West Side Story (1961)
Critic Consensus: Buoyed by Robert Wise's dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein's score, and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.
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as Lt. Schrank
as Officer Krupke
as Off. Krupke
as Glad Hand
as Mme. Lucia
as Baby John
as Big Deal
as Big Deal
as Del Campo
as Tony [singing]
as Maria [singing]
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Critic Reviews for West Side Story
Natalie Wood, who was made a hit in the Kazan-Inge production of Splendor In the Grass and is the most promising young star of today, gives a fine dramatic performance.
West Side Story is a beautifully-mounted, impressive, emotion-ridden and violent musical which, in its stark approach to a raging social problem and realism of unfoldment, may set a pattern for future musical presentations.
Special mention, though, should go to Boris Leven's neo-expressionist production design and Daniel L Fapp's forceful cinematography: the crooked angles, pointed shadows and great swashes of red all heighten the mood of rabid fury.
Unhappily, the film shares a serious flaw in the essential conception of the show; both are founded on a phony literary analogy and on some potentially vicious pseudo-sociology.
Decent 1961 adaptation of the Bernstein-Robbins musical, if you can handle Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the leads.
How does the film -- which won ten Oscars on its 1961 release -- stand up now? Very well indeed.
Audience Reviews for West Side Story
A colorful musical version of Romeo and Juliet in the 1960s New York that should always be remembered for Bernstein's great score and its wonderful musical numbers and editing, yet it is hard to overlook the pedestrian dialogue, the corny romance and Beymer miscast as a street gang kid.
The story is Romeo and Juliet set to music. The film's highlights are the music and songs that give resonance to Shakespeare's classic tale and the wonderfully arresting performance by Natalie Wood. What I don't like about the film is the choreography. Set against the rough and tumble backdrop of New York City slums, these dancers are performing balletic and graceful moves the majesty of which belie the film's themes and social and economic realities. In and of themselves, the dances are fun and enticing, but there is a true disconnect between them and the story. Here is a thought that is as yet only a germ in my brain: I find it odd that the white characters' complaints about their environment are social and economic -- big world issues -- whereas the Latinas embrace the social and economic realities of American life. They feel honored to be here despite the racial realities with which they are faced. It is as though the film, in a strain of racism, won't permit its minority characters any reasonable revolt. As I said, I think I need to develop this thought more, but I'm still convinced there's something fishy about this film vis a vis race relations. Overall, it's fun and good, but it's certainly not perfect.
It's a little weird. It's a classic, for sure, but the ballet-dancing, overacting, near-gangbangers are just a bit absurd. Vivid and frenetic choreography and music (with a few oversyncopated atonal hot messes like "Something's Coming" and "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love"), but the Puerto Rican accents sometimes slip, and the "brownface" make-up is disturbingly noticeable, especially in Rita Moreno's case. She, George Chakiris, and even Jose De Vega as Chino are fantastic, but I'm disappointed that the leads, Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood, had to be dubbed by what seemed like professional but deliberately handicapped singers.
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