. He tells them they will have their revenge on the Sharks, but must do it carefully ("Cool"). Anybodys appears from infiltrating the Sharks' turf and warns the Jets that Chino is now after Tony with a gun. The Jets scatter out to find Tony, including Anybodys, whose deed officially makes her a Jet.

Back at the flat, Tony and Maria are sleeping together. Anita arrives. Maria and Tony make whispered arrangements to meet at Doc's and run away together. Anita comes in, sees Tony running away (and being informed of Chino by Anybodys), and chides Maria for loving him ("A Boy Like That"). Maria will not listen, and Anita looks as though she has to restrain herself from hitting her. But Maria's heartfelt love ("I Have A Love") wins over Anita, for she remembers she felt the same way about Bernardo. Anita then tells Maria about Chino searching for Tony with a gun.

Lieutenant Schrank arrives and questions Maria about the events leading up to the Rumble. He knows about the argument, and Maria lies that the boy she danced with was another Puerto Rican. She sends Anita to Doc's on the pretense that she is sending her to fetch a medicine for her headache -- she asks Anita to say she has been detained, explaining she would have gone herself otherwise. Anita's real purpose is to tell Tony (who has now taken refuge in the cellar of Doc's drugstore) that Maria is detained from meeting him.

But when Anita enters Doc's, the Jets maul her, simulating a gang rape. In black anger, Anita delivers the wrong message -- she says Maria is dead, shot by Chino for loving Tony. When Doc breaks the news to Tony, he leaves the shop in despair. Tony then runs through the streets shouting for Chino and begging him to kill him too.

Wandering onto the playground, he sees Maria, at first thinking that it is only in his mind, then realizing it really is her, but as they run towards each other, Chino appears out of nowhere and shoots Tony. As the Jets and Sharks appear, Maria and Tony reaffirm their love ("Somewhere"), but Tony dies in her arms. Maria takes the gun from Chino and accuses everybody in sight of the deaths of Tony, Bernardo, and Riff. The police and gang members arrive. When they see Tony dead, some of the Jets lift him, and the Sharks join them, while Chino is taken away by the police. As in Romeo and Juliet, tragedy has brought the feuding between the two gangs to an end.


*Natalie Wood as Maria
*Richard Beymer as Tony
*Russ Tamblyn as Riff
*Rita Moreno as Anita
*George Chakiris as Bernardo
*Simon Oakland as Lt. Schrank
*Ned Glass as Doc
*William Bramley as Officer Krupke
*Tucker Smith as Ice
*Tony Mordente as Action
*David Winters as A-rab
*Frank Green as Mouthpiece
*Eliot Feld as Baby John
*John Astin as GladHand
*Jay Norman as Pepe
*Bert Michaels as Snowboy
*David Bean as Tiger
*Robert Banas as Joyboy
*Jose De Vega as Chino
*Susan Oakes as Anybodys
*Marni Nixon as dubbing voice for Natalie Wood. (uncredited)


*Book by Arthur Laurents
*Music by Leonard Bernstein
*Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
*Concept and Choreography by Jerome Robbins
*Screenplay by Ernest Lehman
*Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
*Produced by Saul Chaplin, Robert Wise, and Walter Mirisch
*Cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp
*Color by Technicolor, filmed in Panavision 70


The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1997.


*Academy Award for Best Picture - Robert Wise, producer
*Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor - George Chakiris
*Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress - Rita Moreno
*Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Set Decoration, Color) - Victor A. Gangelin and Boris Leven
*Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Color) - Daniel L. Fapp
*Academy Award for Costume Design (Color) - Irene Sharaff
*Academy Award for Directing - Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
*Academy Award for Film Editing - Thomas Stanford
*Academy Award for Original Music Score of a Musical Picture - Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal, and Sid Ramin
*Academy Award for Sound - Fred Hynes (Todd-AO SSD), and Gordon Sawyer (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)


*Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - Ernest Lehman

Honorary awards

*Academy Award for Brilliant Achievements in the Art of Choreography on Film - Jerome Robbins

American Film Institute recognition

* 1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #41
* 2002 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions #3
* 2004 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs:
** "Somewhere" #20
** "America" #35
** "Tonight" #59
*2006 AFI's 100 Years of Musicals #2
* 2007 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #51

