“West Side Story” (1961)
G Crime/Drama/Musical MGM
Starring: Natalie Wood, George Chakiris, Richard Beymer …
A musical in which a modern day Romeo and Juliet are involved in New York street gangs. On the harsh streets of the upper west side, two gangs battle for control of the turf. The situation becomes complicated when a gang members falls in love with a rival’s sister and tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy.
Musical Cinema Review by Wendy
When I was in Junior High (AKA-Middle School), my choir put on a production of the musical West Side Story. This story and the music have since been on a pedestal in my mind for over 25 years! (Holy Crow! That makes me feel old!)
While putting our new to use, Audrey and I watched this epic musical together. I was so excited to experience it again and this time with my teenage daughter! The prelude into the show made me feel nostalgic just listening to a compilation of the score. I was excited, I have remembered West Side Story as among one of my favorite musicals for so long!
As we were watching the movie I was struck with a few thoughts:
- Why are these “gang members” referred to as kids? The actors all look to be in their 20’s some even approaching 30!
- Why are they all so dirty? Audrey noticed this first, but after she brought it to my attention, I couldn’t get past it… Their clothes and faces are in serious need of washing! I understand it was probably meant to emphasize their poor and less fortunate status, but seriously, poor doesn’t = dirty. I think adding some visibly worn clothing to the performer’s costumes would have gone a long way!
- How is it possible for this movie made in 1961 to present ideas in such an outdated and cliché, almost crude depiction and yet over a half a century later, many of these controversial issues still have relevance today! These are major societal issues like…A ‘gang’ family replacing a blood relative family, questionable treatment by law enforcement, ethnic prejudices, all delinquents come from underprivileged and broken homes…the lyrics from “America” are sadly still applicable to some degree, today. Through comedy and a catchy melody, this performance (my favorite song in the musical) presents opposing points of view, both persist to be valid, even now. For the most part, I believe over the past 50+ years as a whole, society has positively evolved our opinions and attitudes regarding prejudices and stereotypes. Unfortunately, I also see many instances where, as a society, we haven’t yet advanced far enough beyond these primitive beliefs. Seeing West Side Story, a film that was originally released in 1961, again in 2017, has opened my eyes to this revelation.
It has been more than 25 years since I first fell in love with West Side Story and its amazing score. After re-watching it I have realized that I still appreciate this story, although now for different reasons and I still consider this sensational soundtrack among my favorite musicals. My rating was greatly influenced because analyzing this film has challenged me and because I love this musical score.
Wendy’s Rating 5/6