User Reviews (331)

  • Kristine26 October 2002
    Perfection on film
    Warning: Spoilers
    West Side Story, one of my personal favorite movies of all time and without a doubt my favorite musical. Why do I love this film so much? Because of it's high energy, great actors, terrific songs, awesome dance numbers, and beautiful love story. As an updated Romeo and Juliet story, we visit the streets of Manhattan, two gangs of different ethnicities, Tony and Maria, the two fall in love by are torn apart by the gang's hatred for each other. Sounds pretty basic, not to mention we have dancing gangs, they don't really fight, they just dance, yeah again sissy, but not in this story! The crew and cast put their heart and soul into this film and it truly paid off as this is the best picture of 1961.

    In the streets of Manhattan the Jets, led by Riff, and a rival gang of Puerto Rican immigrants, the Sharks, led by Bernardo begin to rumble. The police arrive and tell the "hoodlums" to get off the streets. The Jets discuss challenging the Sharks to one last all out "rumble", that will decide who gets control of the streets, and they will deliver the challenge to the Sharks at a dance later that night. Riff decides that his best friend Tony, a co-founder of the Jets who has left the gang to work at a local store, would be the best member of the Jets to present the challenge to the Sharks. When Riff visits Tony at the store, Tony initially refuses Riff's request to meet with the Sharks, but he later changes his mind. At the bridal shop where she works, Bernardo's sister, Maria complains to Bernardo's girlfriend, Anita. Maria believes that Bernardo is overprotective, never allowing her to have enough fun. Bernardo arrives and takes her to the dance. At the gym, the Jets, Sharks and girls are greatly enjoying themselves, but the rival gang members and their girlfriends remain apart. Tony and Maria see each other, become infatuated, almost going into a trance-like state and begin to dance, then embrace in a kiss. Bernardo pushes them away from each other and orders Maria home, and tells Tony to stay away from his sister.

    Tony discreetly visits Maria outside the fire escape at her home and they confirm their love. The next day at the bridal shop, Maria sings to her coworkers about how happy she is. Tony arrives to see Maria, she pleads with Tony to prevent the rumble altogether, even if only a fist fight is planned, and Tony promises to do so. At the the rumble, the fight begins between two rival gang members. Tony arrives and tries to stop the fight, but is met with ridicule and mockery from Bernardo and the Sharks. Unable to stand by and watch his best friend be humiliated, Riff angrily lashes out and punches Bernardo. Drawing their knives, Riff and Bernardo fight each other, their duel ending with Bernardo killing Riff. Enraged, Tony kills Bernardo with Riff's knife! Tensions are now at an all time high as both gangs want to get even and Tony and Maria's love is being torn apart by all the hate.

    West Side Story is truly a special movie, I personally don't know why it's not on the top 250 IMDb movies, if you are going to watch a musical this is the one that I always recommend. We don't get musicals to this big scape any more, they don't have the same heart as West Side Story had. The actors are absolutely incredible, it's so weird when I watched a documentary on this movie, apparently Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer hated each other, but I guess that must help during the lust scenes because hate and love are practically in the same category when it comes to passion. But the true stars of the film are Rita Moreno as Anita and Russ Tamblyn as Riff, great performances from the both of them. West Side Story is a movie that has no flaws what so ever and anyone who wants to argue me on that, feel free to send me a message.

  • janiceferrero10 December 2017
    Nothing like it, before or since.
    This masterpiece is already 56 years old and as it happens with masterpieces, it has kept intact all of its energy all of its power and it remains a mind blowing novelty. "Singin'n'the Rain" has those qualities but the setting is a natural for the infections musical numbers. In "West Side Story" we visit Romeo And Juliet in New York among feuding street gangs. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins create an experience for the ages. Natalie Wood is devastatingly gorgeous and even if the singing voice is not hers she manages to make it hers. The blandness of Richard Beymer works wonders for his Tony and Russ Tamblyn is a dynamo of youthful exuberance. But perhaps, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris steal the limelight. They are spectacular - As Oscar time they won Oscars over Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift in "Judgement At Nuremberg" To conclude let me reiterate "West Side Story" is a film to visit and revisit.
  • writerasfilmcritic3 September 2005
    In An Era of Great Musicals, "West Side Story" Was Among the Best
    When they say they don't make movies like they used to, this is the sort of film they are talking about. Despite its flaws (and there are some), it is easily one of the best musicals ever made. Beginning with the overture and the opening scenes of New York City, circa 1960, it almost screams "classic." Some have criticized Natalie Wood's Maria (her dubious accent and the dubbed-in singing) or Richard Beymer's Tony (his slightly smarmy interpretation of the ex gang member gone straight), but the fact remains, their wholesome, fresh-faced characterizations defined the roles. And you simply can't top the film's instrumental score, its great songs ("Maria," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty," "A Place For Us," "I Have a Love," and "Officer Krupke"), its excellent choreography, or its very effective cinematography. Rita Moreno, as Anita, delivers what was probably her best performance in the movies, in particular her dancing and singing in "America," while Russ Tamblyn, as Rif, the charismatic leader of the Jets, is seldom given the credit he deserved. Natalie Wood on the rooftop, anticipating another meeting with her newfound love, is a vision of grace and innocence, while George Chakiris as her brother Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, is very convincing as the persecuted immigrant/mean-spirited hoodlum. And its not as if these are the only actors who did a great job. A number of the other supporting roles are delivered with memorable professionalism, too. In fact, the cast as a whole is superb.

    This movie poignantly (if simplistically) explores the purity of first love, while tackling intolerance and racism head-on, avoiding the tired, politically correct clichés that movies of today too often wallow in. Despite the simplicity of the story, it is always an emotional experience, no matter how many times you've seen it. While it is true that the Academy Awards have become very politicized, and no doubt always were to a degree, this movie snagged ten of them when great movies were being turned out almost as often as mindless pap is today. Not to be missed.
  • Tony Dummett5 February 2005
    An Uncompromisingly Great film
    Although I think I've seen just about every musical there is from the forties to the seventies, I'd never seen West Side Story until last night. An amazing omission on my part, as having seen it, I just think it's simply wonderful.

