West Side Story (1961)

The screen achieves one of the great entertainments in the history of motion pictures

In the slums of the upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, a gang of Polish-American teenagers called the Jets compete with a rival gang of recently immigrated Puerto Ricans, the Sharks, to "own" the neighborhood streets. Tensions are high between the gangs but two kids, one from each rival gang, fall in love leading to tragedy.

Why do you kids live like there's a war on?
West Side Story is directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Simon Oakland and Ned Glass. Music is by Leonard Bernstein (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) and cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp.
In the less affluent areas of the upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, a gang of Polish-American teenagers called "The Jets" are in conflict with a rival gang of immigrated Puerto Ricans called "The Sharks". They each thirst to own the neighborhood streets, but with tensions reaching peak point, two kids, one from each rival gang, fall in love...
A Multi Oscar winner, West Side Story is a musical update of Romeo & Juliet. Set in the 50s in a steamy gangland New York, pic unfurls in a blaze of booming colour and scintillating choreography (Robbins). It has very much become a film that musical lovers can rejoice in, for even though it has problems, when it soars it soars far and away.
Problems come with the crossed gang lovers played by Wood and Beymer, the actors dubbing is poor, their dialogue delivery also itchy. It doesn't help that the film's quality noticeably dips when this fall in love axis of the story (as key as it is) shows up - stretching the run time to a nearly unbearable and unjustified length.
Yet it remains a joyous experience even today, you can forgive it for its ills when you get songs like "America" (Moreno the best thing in the film by far) that transport you up there on the screen. Or that the choreography is like a ballet version of circus acrobatics in full effect. In short, if you have any kink for musicals in filmic form, this is a must see. 8/10

United Artists, Seven Arts Productions, The Mirisch Company by Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, Ernest Lehman, Arthur Laurents, William Shakespeare.
Stars: Natalie Wood, George Chakiris, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn.

Genres: Crime, Drama, Musical, Romance

Keywords: slum street gang love at first sight showdown puerto rican immigrant highway forbidden love musical rivalry feud interracial relationship based on play or musical attempted rape policeman obsessive love lifting female in air young love modern day adaptation shakespeare in modern dress

10/18/1961

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