Differences from the stage production

* The order of songs was shuffled to heighten the tension of the storyFact|date=January 2008 (e.g., the humorous "Gee, Officer Krupke", which is sung after the fatal knife fight in the play, was moved to long before the fight, and the more tense "Cool" was given the spot formerly occupied by "Gee, Officer Krupke". Due to this change, "Gee, Officer Krupke", led by Action onstage, is led by Riff in the film, and "Cool" is sung not by Riff (who is by this point dead) but by Ice (who is called "Diesel" in the stage version); Similarly, the lighthearted "I Feel Pretty" which originally was sung immediately after the fight, was moved to an earlier moment in the story, just before "One Hand, One Heart" with a few lyric changes.
* Onstage, Anita sings about her lover Bernardo: “He’ll walk in hot and tired. / So what? / No matter if he’s tired / as long as he’s hot.” In the film version, “So what?” was changed to “Poor dear” and the second instance of “hot” was changed to “here.”
* Onstage, the line in the "Jet Song" that is sung as "When you're a Jet/When the spit hits the fan..." is changed in the film to, "When you're a Jet/Let 'em do what they can...". The song in the stage production ends with the lines, "...we're gonna beat/Every last buggin' gang/On the whole buggin' street/On the whole ever mother-lovin' street." In the film, the last line is changed to "...On the whole buggin' ever-lovin' street."
* Onstage, "America" is sung by Anita and Rosalia, with help from the other Shark girls. Anita sings in favor of American life while Rosalia sings positively of Puerto Rico. In the movie Bernardo replaces Rosalia in speaking negatively of America, and the Shark boys join in the song. Also, the lyrics of "America" were changed because the original lines were considered too derogatory to Puerto Rico and Latin American people in general.Fact|date=January 2008
* Onstage, a stanza from "Gee, Officer Krupke" runs, "Dear kindly social worker, / They tell me earn a buck. / Like be a soda jerker, / Which means like be a schmuck." In the movie, the second line is "They tell me get a job", and the last word is changed to "slob". (In the original cast album of the stage show, the line is "They tell me earn some dough" and the last word is "schmo".)
* Onstage, Maria and her friends sing "I Feel Pretty" in Maria's bedroom, just before she discovers the outcome of the rumble. In the film, they sing it in the bridal shop after she has met Tony but before there is any real trouble.
* Onstage, the balcony scene appears just before the song "America." In the film, it appears just afterward, giving the impression that more time has elapsed between Tony and Maria's first meeting and their duet on the fire escape.
* The Song "Somewhere" was shortened and retooled for the film, in which it is sung by Tony and Maria. Onstage, "Somewhere" features a fantasy ballet sequence, in which the lights of New York fade away and the Jets and the Sharks dance together in harmony until violence breaks out, shattering the dream. The song itself is performed by the offstage voice of a young girl (in the original production, future opera star Reri Grist, who played Consuelo). Tony and Maria also have a brief introductory section of the song that was cut from the film.
* Onstage, Tony is painting a new sign for Doc's store as he and Riff are talking. In the film, he is stacking crates of soft drinks.
* There are 11 Jets (including Tony) and 10 Sharks in the stage version. The movie adds a 12th Jet (Joyboy) and an 11th Shark (Chile).
* The Jet "Diesel" is named "Ice" in the movie. (The novel includes both names.) The Sharks named Anxious, Nibbles, and Moose are called Loco, Rocco, and Del Campo on film.
* There are six Jet girls in the stage version. There are at least five in the movie, but only three are credited. (Two uncredited girls can be seen in the "Cool" sequence.) There are six Shark girls in the stage version and at least five in the movie, per the "America" number. However, the movie credits list only three girls.
* In the movie Ice (Diesel) is second in command of the Jets and takes over after Riff's death. In the play, Action takes over leadership when Riff passes.
* In the movie Riff says "Womb to tomb," which Tony responds "Birth to earth." In the stage production Tony responds with "Sperm to worm." This was changed due to the fact that it went far beyond censorship standards for the time.
*In the song "Gee, Officer Krupke," some of the lyrics have been altered. In the play "My father is a bastard, My mom's an S.O.B." was changed in the movie to "My daddy beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me."
* In the movie, Pepe responds to Consuelo's taunt against Bernardo ("we came with our arms open") by saying "you came with your mouth open". In the stage production, "pants" is said instead of "mouth".