    I bought the DVD "on spec" in a CD/DVD exchange store in Sydney for $10. I've had it in my hand a couple of times before but have always put it back on the shelf. This time I went through with the purchase and am now wondering what could have come over me, not buying it before.

    Those here who have said you really need to watch it on the Big Screen are absolutely right. In my case I watched it using a video projector throwing the image, big, bright and beautiful, onto a 12 foot screen. The photography used the wide screen format uncompromisingly. There was no caution here to frame the action for possible television cropping, or even much consideration given to a 2.35:1 "Cinemascope" presentation. Super Panavision's aspect ratio is not as wide as Cinemascope's 2.35:1, and every square inch of screen space was used for one or another important element of composition.

    Bernstein's music is a tour de force. Having watched On The Town only a few days back, it was interesting to contrast the two musicals. On The town is, of course, 15 years or so older than West side Story, but a comparison between the two scores is chalk and cheese. You could tell that Bernstein was holding himself back in On The Town. It wasn't his project. The numbers were almost self-censored. But West side Story was his baby, and it shows.

    The sheer brilliance of the music, the enchanting daring of it, its raucous atonality coupled with sweetness of melody are awesomely impressive, as show-stopper after show-stopper is thrown onto the screen to continually up the amazement quotient, time after time.

    I played West Side Story loud, very loud. The surround sound knocked my socks off from the opening aerial ambiance of Manhattan streets to the orchestrations themselves. I remember Bernstein in the documentary about the concert version of West Side Story saying, aside to the camera, after "Cool, Boy" was recorded, "You know, this is pretty good..." One of the great understatements, even if coming from the music's creator.

    See this film. Play it loud. Watch it on a big screen if you can. If you do you may, like I did, sit there thrilled, swinging your head from one side of the Super Panavision screen to the other, trying to take in the overwhelming avalanche coming at your eyes, your ears and your heart. It was an almost perfect transfer from film to DVD: color, sharpness, depth.

    It's been a long while since I've watched a film with a silly grin on my face right through, sometimes gasping at the sheer knock-out brilliance of what film-making can be at its best. West Side Story was one of those times.
  • gbrumburgh21 March 2001
    Dynamic and exhilarating landmark musical offering a still-topical spin on the age-old "Romeo and Juliet" story.
    It is a testament to the musical and theatrical brilliance of "West Side Story" that this teenage urban love story, set to Shakespeare's classic "Romeo and Juliet," has survived its outmoded 50s-style book (Arthur Laurents) replete with "Dead End Kids" posturings and corny, streetwise lingo (I still cringe when I hear the word "daddio"). For nowhere will you experience such electrifying, jaw-dropping choreography (Jerome Robbins). Nowhere will you thrill to a more exhilarating, passionate, full-throttled score (Leonard Bernstein, with Stephen Sondheim providing the libretto). And nowhere will you find a more dynamic, better-crafted musical that arguably surpasses its Broadway stage predecessor from overture to finale.

    Maria, a lovely, innocent Puerto-Rican girl ("Juliet") and sister of a formidable gang leader, falls for an opposing though reluctant white-skinned gang member Tony ("Romeo") with tragic results. Set in a tough New York neighborhood where the two disparate groups, the Jets ("the Montagues") and Sharks ("the Capulets"), battle for street territory armed with knives, zip guns and rocks, the determined love affair sets off a calamitous chain of events that, in the end, manage to instill hope in diversity. Topical enough?

    The strength of "West Side Story" is that it does not try to hide its stage roots. It still unfolds like a musical play. The film is expanded but the talented cast is not dwarfed by on-location surroundings or panoramic camera work ("South Pacific" fell victim to this). On the contrary, the cast lights up every single playing space with sure-footed aliveness and plenty of 'tude. Co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins stay true to the original, having the sense not to alter or butcher the score ("Man of La Mancha") or haul in a slew of new, untried songs ("On the Town", which actually worked for that musical). In a particularly "Wise" move (sorry), two numbers were repositioned to enhance or intensify the narrative flow. In the film version, the "Officer Krupke" number sparked by a goofy Three Stooges-like levity, is moved earlier into the proceedings BEFORE the serious rumbles start, serving neatly as a light and humorous anti-establishment statement. The tightly-coiled, finger-snapping "Cool" number is pushed way back, giving both song and situation a heightened impact as it goads and ignites the Jet's feelings of pent-up rage and retaliation AFTER their leader is murdered. Smart move, daddio.

    The late Natalie Wood has been crucified by critics for her ethnic portrayal of Maria ever since day one. It was not because of any political incorrectness at the time (reigning Hollywood white glamour queen goes Latino) for that hot issue didn't erupt until decades later. It was her limited range as an actress. But over the years, I have grown accustomed to Wood. Yes, despite the melodramatic leanings, the necessity of vocal dubbing (by the incomparable Marni Nixon), the flawed Puerto-Rican accent and the general overuse of Coppertone, I still feel for this Maria. What Wood does offer is utmost sincerity and heartfelt poignancy. So I'm one person who has gotten off the Natalie Wood-bashing wagon. Richard Beymer is another matter. An extremely weak, uncool choice for Tony, his toothy, freshly-scrubbed, chipmunk-like mug and awkward gait reads more like library assistant than gang member. Who would have thought Beymer would be the one to dazzle us much later in the totally cool and offbeat "Twin Peaks"? Still, Wood and Beymer commit themselves 100% and manage to create a credible, if not charismatic, love duet that doesn't get in harm's way.

    Since the film's emphasis is really on dance, it's the flashy second leads who provide the real firepower. Rita Moreno's smouldering Anita ("The Nurse") is a spitfire of anger and attitude, while George Chakiris as her Shark leader boyfriend Bernardo ("Tybalt") demonstrates slick, controlled menace. Both Oscar-awarded here, Chakiris, in his debut, proved a lightweight acting talent himself, never finding a role like this again. Russ Tamblyn as Riff ("Mercutio"), the recently inaugurated leader of the Jets, is a hotbed of jaunty, scrappy impatience. Both he and Chakiris are riveting as they demonstrate poetry in motion, leading a pack of Edward Villela-like tough guys into athletic, gravity-defying dance moves.

