Writer: Ernest Lehman (Screenplay) Jerome Robbins, William Shakespeare (Play)
Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Simon Oakland, Ned Glass
Plot: Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy.
Tagline – Watch this shot now. Hey. Shoot, man. Go. Hey, yeah
Runtime: 2 Hours 33 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: Musical Fans Enjoy
Story: West Side Story starts as we meet the rival gangs, we have The Jets led by Riff (Tamblyn) and the Sharks led by Bernardo (Chakiris) the rising Puerto Rican gang, the two sides are always involved in brawls and Riff wants to bring it to an end soon.
Bringing the two gangs together at the local dance club, Tony (Beymer) the former leader and founder of the Jets is forced to attend, it is here where he meets Bernardo’s sister Maria (Wood) who steals his heart as the too fall instantly in love. As the two side plan their fight for the street, Maria and Tony must keep their love secret as it could bring an end to the warring gangs.
Thoughts on West Side Story
Characters – Maria is the new to the town Puerto Rican, she wants to make a life in America, starting with her job and dancing, never understand the battling gangs. She falls for one of the men on the rival side not caring about where he has come from. Tony is the founder of the Jets, he has started to grow out of the gang by getting a job and avoid the brawls. When he meets Maria he falls in love and is torn between helping his gang win or ending the war all together. Riff is the one that keeps the jets together, he is looking for a fight around every corner and knows how to fire up the gang, he knows how to push the Sharks to fight back too. Rita is the best friend of Maria that helps her into any situation which could see her have fun, including the dance.
Performances – Natalie Wood as Maria is wonderful to watch, she can handle the singing and emotion, though it does seem strange to make her play a Puerto Rican. Richard Beymer is good in his role as the one that has started to see the problems with the ideas of the gangs. Russ Tamblyn does bring the energy to the film which is good to see through his singing and dancing numbers. Rita Moreno completes the main cast well showing us just how the supporting performers should do things.
Story – The story is known to be a musical version of Romeo and Juliet, we have the gangs in New York that are just petty teenagers always up for a brawl as they don’t want to face growing up in life. It follows the trends of the story as the two star crossed lovers want to break the lines of the warring gangs to be together, only for the war to intensify to cause tragic consequences. The idea to modify this for the now audience for the 60s was a good idea because it does deal with plenty of issue of immigration that wasn’t being accepted in America, causing the battles between both sides. The idea of love and forbidden love at that can drive people to do anything and this could bring the end to a war over nothing.
Crime/Musical/Romance – The crime is just young men or teenagers fighting over streets in New York, it is mostly brawls that lead to tragedy. The musical side does take us out of parts of the film because singing and dancing around the war on the streets does feel weird. The romance story is one of the oldest in the books, two people falling in love from different sides of a battle, knowing they want to be together and knowing being together could cause problems.
Settings – The film is set in New York which is great for the different sides of the war showing us just where the two sides have come from.
Final Thoughts – This is a musical that grabbed the audience attention back in the 60s, cleaned up at the Oscars, but now it just feels like another great musical without standing out anymore than any other.
Overall: Simple classic musical.