West Side Story (1961) Reviews

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Summary

Director Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, George Chakiris

  • Theatrical-Release: 18 October, 1961
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    Latest Reviews

    ★★★★★

    “West Side Story is a great golden oldie-but-goody...”

    Written on: 05/12/2008

    West Side Story is a great golden oldie-but-goody movie/musical classic that's based on Romeo & Juliet. Set on the pulsating, fingersnapping West Side of Manhattan, it's about a fledging love and romance that is doomed to go up in smoke from the start due to disapproval from both sides in conflict; the white Ethnic American jets and the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks. An afternoon melee erupts on the playground one afternoon between the Jets & Sharks, which is broken up by Ofcr. Krupke and Lt. Schrank. Riff and the Jets debate what to do, and then Riff decides to challenge Bernardo and the Sharks to a rumble. He then seeks out his old friend and ex-Jet leader, Tony, who has broken away from the Jets and works fulltime at Doc's Candy Store. After being turned down several times, Riff persuades Tony to attend the dance at the gym being held that night, to which Tony reluctantly agrees. Tony, the founder and ex-Jets gangleader who has broken from the gang and been looking for something besides the street and ganglife, eventually falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the Sharks gangleader. At this point, although tensions and confllict between the Jets & Sharks has been on the increase, sparks really begin to fly, and, while Tony and Maria are dancing together, they're pulled up short by an enraged Bernardo, who orders Maria to go home. The Sharks and their girls dispute on their tenement rooftop about the virtues of the American experience, Tony and Maria meet on Maria's fire escape and make plans to meet the next night at the Bridal shop where maria and Anita both work as seamstresses at closing time the next evening, while the Jets & Sharks meet at Doc's Candy Store at midnight for a pre-rumble War Council, where, despite Doc's plea for the boys to talk it out instead of rumbling, proceed and make arrangements to meet the next night after dark under the highway for the rumble, after a small spat that culminates in the exchanges of racial/ethnic insults from both gangs. Prior to the war-council, however and the arrival of the Sharks, the Jets are visited by Ofcr. Krupke who warns the Jets against troublemaking, and the Jets lampoon Ofcr, Krupke when he leaves. Once inside the Candy Store, after the arrival of the Sharks, the two gangs are also visited by Lt. Schrank who roughly banishes the Sharks from the Candy Store, then begins asking the Jets about where the rumble will happen. The Jets refuse to answer, and, after a few insults to the Jets for their ethnicity and background, Tony comes in just as the weapons are being called and insists that the rumble be made a fair fight, where the best men from each gang would fist fight. The next afternoon, Maria is happily preparing for her evening meeting with Tony, and the other Shark girls make fun of her for acting so vain. That evening is the big evening, which will mean different things and have markedly different results for different people. Tony and Maria meet at the Bridal Shop as planned, despite clear disapproval from both sides, and Anita clearly expresses her displeasure. Tony and Maria then pledge their love by staging a mock wedding, using the various mannequins and clothes in the bridal shop. At Maria's insistence, Tony promises to go and stop the rumble, which has disastrous results. Anita has made plans for a big evening with Bernardo after the rumble, and the jets & Sharks meet under the highway for the rumble as planned. After words of encouragement to Bernardo & Ice, who've been chosen to duke it out with fists, the rumble gets underway. Just then, Tony arrives, gets between the two men and attempts to stop it and shake hands with Bernardo, much to Bernardo's rage and the Jets' dismay and puzzlement. Tony is roughed up and insulted by Bernardo for his trouble, and, despite warnings from Riff to stop, refuses. Riff hauls off and hits Bernardo, and the rumble ends with a switchblade fight between Riff and Bernardo. Tony breaks free after being held back by Ice and Tiger, tries to stop Riff from stabbing Bernardo. Riff is stabbed by Bernardo, and Tony in turn, stabs Bernardo to avenge his old friend's death. The Jets & Sharks, stunned and upset by the killings, flee the police and go into hiding. Hiding out in a garage, Ice, who's now the new leader of the Jets, admonishes the Jets to keep cool after learnng that Chino's gunning for Tony, which they learned through the tomboy, anybodys, who's been spying around.

    Despite learning of her brother's death through Chino, Maria cannot hate Tony, and hides him in her bedroom. Anita, figuring that they're both in there, knocks on Maria's door, and severely upbraids Maria for allowing Tony to be interested in her. Anita then tells Maria that Chino is gunning for Tony, and, reluctantly, after questioning from Lt. Schrank directed at both Maria and Anita about the night before, where Maria says that she danced with another boy from her country, named "Jose"

    Reluctantly, Anita goes to Doc's store to warn Tony, who's been hiding out in Doc's cellar, about Chino. When she arrives at the Candy Store, she encounters the Jets, who, determined to protect Tony from Chino, and out of prejudice against her ethnic and cultural background, refuse to listen to Anita's message that she wants to help protect Tony, begin to insult Anita and rough her up. Angrily, Anita tells them that Chino has found out about Tony and Maria and shot her dead. Doc goes down to the cellar to relay the message to Tony, who runs into the streets in disbelief, calling for Chino to "come get him, too". Eventually Maria appears, and, for one brief moment, she and Tony fall into each others arms, until Chino suddenly appears from behind a building and shoots Tony who dies in Maria's arms. As the Jets & Sharks seem once again about to clash, Maria gets in between them with an angry message: "You all killed him! And my brother and Riff! Not with bullets and guns! With hate! Well, I can kill too, because I have hate!" Unable to fire the gun that Chino has handed to her, she collapses over Tony's body, sobbing. Several Jets and Sharks then come together to carry Tony's body off, indicating at least a fleeting moment of understanding in tragedy on the part of both the Jets & the Sharks.

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    ★★★★★

    “This movie is a classic for the ages. In this musical...”

    Written on: 28/02/2008 by The quality of mercy is not strained (43 reviews written)

    This movie is a classic for the ages. In this musical that originally appeared on Broadway in November of 1957, the plot of Romeo and Juliet is retold. Maria (played by Natalie Wood with all the singing parts done by Marni Nixon) has been in the country for one month and is looking forward to the neighborhood dance. At the dance, Maria meets Tony (played by Richard Bymer with all the singing parts done by Jim Bryant) and it's love at first sight. With the help of Doc they find a way to be together away from the conflict of the Sharks and Jets, but will it work?

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    ★★★★★

    “This is my favourite musical of all-time. Starring...”

    Written on: 12/12/2006 by PixieOfDoom (104 reviews written)

    This is my favourite musical of all-time. Starring Natalie Wood as Maria, a Puerto Rican girl who has recently come to New York City, she works with friends and family in a dress shop. She meets Tony (Beymer) who is the reformed ex-leader of the Jets, a local gang who clash with the Sharks, made of up other Puerto Rican immigrants and led by Maria's brother Bernardo. As Tony and Maria fall in love, they are forced to deal, Romeo & Juliet-style, with the disapproval of their friends and family. When their relationship finally comes to light, Tony must face Bernardo one-on-one to stop a full-on gang war.

    This is a beautiful adaptation of Romeo & Juliet for more modern times with music by Leonard Bernstein and both Wood and Beymer are mesmerising as the star-crossed lovers. You really feel for their situation as they try to stop the cycle of violence and the racism which the Jets and their supporters display to the immigrant community. It is hard not to shed a tear at the inevitable ending and feel proud of Maria's strength-of-character.

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