    "Romeo and Juliet vs. the 'Hood" should be required viewing for all grade-school children solely on the basis of art and education. The adults already know the value of this treasure.
  • Nazi_Fighter_David11 August 2002
    An artistic triumph of the first magnitude...
    Warning: Spoilers
    Shakespeare's classic 'Romeo and Juliet,' is transported by Robert Wise, beyond the conventional movie musical, to modern-day New York City...

    Shakespeare's Montagues and Capulets become two rival teen-age street gangs: the 'American' Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks... The two young idealistic lovers enhance the attractiveness of two nice kids, caught in racial and ethnic barriers... They are victims of the intolerance, misunderstanding, and mistrust that seem to be ever-present in human society... The film (nominated for an incredible 11 Academy Awards) took home an incredible 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (George Chakaris), Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), and Best Direction (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins).

    The opening of West Side Story is very innovative... As the overture plays, an abstract design on the screen changes color and becomes a breathtaking aerial view of the island of Manhattan... The camera finally swings down to the West side of New York, where the Jets are snapping their fingers as they walk the streets... Their hated Puerto Rican rivals, the Sharks appear, charged with aggressive energy... Both gangs compete for the control of the poor and filth neighborhood...

    Jerome Robbins's powerful choreography captures the explosive tension boiling in the big city slums... The streets (with their flick knives and razors) come alive with athletic young dancers... The tender lyrics and poignant music complement and balance the tough nature of the choreography... The songs advance the plot, and illustrate the action... They range from jazzy and feverish to lyrical to comical, and they are all richly evocative of the film's moods and characters...

    In "Maria," Tony gives voice to his feelings about the girl he has come to love... In "I Feel Pretty," Maria describes her own reactions to the miracle of love...

    Before their lives turn bleak, the two lovers express their joy in soaring music: Tony with his hopeful 'Something's Coming,' Maria with her entrancing 'I Feel Pretty,' accompanied by Anita and her teasing friends... Their love blossoms out on a poignant scene in "Tonight," and at a bridal shop ("One hand, One Heart") when both affirm their love for each other by celebrating a mock marriage ceremony...

    'West Side Story' is a beautiful work of art with spectacular music and energetic dancing... It is surely the finest dance musical since 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.' The principal dance numbers are all terrific... The propulsive movement of Riff and the Jets as contrasted with the free movement of Bernardo and the Sharks...

    Rita Moreno is spitfire as Anita... Her skillful dancing and Latin temperament are perfect for the character of Anita, a fiery lady who leads her girls in an exciting mambo dance... "Life is alright in America" is possibly the most triumphant sequence of the film... A welcome tone of mockery is introduced, and the 'mambo' atmosphere makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance...

    'West Side Story' is a calculated milestone in screen musicals... It breaks new ground in its depiction of contemporary social issues in a musical... The motion picture explores with deep emotional resonance, a world of hate, violence and prejudice... It challenges all of us to struggle for understanding and justice...

    History will remember Leonard Bernstein as the most important American musical force in the 20th Century... He is one of the greatest conductors that has ever lived... In 'West Side Story' his superb music communicates directly with the heart...
  • Cihan "Sean Victorydawn" Vercan (CihanVercan)9 September 2008
    First time to watch? Get ready to have a feast for the eye, the ear, and ultimately the heart!
    WestSide Story is an American icon, that reveals how today's world became global, that every modern democratic country of the Earth has every different culture mixed to live together in peace. So as you might guess WestSide Story is one socio-political movie that symbolizes post-modernism. This masterpiece also reveals the most frightening question that non-Americans -and undemocratic- keep in their mind, but afraid to ask: "What if America has never been existed?" Once you watched WestSide Story, you'll realize how post-modernism changed the world, that racism and vendetta are no longer conceptual.

    As a matter of art, WestSide Story combines a walloping score with exuberant choreography and spectacular screenplay to create a transcendent fusion of Realism and Fantasy, that will forever be a feast for the eye, the ear, and ultimately the heart. As a matter of movie concepts, the story line has the perfect progress beginning with the introduction of the two confrontational 1950s' New York city gangs, continuing with the love occurring between a girl from an immigrant group and a boy from a fanatical nationalist group, ending with the death of the gang leaders and the lover boy. When the story begins to progress, it becomes more and more fascinating through focusing of the lovers struggling to come together. There we admire successful acting of Rita Moreno(supporting actress), Susan Oakes and George Chakiris.

    9 out of 10.
  • Spleen23 July 1999
    It could hardly have failed
    Note the opening credits. I use the term "credits" loosely, because there aren't any. There's just a reddish orangish title card which changes colour ever so slowly while they play the overture. Now THAT takes courage. Obviously Wise was certain that Bernstein's music provides so much interest on its own that it would have been redundant to do anything but play it. And he was right. Bernstein simply wrote better music than any other Broadway composer of his day - much better music - and whether or not "West Side Story" contains his very best music, it's his very best musical. It would take a special effort to make a bad movie out of it.

    In fact Wise handles things very well. We get the same silent sweep over New York that he later gave us over Austria in "The Sound of Music" - the sweep that says, "I'm going to show you New York" (or Austria, as the case may be). The filming and the colours are stark and intentionally artificial: it does feel as if we are being shown a city. Performances are all fine.

    Of course, most of what makes this film great was already present in the musical. But what's wrong with that? Surely Wise shouldn't HAVE to spin straw into gold. A wise man - sorry - just accepts it with good grace when he is handed gold to begin with.
  • preppy-314 February 2005
    I'm REALLY shocked this isn't in IMDb's top movies
    Exceptional musical about the gangs--the Jets (Americans) and Sharks (Puerto Ricans) battling it out for a small section in the west side on NYC. Tony from the Jets (Richard Beymer) falls in love with Puerto Rican Maria (Natalie Wood) whose brother Bernardo (George Chakiris) belongs to the Sharks. Can their love survive? You probably know the answer but I won't give it away.

    An incredible musical--the songs have become legendary and the dance numbers are easily the most energetic and incredible ones ever caught on film. It was (partially) shot on location in NYC which helps and is full of color and life.

