Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – West Side Story (1961)

Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer & Russ Tamblyn

Rating 2/10

New York City. Gangs! Fingers clicking, dancing Fonzies… this is West Side Story.

The best part of this film was the opening shot. Flying high above New York City, the audience is taken on a tour of the infamous town, the place so good they named it twice, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then you are introduced to some tough looking 60’s men in tight jeans and even tighter t-shirts.

Gang 1 is The Jets, a white bunch of fellas with yellow hair and yellower jackets. Ooo real tough. Their opposition is Gang number 2, The Sharks – Puerto Rican in origin, these men are just as tough as the Jets but with more to prove and gain. So what happens when an ex-Jet falls in love with a Shark gal? Dancing, that’s what! Loads of leaping and posing and finger shaking. Hmmmm, not so tough now are we boys? Until the knives and the guns come out, then it gets serious again.

Yeah. West Side Story is a strange one. It’s not strictly a musical but a dance film with dramatic moves and dance-fighting enhancing the curious factor. Gangs and dancing just don’t seem to go together. It kinda takes tarnishes the ‘tough’ image. There are spectacular shots with fancy camera work incorporating bright colours and creative lighting but that just adds to the weirdness.

This is a highly stylised film. It sits comfortably in the melodrama genre and I can’t really understand why it has been so popular for so long on film and on the stage. The acting is overdone and the story is a little pedestrian. Personally, I didn’t like it and I spent most of the 192 minutes watching it in fast forward because it was so slow and overly dramatic. I love musicals so I was disappointed at this one considering its reputation.

The ending is poignant although it feels a little hollow. I just could not warm to the characters, the musical style or the dancing and I love dancing and music. It reminded me of the strange dance scene at the end of Singing In the Rain. I know I’m supposed to admire the creativity and talent of the dancers and director but it’s simply too weird for me. So it is with this film. Some may love it and think it’s a classic but for me. Neh!

West Side Story Trivia:

  • Budget – $6 Million
  • Elvis Presley was asked to play ‘Tony’ but his agent thought it was a bad career move! Uh huh!
  • Natalie Wood’s singing voice was mixed with professional singer, Marni Nixon as Nat’s voice couldn’t handle the high notes.
  • West Side Story is the musical version of Romeo and Juliette.
  • To maintain a feeling of real tension amongst the ‘gangs’, they were encouraged to play tricks on each other off camera. Details please!
  • Real gang members were used as crowd control when Director, Robert Wise, was shooting in NYC (West 61st Street)!
  • The censors really got their scissors out for this one. The original play was filled with more raw material such as, “You came with your pants open” and “sperm to worm”.
  • Perfectionist director, Jerome Robbins was fired from this film as he was going over budget.
This was our first 60’s musical and a pretty disappointing one. The next film is a true epic, one that truly deserves an Oscar, Lawrence of Arabia.

2 comments on “Best Picture – West Side Story (1961)

  1. Pingback: Undeserving Best Picture Winners « Oscarclub's Blog

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