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Film Discussions > September 19th - West Side Story

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message 1: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
West Side Story was turned from a Broadway play into a musical in 1961. West Side Story is a modernized musical version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Plot = Maria and Tony both live in NYC. They love each other, but are from opposite sides of the fence. Maria is an immigrant from Puerto Rico. Her brother (Bernardo) leads a gang called the Sharks. Tony is a white boy from NYC who's a co-founder of the Sharks' rival gang the Jets. The Jets are run by Riff, as Tony has left gang life to go work at a local candy store. Riff and Bernardo find out about Tony and Maria and all hell breaks loose. Riff and Bernardo decide to create a war cancel and have a good ol' fashioned gang fight....that’s as far as I'll tell. Watch the rest to find out the ending.

Ok production time!

Casting was a HUGE problem. They first went to the actors who originated the roles on Broadway. Many were believed to be too old for the film roles (28-30) and so the casting department looked elsewhere. Trying to fill the role of Tony became a huge issue. Elvis was originally wooed for the part, but turned it down. (Having seen West Side Story as many times as I have, and having seen lots of Elvis musicals - I CANNOT picture him playing Tony AT ALL) Anthony Perkins (from Psycho) was also thought of for the role, as was Warren Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, and others.

Many of the songs were dubbed or had a blending of the actor’s voices and another singer. Tony and Maria's voices were almost completely dubbed over. Some of the actors were sick when the final recordings were going on, and it resulted in some of their songs not being their voices.

Fun Fact - Saul Bass, who is famous for the title sequences he did for Hitchcock, did the title design for West Side Story. Saul is most famous for the sequences he put together for Psycho and North by Northwest.

The film is the number 2 musical of all time, and also holds the distinction of being the musical with the most Academy Awards (10).

Jerome Robbins (who co-directed) choreographed the film. The dancing in the film is amazing. The style of the dance from the film has influenced a lot in the dance world. Robbins was actually fired from West Side Story because he took so long to film the dance sequences and called so many rehearsals. Personally for me the first thing I remember when I look back on my first viewing of West Side Story is remembering the dance sequences. They're just awesome.

As we watch this and look for the changes from 42nd Street on down - take note in how important the songs are in this film. The songs change the emotions of the characters when they're in fights, they fall in love because of music, and they state their opinions through the music. The music is SO important in this film. It really pushes the plot. It's just as important as the dialogue.

As usual I hope you enjoy the film and see the value in seeing it.

message 2: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
West Side Story is my favorite musical movie. It is the perfect movie in my mind. Since I am such a nerd, I know random trivia and facts about the movie and the difference between the movie and the broadway/play version of the movie.

1) For the movie version, Gee Officer Krupkee and Cool places were switched in the story line. The director thought it was really inappropriate and out of character for the Jets to sing an up-beat song after the rumble, so he switched them.

2) America in the Broadway play is song just by Anita and the Shark girls, where as in the movie its a duet between the Shark girls and boys. One of my favorite numbers.

3) Somewhere in the movie is performed by Maria and Tony, where as in the play, its often song by someone off stage, with Maria and Tony joining in later. In the original production, the characters name was Consuela in the most recent revival it was a new character named Kiddo

For another interesting interpretation of the musical, I would suggest picking up the most recent revival soundtrack of West Side Story. They took some of the songs and either performed them fully in spanish or added spanish lyrics. It added something new and refreshing to West Side Story and really modernized a classic. Sadly they took the spanish out, but still have it on the CD. if you want to borrow the CD, i own it and its in my car. Its an awesome version. Tony's voice is a little egh, but other than that its awesome. I can't wait to watch this movie, and see what you all think.

message 3: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod

Attached is a video of some of the original song with the actors real singing voices. I feel bad for natalie wood, she trained so much for the role, but her voice was dubbed. However, she does have a very weak voice.

message 4: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
Another fun fact about West Side Story, It was originally going to be called East Side Story and take place on the lower East Side of New York. Maria was suppose to be a Holocaust survivor and emigrated to America from Israel. Tony was suppose to be an Italian-American. The two gangs were suppose to be the Jets and the Emeralds, rather than the sharks. (Look for the reference to the Emeralds in the opening scene). They changed because of an increase in immigration coming in from Puerto Rico.

message 5: by Todd (new)

Todd | 89 comments Adam and I just watched the original dubbing of Natalie Woods' voice during "I Feel Pretty". I find it really interesting that both her and Tony's lines were mainly dubbed. I could see why, although her voice was really good, it just wasn't really powerful enough to hit the longer notes in the songs.

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