    Unfortunately there are problems here: Natalie Wood hated Richard Beymer--and it comes through loud and clear. There's a unbelievable lack of sexual chemistry between them and Wood gives a rare bad performance. Beymer is tall, handsome, muscular--and a total blank as Tony. The poor guy is trying but Wood's attitude obviously bothered him. Still everything else about the movie is great. I have a few minor quibbles: How did Tony know where Maria's apartment was?; "I Feel Pretty" is actually hilarious--check out Wood's "dancing"; the "Cool" number is great to look at but brings the movie to a screeching halt.

    But everything else works. Chakiris and Rita Moreno are just fantastic as Bernardo and Anita--their dancing and acting is just perfect--they richly deserved those Academy Awards they won. Russ Tamblyn is also very good as Riff (leader of the Jets) and shows some incredible dance moves. And look for John Astin in a hilarious bit at the dance.

    All the dances and numbers are good and the lip syncing is pulled off by Beymer and Wood pretty well. But the show stopper is "America"--that number comes right out of the screen at you full force. The lyrics are sanitized from the Broadway show but who cares? It still works.

    This won 10 Academy Awards--including Best Picture and Best Director(s). A true classic musical. I've seen it tons of times and I never get tired of it. A must-see. I give it a 10 all the way.
  • evasquez227 May 2009
    Forget High School Musical
    Warning: Spoilers
    West Side Story-A Romeo and Juliet Musical Tale West Side Story is a Rome and Juliet musical set in the early 60s directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Set in modern New York City, West Side Story begins by introducing us to the Jets (Shakespeare's Montagues), a white gang of juveniles who immediately begin the scenes with a choreographed number. As they're dancing continues they run into some young Puerto Ricans who are introduced as the Sharks (the Capulets). The rivalry between the two gangs becomes apparent through a carefully choreographed fight between the two that involves many intricate dance moves that give the illusion of a fight. The creativity right there is enough to understand why West Side Story won ten out of the eleven Oscars it was nominated for.

    As the rivalry between the Sharks and Jets becomes clear to the audience, the leaders of the two, Riff representing the Jets, and Bernardo representing the Sharks, decide it is best to settle their differences in a rumble where the winning gang will gain control of the streets once and for all. Riff decides he must obtain the help of his best friend and former Jet member Tony, a handsome young man who has given up that life to work in a shop. Though resistant at first, Tony finally agrees to accompany the Jets to a dance that night where they will present the Sharks with this proposition. It is there that Tony sees Maria for the first time and they both fall in love, however Maria is the younger sister of Bernardo and so the tragedy begins.

    I must admit I was skeptical the first time I had seen this film because I wondered how in the world would a gang rivalry be portrayed through dance and music, I mean love okay, but anger and violence? Boy was I wrong! The quality of this film truly is one of a kind. The choreography keeps you thrilled and is truly breathtaking at times. West Side Story would also not have been such a credible film without the participation of it's actors.

    Natalie Woods does a splendid job at portraying the female lead Maria, a young Puerto Rican girl struck by love when she first sets eyes on Tony who represents everything her brother and his gang detest. Two actors in particular, however, certainly out shined both Natalie and Richard Beymer who plays Tony in my opinion. Rita Moreno as Anita, couldn't have done a better job at bringing a strong Latin element to the film that Maria lacked. We really get a feeling of Puerto Rican pride every time Anita appears on the screen and the same goes for Bernardo played by George Chakiris. The chemistry between Chakiris and Moreno bounces off the stage, as if you had known this couple your whole life. Had the storyline not been so strong, you almost forget about Maria and Tony and completely focus on Anita and Bernardo especially in the "America" scene.

    As a skeptic, the only thing I found unsettling at the end of West Side Story was how quick Maria and Tony fall in love! After all the singing and the dancing and the heartbreak, once the credits started rolling I sat there thinking "Wait, what? They barely met each other at a dance!" Then again that goes to show how captivating the film is, if only near the end did I ask myself such questions. Officer Krupke really did a good job getting under my skin, but then again that just goes to show how well of a job actor William Bramley did in portraying a dirty, prejudice cop.

    Overall, West Side Story is definitely something to get your mind out the High School Musical gutter we have going on now a days. This is acting , dancing, and singing at it's best with out a doubt.
  • zimmedc29 December 2004
    Still The Best
    As a now 50-year old, I first saw 'West Side Story' when I was about 7. It may have been the first movie I ever saw outside home (actually at a drive-in--remember those?), and it's certainly the most memorable of movies I saw during that time of my life (although 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'The Music Man' are right up there too). In fact, as I watch the DVD now, I'm reminded why when asked, I typically cite it as my favorite movie of all time. The story is hundreds of years old, and now with the onset of drive-by shootings, the threat to the community presented by the Jets and Sharks seems a little dated, but then there's the amazing Bernstein score, and the fabulous Robbins' choreography, heartbreaking songs by Sondheim like "One Hand, One Heart" and "I Have a Love," innovative camera work by director Robert Wise, and unforgettable performances by the luminous Natalie Wood and the phenomenal Rita Moreno.

    I'm not old enough to have seen the original Broadway play, but I saw a recent revival, and the movie even improves on the play by moving a couple of musical numbers around so they fit better with the plot. Great movie musicals are few and far between these days ('Chicago' sold well--I couldn't quite deal with Richard Gere as a song and dance man); I wish there was another 'West Side Story' in store to entertain me for the next 50 years of my life.
  • Neil Doyle11 January 2004
    A triumph of song, dance, music, choreography, photography...
    Viewing WEST SIDE STORY last night on TCM for the first time in years, I realized what an impact this made on film musicals with its innovative use of dazzling choreography and high-flying camera-work that made it a cinematic experience rather than a stage-bound one.

    Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins directed this poignant and powerful musical with a talented cast of performers--Natalie Wood at her dewy-eyed loveliest as the Juliet-like heroine and Richard Beymer doing his best to bring some heart-felt passion to the role of the Romeo-like Tony, but he's too refined to be believable as an ex-gang member. At least he does have some chemistry with Natalie and obviously put his heart and soul into his performing. The voice dubbing for both is done skillfully, but I would have preferred a stronger voice for Beymer.

    Rita Moreno (not Chita Rivera as another commentator named her) and George Chakiris are beyond reproach as Anita and Bernardo--and all of the gang members do superb footwork and acting as the Jets/Sharks. Most impressive is the actor playing Ice (Tucker Smith) who figures prominently in the finger-snapping "Cool" number.