Casting decisions

Larry Kert, who originated the role of Tony, was 30 around the time of the production, and the producers wanted actors who looked believable as teenagers. Carol Lawrence, at 29, was considered too old for Maria. This caused some controversy and dissatisfaction when people learned she had been passed over in favor of a new actress. Only Tony Mordente (A-Rab on stage, Action in the film) and George Chakiris (Riff on stage (London Production), Bernardo in the film) were invited to act in the film version. David Winters, who originated Baby John, got to play A-Rab, Carole D'Andrea reprised Velma, Tommy Abott as Gee-Tar, Jay Norman (Juano on stage) as Pepe, and William Bramley as Officer Krupke.

Elvis Presley was originally approached for Tony. However, his manager, Colonel Parker, strongly believed the role to be wrong for Elvis and made him decline in favor of other movie musicals. When the movie became a hit and earned 10 Oscars, Elvis later regretted giving up the part. He was only one of many young stars that were in consideration for the role of Tony. Several Hollywood men auditioned for the part, including Warren Beatty, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, Burt Reynolds, Troy Donahue, Bobby Darin, Richard Chamberlain, and Gary Lockwood.

Bobby Darin made a strong impression on the producers at his audition and was, at one point, in talks for the role. However, he turned it down due to his concert and recording commitments. Tab Hunter, then 30, and Burt Reynolds, nearly 26, were also considered, due to their Broadway and singing credits, but they were dismissed as being too old. Richard Chamberlain was also thought too old at age 26, and chose to renew his contract for "Dr. Kildare" that same year.

When Elvis did not agree to play Tony and other actors either dropped out or didn't make it, the producers settled on their so-called "final five": Warren Beatty, Anthony Perkins, Gary Lockwood, Troy Donahue, and Richard Beymer. Although he was 28 before filming began, Perkins' boyish looks and Broadway resume seemed to make him a contender for the role, and he was also looking to avoid getting typecast after the success of "Psycho". Robert Wise originally chose Beatty for the role, figuring that youth was more important than experience. Ultimately, former child-actor Beymer, who was the most unlikely of the candidates, won the part of Tony.

The producers had not originally thought of Natalie Wood for the role of Maria. She was filming "Splendor in the Grass" with Warren Beatty and was romantically involved with him off-screen. When Beatty went to screen test for the role of Tony, Wood read opposite him as Maria as a favor because she had been practicing with him. Ironically, the producers fell in love with the idea of Wood as Maria but did not cast Beatty.

Jill St. John, Audrey Hepburn, and Suzanne Pleshette were among the many actresses who lobbied for the role of Maria in the film adaptation. However, Audrey Hepburn later withdrew, because she was pregnant.

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood both tried to do their own singing for the movie, but their voices were ultimately deemed too unrefined and were overdubbed by Jimmy Bryant and Marni Nixon, respectively. Wood's contract stated that she would pre-record all her songs, and she filmed to those recordings. During production, she was led to believe her voice would be used, although music supervisors Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green had already decided she would later be dubbed.

William Bramley is the only performer from the stage version to reprise his role (Officer Krupke) in the movie. Other cast members who appeared in both the stage and movie versions (with different character names) include Tony Mordente, David Winters, Jay Norman, Eliot Feld and Tommy Abbott.

Back Stage Notes

The Stan Kenton Orchestra recorded Johnny Richards' "West Side Story", an entire album of jazz orchestrations based on the Bernstein scores, in 1961. It was previewed by the producers of the motion picture, who lamented that, had they known of its existence, it would have used as the musical foundation of the new film. The Kenton version won the 1962 Grammy award for Best Jazz Recording by a Large Group.


External links

* [http://www.westsidestory.com/register_film.php Official West Side Story site for all incarnations]
* [http://www.notstarring.com/movies/west-side-story Complete list of actors who were considered for roles]


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