    This is the quintessential 1960s musical with some expert choreography (the rooftop version of "America" is a standout) and stellar work from everyone in the cast. Leonard Bernstein must have been proud of this film version of his Broadway musical. Robert Wise's firm control in blending the music with the "book" is craftsmanship at its finest.

    By all means, a musical that deserved all of its Oscars!!
  • morgana-613 May 2002
    Still dynamic, after all these years
    It was a late Saturday night. I'd done my chores and decided to relax with some needlework before crawling into bed. Looking over my tapes, I decided it was time to visit West Side Story again, after some years. It was a fine choice. I would catch myself with my hands idle, as my eyes tracked the dancing, the most dynamic part of the film. I reveled in the Sharks on the rooftop and the gymnasium dance. "Cool" was cool, as always. This is a musical that doesn't try to transcend itself. It just lets the music and dancing speak for itself (and offkey singing along is allowed at home). I've always felt that Richard Beymer was the weakest of the actors, and nothing has changed my mind. But he's easy to ignore in comparison to the outstanding performances of George Chakiris, Rita Morena (who dominates the screen and steals all her scenes), Russ Tamblyn and the rest of the supporting cast. I'll leave the experts to make the minute comparisons to Romeo and Juliet, and to the critics to point out all the flaws. I'll just say, let yourself drift back to the 50s, break out the popcorn and enjoy.
  • trumpman3019 May 2002
    A shame that it's not in the top 250.
    One of the truly great musicals of all time, its a shame that those who do not care for musicals have to vote to bring it down. If you do not care for musicals, then you should not vote a "1" just because you do not like ALL musicals.

    That aside, a great musical score with a great story to back it up. Leonard Bernstein out does himself in this movie. This is definetly a movie to see; an classic for all time. Like its trailer says, "West Side Story does not grow old."
  • movibuf196215 February 2005
    A 70-millimeter delight.
    I remember when this film ran on NBC television about 25 years ago. After being beefed up with commercials, it had to be shown in 2 parts over two nights. I only saw it in the theater once when I was about 12, and had forgotten many visuals which were cut off on the television screen. So let me just say that the smartest thing MGM-UA could do is present a widescreen, 70mm DVD. It has a gorgeous restored picture (important for visual effects like the dissolve of Natalie Wood spinning around in the bridal shop which blurs and multiplies and finally erupts into multiple dancers who converge at the gym, or the first time Tony and Maria see each other against the blur of the dance competition on opposite sides of the screen) and pristine sound- probably the most gorgeous score ever composed by Leonard Bernstein. There are, of course, stage purists who scoff at the movie (and its many ghost singers), but I always thought the film's adaptation was superior to the stage show because it gave the story a more breathless, one-act pace. Some songs are reshuffled and re-staged from the original libretto, and the background score is given something of a theatrical makeover. And the dancing, of course, is peerless-- whether it's the "Cool" dance with the Jets in a low-ceiling garage, the "America" battle of the sexes with the Sharks, or even the delicate rooftop dance performed in Act 2 by Natalie Wood- bewitching in a white dress and re-living the moment she first fell in love herself. None of these wonders can prepare you for the mind-numbing, emotional, climax.

    A tour-de-force film show, clocking in at 152 minutes.
  • Steffi_P28 December 2009
    "The most beautiful sound…"
    The classic Hollywood musical, though popular with public and critics in its day, now seems to have more detractors than admirers. The screen version of West Side Story has found itself under attack from both sides, not only from "serious" film fans who consider all musicals to be frivolous and unrealistic, but also snobbish appreciators of the stage original like Keith Garebian, who described it as a "Hollywood vulgarisation"*.

    It's fair enough that West Side Story is something of a sacred cow for Broadway fans. Leonard Bernstein, although not as prolific as Gerschwin, Berlin, Kern, Rodgers or Loewe, placed himself on a par with these giants of musical theatre with this one score, a mix of edgy jazz and heart-wrenching melody. The Arthur Laurents story has enough bold changes to make the Romeo and Juliet tale work for the modern era, while still retaining the forceful core and emotional impact of Shakespeare's play. Then there is the choreography of Jerome Robbins, turning aggressive tension into dance moves, with complex layers and patterns that seem almost contradictory but work harmoniously. But what is really special is how all these things weave into each other. Bernstein's score references and repeats itself; for example the oft-heard whistle, the opening line of "Ma-ri-a" and the start of the baseline for "Cool" are all the same three notes. The choreography picks up on every subtlety of the music, and blurs the lines between dancing and fighting. Even the dialogue has a kind of snappy rhythm to it, allowing the talkie scenes to flow straight into the musical numbers.

    Walter Mirisch, who acquired the filming rights, knew what he was doing when he handed the project to two directors, Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Robbins had directed it for the stage, and there was really no-one better to ensure his own choreography survived intact for the screen version. However with no experience behind a camera, it was unlikely he could have tackled the whole thing single-handed. Robert Wise was the perfect partner for him, a highly professional and dedicated screen director, who had never done a musical before but had proved himself sensitive to rhythm and movement in pictures such as This Could Be the Night and I Want to Live!. Between them, Wise and Robbins have reproduced the synchronicity of the stage show, as well as extending it in a cinematic dimension.

    In the location-shot "Prologue", the camera becomes a part of the choreography, beginning with those jerky pans in time with the Jets' finger-clicking. This I believe was largely the input of Robbins, who was apparently fascinated by what cinema could do. He does some great work with colour, such us the red background that suddenly comes into view in that first close up of George Chakiris (Bernardo). As well as the dramatic scenes, I understand Wise was solely responsible for directing the less dance-orientated numbers such "Something's Coming", "Maria" and "Tonight". His approach is subtler, but he still cleverly merges image and music, keeping the camera close for the quieter moments, then pulling back as the song becomes bigger, allowing the backgrounds to become part of the tone. Wise also holds up the musicality elsewhere. One trick this former editor uses is to ensure that at key moments consecutive shots are jarringly different in colour and arrangement, which keeps that jagged rhythm going in image as well as sound.

    One major source of controversy was the changes to the cast. It was a fact in Hollywood at this time that non-singing actors would be cast in the lead roles, to be dubbed by non-acting singers. It's a shame I admit, but it's reasonable. Natalie Wood was a marvellous dramatic player and experienced movie actress, adept at emoting for the camera. Richard Beymer is not an exceptionally good lead man, but he is good enough, and at least looks the part. Still, one thing that couldn't be faked was dancing, and all the gang members are necessarily played by professionals in this respect. What is great about these supporting players is that they make dancing, singing and acting become one. Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris and especially the magnificent Rita Moreno all dance in the way their character should move. Moreno, using her own voice for all but one number, continues to spit out her lyrics just as Anita would, treating each song as a piece of drama.

    But there are still one or two things for the theatre snobs to nitpick over. There is the re-ordering of several songs to take place at different times. This was done to keep the lighter songs in the first half of the picture and keep the darkening of mood towards the end consistent, and it works for the film. Bernstein apparently did not like this recording of his score, but it doesn't seem to have done the picture any harm. And there are of course those who will automatically object to a screen adaptation of anything on principle, but let's face it – we don't really need to address that here do we?

    All of which leaves us with just the whinges of the pretentious film fans, who seem to think that cinema is only about "auteurs", film noir, nouvelle vague, the art house and bloody Stanley Kubrick. There isn't much to say to this bunch. All they need is to lighten up, stop being afraid of a little music and dance, and realise that gritty realism isn't the only way to make a point.

    *In his book, The Making of West Side Story, which is about the Broadway production.
  • SanForZeke29 July 2008
    One could talk about this movie forever
    Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers: This movie is the timeless movie. No matter how many times I watch the Jets (or Sharks) moving or dancing over the streets, I never get tired of it. The prologue is one of the best, with the Jets surveying their turf, the others gets out of the gang members path as the music speeds up, one can really feel "this is their street and they love it". Enter Bernardo, and the music tones down to a more strained note.. "this is the enemy." Bernardo goes and gets his own friends, and the music speeds up as the Sharks moves across the Jets sign, a clear challenge. Then it continues on, until the inevitable fight at the ballpark, from which the story continues, and the rumble and the aftermath approaches.

    Even though I was no fan of the Tony/Maria story, I can watch this movie with absolute anticipation every time, due to all the other characters: Ice: the cool-est gang member ever, Anybodys: the persistent tomboy who wants to be a jet, Bernardo: a chilly adversary and Action: the brooding gang member with anger issues.

    And the songs.. Cool, Officer Krupke, The Quintet, the Jet Song.. if they don't keep you captured at the screen.. well, nothing will.

    All in all, a masterly done movie, where the music is as much a part of the success as the actors/characters.

    See this movie.
  • bkoganbing20 July 2008
    As Maria Said, So Pretty, Witty, & Bright
    It's hard for me to write a review about West Side Story because all the superlatives have been written and said over and over again. What I think the main contribution of West Side Story to our culture is to interest urban American youth of the Fifties in both the classics and the American Musical Theater. A typical boy or girl going to Andries Hudde Junior High School and Midwood High School from 1959 to 1965 as I did was acquainted with the music and lyrics of West Side Story from radio, records, and television and if you saved up for a Broadway seat.

    You might not have gotten Oklahoma, you might have thought Carousel was quaint and you sure thought South Pacific was for your parent's generation, but West Side Story spoke to you. It was about young people just trying to belong, if you will looking for a place, in time and space for us.

    And wonder of wonders not only could the American Musical Theater speak to you, but when your English teacher told you about the guy who wrote the story that this was based on, well maybe that guy who writes in incomprehensible English, that William Shakespeare guy, maybe he had some other relevant things to say. West Side Story promoted literacy and taste for a generation and you can't get a higher accolade than that.

    It's a difficult production also because it involves skill in acting, in dance, and you've got to have a great singing voice to deal with Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics. They got a really great cast together on Broadway with Larry Kert, Carol Lawrence, Chita Rivera, and the rest. They all sang and danced and acted these Shakespearean based roles beautifully. Unfortunately there wasn't a movie name in the lot.

    Acting and dancing can't be faked on the silver screen, but singing can be dubbed as it was for leads Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood. A lot of Rita Moreno's songs were dubbed as well though that America number is all Rita. She'd actually done musicals before, The King and I and The Vagabond King remake are two of them. The voices of Jimmy Bryant and Marni Nixon fit them perfectly.

    West Side Story is pretty, witty, and bright and the witty part comes from two ensemble numbers Officer Krupke done by the Jets and America done by the Pyerto Rican Sharks. Listen very closely to the entertaining social commentary made by Stephen Sondheim. These numbers together with the accompanying Jerome Robbins choreography are some of the best examples of all the components of a successful musical working together.

    The ballads like Tonight, I Feel Pretty, A Place For Us, require almost opera like voices to sing them. I'd get either the Broadway cast album or the cast album for this film as a must for a recording collection. I happen to have a bootleg recording of Judy Garland and Vic Damone doing a selection from Garland's TV show. It is beautiful and priceless.

    One other thing about West Side Story that is endearing for me. Pay close attention to the role of Anybody's. It may be the first time that a transgender individual was portrayed in a major motion picture, let alone one that was the Best Picture of 1961. IMDb gives very little in the way of information about Susan Oakes the actress who played Anybody's. But her performance is nothing less than a harbinger of what Hilary Swank did as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry.

    Like the kids from Romeo and Juliet and 16th century Verona, Italy, West Side Story is about young people just trying to find a place in time and space, finding a new way of living away from the dumb prejudices of their elders. They almost break free too.

    West Side Story won 10 Academy Awards including a joint Best Director Oscar for Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, Best Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno and a flock of technical awards. It set a standard for stage and screen to be both entertaining and contemporary.

    And it's so pretty, witty, and bright.
  • Amelia Comerford24 October 2014
    The drama is nothing compared to its dancing
    Warning: Spoilers
    William Shakespeare's infamous 'Romeo and Juliet,' is revitalised by director Robert Wise as he takes it from the stage to the silver screen in the, if not equally infamous, 'West Side Story'. As a film that has had much acclaim I was already familiar with its storyline and some musical numbers, although having never seen it. I had high hopes. I love a good musical. 'West Side Story' received an outstanding eleven Academy Award nominations. It would go on to receive ten of these including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for George Chakaris and Rita Moreno respectively, and Best Direction for the dynamic duo of Robert Wise and principle choreographer Jerome Robbins. I was expecting perfection. Perhaps it was for this reason that I was unfortunately left feeling deflated and ultimately disappointed.

    That being said, I do not want to let my disillusionment cloud my objectivity. The film was not all bad – there were pleasant aspects. The choreography by Robbins is sheer genius. I do not envy the gruelling efforts the cast and crew made to create this excellence. The stories of Robbins need to create perfection in every take are well known. His inability to say 'Cut!' did ultimately lead to his removal from production due to financial impracticality but his assistants proved loyal to his vision and every step we see is his. Robbins displays innovativeness far out ranking any of his contemporaries. The notable scene whereby the gangs run toward a tall chain-link fence and manoeuvres themselves barehanded upwards and over onto the playground below in one fluid motion is not only incredible to behold in the moment, but you cannot help but wonder how many times the poor actors, not stuntmen, were forced to carry out this sequence to give it it's effortlessness.

    I also found the retelling of 'Romeo and Juliet' itself to be utterly refreshing. I enjoyed the setting's transference from 16th Century Italy to the more familiar Upper West Side New York. The Montagues and Capulets become two rival street gangs - the second generation European immigrant Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks struggling to find their place in the world. While I find fault with the actual names of the gangs and dub them corny, the perpetuation of the young adults as victims of racial barriers evokes empathy in the viewer and an understanding of the feud not present in Shakespeare's play due to purposeful ambiguity. The removal of the parents from the plot and the casting of a young Rita Moreno as Anita to mirror the role of the older Nurse serve to make the film more appealing for a younger audience. These simple plot devices come together to make William Shakespeare approachable and take away the impossibility of coming to terms with his extensive literary catalogue.

    Be all that as it may, I cannot hide my belief that this film was anti-climactic. I found the dialogue uninspired and bland. It was corny, and not in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. As a Disney lover, I am a big fan of cheesy fairy tale romance. That being said, I cannot hide my disdain for the interchanges between the two leads Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer). Firstly, there is a sheer lack of chemistry between the two lovers. Beymer is cripplingly insincere due to his incapability to carry the role of leading man let alone portray the role of a reformed gang leader. I am unable to find them to be a credible couple. I do not root for them. In terms of casting, on the other hand Rita Moreno's portrayal of Anita saves the show. She is utterly deserving of her Oscar. She exudes a charisma, magnetism and passion in that role that puts on display the numerous flaws of Beymer and Wood for all to see.

    While I can admire the bold move to rewrite Shakespeare's tragic ending of mutual suicide, I cannot help but wonder if perhaps to have had Maria shoot herself would have saved my view of the film. While this film does indulge on tragedy through violence, murder and an attempted rape, I cannot help but say I was unmoved. The film lacked the same powerful ending that 'Romeo and Juliet' has. The death of Juliet in the play is critical to the play's success. It embodies the play's message of love and intensifies its moral - intolerance creates only sorrow. I understand that it played into the character development of Maria in becoming a confident and independent woman, but I do think her death could have given the movie the strong conclusion it so desperately needs. The hint of reconciliation between the Jets and the Sharks is utterly contrived and does not do anything to add a satisfactory climax. If anything, it only serves to underline American cinema's need at the time to provide feel good cinema and a happy ending.

    Overall, the film's drama is nothing compared to its dancing. The leads are overshadowed by Rita Moreno. The gangs are parodies. The ending is lacklustre. It is for these reasons I would give it only three-and-a-half out of five stars. For a film with such potential and such acclaim, I truly had expected more.
  • Dalbert Pringle1 July 2013
    Someday, We'll Find A New Way Of Living....
    "Hold my hand and we're half-way there... Hold my hand and I'll take you there...."

    Even though I'm not a big fan of this particular genre of film. I found West Side Story to be so impressively produced that it somehow transcended far beyond being just a mere "Musical" in the strictest sense of the word.

    West Side Story is literally bursting at the seams and filled to capacity with vivid imagery. This highly-energized film clearly captures the vibrant atmosphere of the late 1950s, where rival youth gangs get their prejudiced, little noses out of joint and prepare to rumble in the streets of NYC.

    With its memorable music and songs, dazzling choreography, striking sets and superb direction by Robert Wise, West Side Story is truly a triumph on every level.

    This film is a magnificent achievement that (back in 1961) set a whole new standard for modern-day movie Musicals.
  • arbarnes21 February 2009
    Plays it cool...
    "West Side Story" has an eternal sort of resonance in its theme and story, which we can thank Mr Shakespeare for, but also stands as a powerful product of its age and location. It is classic Broadway and classic Hollywood in its most urban musical style, often harsh and dangerous, but containing enough old-style production-number work to satisfy traditional film-musical aficionados. The opening sequence is one of the best film openings of all time, and the dancing (and direction of the dance sequences) incredibly exuberant and yet clear in its purpose. There is little cross-cutting and fast-editing here, yet the dances have all the energy of any modern music video. The film also interestingly has supporting characters who outshine the leads. Unlike many other comments here, I have nothing against either Natalie Wood or Richard Beymer in these parts; they are in many ways given an unfair deal in their very characterization (which I regard as something of a weakness in Romeo and Juliet, upon which the film is based). Their characters are simply not as interesting as those around them. Under the circumstances I think they do as good a job as they can. "West Side Story" is best seen on a big screen in 70mm if you get the chance!
  • federovsky30 April 2008
    Thrilling musical drama
    Consistently ranges from impressive to awesome. Dark and brooding throughout, the edginess in some scenes is truly something and in a dramatic sense it still outdoes any other teen angst movie I can think of, including "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Rumblefish". The music is breathtaking with at least three show-stopping numbers. America is the best, cleverly combining two things: pro/anti America and the battle of the sexes – hilarious and exhilarating. Tonight combines four-things going on simultaneously – has such a thing ever been done before or since? The orchestration is rich and lavish, such as the mambo number – it has to make sudden massive drops to avoid drowning the voices. Nathalie Wood is a Murillo Madonna and Rita Moreno is chilli-hot. The tension builds and sustains right through – even after the rumble when things might be expected to flag it turns the screw immediately with another stunning number "Stay Cool, Boy" and then the scene in which Moreno almost gets raped. Phew. Makes all other musicals look childish.
  • twlarge8 September 2007
    The most moving ending ever?
    I've just watched West Side Story, for the first time since about 1966. When I saw it in 1961, I was already familiar with the music, as my enlightened parents bought me the stage show album (I'm not sure, after all these years, how I came to know about it back then, but it was certainly a hot item amongst my music-oriented mates in 1957!)

    Enough has been said in previous comments to make it unnecessary for me to review the film yet again, so can I just add one thought - there is a moment, right at the end, where two Sharks spontaneously step forward to help three Jets carry Anton off, which creates one of the most moving endings of any film ever made.
  • Sarah Byrne11 October 2013
    West Side Story shines with filmic vigour, seldom displayed in cinema since its first performance
    Warning: Spoilers
    The enchantment and hypnotism of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is distinctly united with Arthur Laurent's West Side Story in this cinematic rendition that materializes one of the greatest musicals to ever possess our screens. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman and directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins devote themselves to Shakespeare's masterpiece and the passion it holds, with solid commitment. West Side Story is an illustration of the relationship between texts, as it is a contemporary reiteration of Shakespeare's tragedy. Tony (Romeo) and Maria (Juliet) have fallen in love, undeterred by their feuding households and the conflicting gangs in which their commitment lies. In a real Romeo and Juliet manner, the star crossed lovers rebel against conventions and risk everything, including death, to be with each another, which opens up, not only the plot, but the heart of the story. West Side Story mirrors topics from Romeo and Juliet as it parallels a prohibited love and a heartrending end, as Ernest Lehman puts his own take on Shakespeare's play to construct a modern, unique romance.

    To the films praise, West Side Story hasn't abandoned intricate matters. The dialogue delves into the pointlessness of juvenile conflict along with discrimination encountered by foreign nationals, as two cultures come face to face, in the battlefield that is Manhattan. West Side Story delves into conflict among two gangs of juvenile delinquents with contrasting ethnic cultures. The young 'Sharks' from Puerto Rico are continuously tormented by 'The Jets', a Polish-American blue collar labour group. With opaque themes, meaningful melodies, and the spotlight on social dilemmas, a critical revolution in American theatre is born. Vicious encounters are acted in sweeping, cat-like dance, elevating towards a pounding upsurge as Bernardo's sister Maria falls in love with Riff's former accomplice Tony. West Side Story's attitude towards aggression is indeed distinctive. The film is more or less bloodless, with the knifing and gun firing acts unadulterated. Each brawl is extremely formalized and unconnected with realism, as feelings are displayed through dance, throughout the casts' mission of hunting and assaulting one another. Nonetheless, there are genuine perceptions of danger to certain displays, attributable to impressive dance compositions and the discordant attainment Bernstein creates, as the audience not only to see the violence, but feel it. The intensity of visually striking displays where individuals are killed is indisputably reduced, as this method empowers a grittier tale to be conveyed amidst its melodious structure.

    West side story begins as the camera falls majestically on New York City and meets 'The Jets', an assembly of deprived teens, lurching eagerly about a dilapidated playground. Their figures step delicately and passionately in constant automatic outbreaks of dance. This introduces West Side Story as a musical, displaying a captivating blend of love, misfortune, brutality, music and dance. The introductory finger-clicking arrangement is without a doubt, one of the greatest usages of dance ever known to cinema. In the emergence of the beat, an eager passion races through the juveniles resilient, supple bodies with electrifying dance routines, directed by Jerome Robbins together with the liveliness of the narrative. West Side Story pleasures in parts which are greatly missed from contemporary films, being one of the greatest musicals ever fabricated. Bernstein's film is unarguably impressive, composed of around twelve songs, with love songs such as 'Somewhere' and 'Tonight', instantly known.

    Leaving aside the pliés and pirouettes, West Side Story centres itself around a star-crossed romance, hidden amidst feuding families along with the effective disposition of clashing street gangs. This au courant showpiece, which parallels with Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet, appears as modern today as it did during the films initial deliverance in 1961. West side story, which starred the beautiful Natalie Wood (Maria) alongside the charming Richard Beymer (Tony) as ill-fated sweethearts on opposing sides of a Manhattan acrimonious dispute, lives on to be one of the most courageous and fervently convincing musicals of all time. West Side Story achieved ten Oscars, including Best Directing for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. Aesthetically, the film is a delight. Whilst the attention of the viewer is of course on the music, Daniel L. Fapp and Robert Wise provide the big screen with an exclusive appearance which reminisces on, but does not exactly duplicate Manhattan's West Side throughout the 1950s. Each scene in this film has legitimacy and honesty, obtaining a clever, stylish management of a comprehensive thesis. Ernest Lehman's dialogue is charming, extracted from Arthur Laurent's book, with Wise's directing being authentic and film-wise, creating an efficient blend of austere and desiring characteristics. From the spectacular introductory footage of Manhattan to the endings concluding act, West Side Story shines with filmic vigour, seldom displayed in cinema since its first performance fifty-two years ago.
  • nickmesafilms2 August 2011
    West Side Story (1961) - Tonight! Somewhere! America! Maria!
    Based on the popular Broadway hit, "West Side Story" is one of the most amazing musicals ever put to film. The retelling of the classic "Romeo and Juliet" story, is told into a story involving the duel of the Sharks and the Jets in the west side streets of New York, and how one small romance affects everything. First off, every single song in the movie is amazing, and they are always great songs to sing over and over again. The incredible direction of Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins helped make this musical into a beautiful portrait, and Robbin's choreography was super catchy, and it's really hard to dance to, and that's the fun about it. And the incredible cast including Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris was all super spectacular in every way, and this was a stellar cast, and their singing is so powerful. Also, the cinematography is fast-timing, the editing is fast paced, the art direction is super, the sound is remarkable, the music is powerful, and the finale brings enough suspense, drama, and romance as an end to this most powerful musical. With its catchy music, and incredible storyline, "West Side Story" is an amazing musical with amazing music, cast, and an epic power that brings everything together. "West Side Story", in my review, "a frolicking and powerful musical, a perfect movie for everybody to enjoy".
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