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West Side Story: My Alltime Favorite Movie...Hands Down:


Aug 28, 2011
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There are many movies, especially those made in the 1960's and 1970's, that I've enjoyed immensely, some enough to see more than once, and yet, there are newer ones that I've enjoyed, as well. However, there's one movie that holds a special enough place in my heart so that I've not only attended virtually every screening of it here in my general area (the one exception being in mid-March 2001, when an afternoon screening of this particular movie conflicted directly with my (late) dad's memorial, so I didh't attend that screening), but I've even made special road trips to neighboring states to see screenings of this film.

The particular film that I'm referring to, which I find so special is....would you believe....West Side Story. This great, golden-oldie-but-keeper movie/musical classic is a wonderful film that began as a famous late-1950's Broadway stage musical about two warring NYC street gangs (the Ethnic American Jets & the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks), and a love and romance that develops amid that conflict, only to quickly go up in smoke due to the constraints and taboos on both sides of the ongoing conflict. West Side Story played in NYC's Winter Garden for two years after its opening, and then went on a national tour, as well as all over the world, before being made into and released as a spectacular movie roughly fours later, after Walter Mirisch bought to rights to the film.

Now for the crux of my review:

Although I'm new on this forum, and am still testing the waters, I finally decided to answer this question after checking it out afew times. Although this is kind of long, I decided that posting about why I love this great movie-musical classic so much was in order. Here goes:

West Side Story not only has a wonderful story behind it, but the cinematic technology, the dancing, the brilliant Bernstein musical score, and the talent that was brought to the film(except Richard Beymer, of course), all helped make West Side Story the wonderfully dynamic and great package that it really is.

The story of the love between a guy and a gal from two very different backgrounds, which grows amid the conflict between two warring street gangs i. e. the Jets and Sharks, while the adults in authority watch as they rebel, is a wonderful story in itself, which has always appealed to me.

The beautiful musical score by Bernstein is so bright and exuberant, and wonderful to listen to, even when one's not watching the movie or seeing a stage play of West Side Story.

The dancing is so magnificent! The fighting scenes are especially alive, as are the Cool, Dance at the Gym, and the America scenes. The Quintet and the Rumble are also great scenes. The idea that emotions can be expressed so vividly through dance and music is another reason for West Side Story's appeal to me.

The photography, which is so rich, and t he costumes are terrific also, with rich color and glory, and the sets on which most of West Side Story was filmed look uncannily like the real thing!(meaning the urban background and city streets and alleys, etc)

Another reason that I love the film West Side Story as much as I do is because of the fact that West Side Story is also proof that, at least back then, that there didn't have to be such graphic scenes and scenes of excessive gore and violence that seem to pervade many, if not most of today's movies. It's also reminiscent of the time when movies had much more of a plot, a story, and, much more style and substance. This is not to say that there are no good movies beings put out today, but, unfortunately, good films these days are fewer and far between, in my opinion.

West Side Story is also in a class by itself, because, with relatively rare exceptions, it's the only musical that was successful on both stage and screen. There are several reasons for this, I think:

A) The fact that when West Side Story was transferred from stage to screen, most of it was filmed on a gigantic soundstage with fantastically-designed sets that looked uncannily like real urban backgrounds, and therefore kept as a piece of theatre in itself.

B) The fact that many, if not most of the actors/actresses who had played in the original Broadway stage productions of West Side Story had been brought into the film,with some exceptions, of course) therefore the resource of talent was already there. However, I believe that Russ Tamblyn and Rita Moreno, and Simon Oakland were excellent, and Natalie Wood was OK as Maria. The only weak performer, in my opinion, as I've stated above, was Richard Beymer as Tony.

C) The story behind this great movie/musical was also a great resource which contributed greatly to this great movie classic's success.

D) Unlike most musicals when they get transferred from the stage to the screen, West Side Story, perhaps because of all of the above-mentioned factors, especially the stage sets--didn't get washed away in the outdoor scenery in the background the way most musicals, such as Oklahoma, Godspell, South Pacific, and most other movie musicals did.

West Side Story always makes me feel all different emotions whenever I watch the movie: smiling, laughing out loud, misting up, tension, which puts me at the edge of my seat.

Another thing about West Side Story is that there's definitely a strong element of truth to the MGM adage

"Unlike other classics, West Side Story grows younger."

I believe that's partly because, unlike other older classics, likeable as they are, West Side Story isn't dated--in fact it's as relevant today as it was back when it was made. Although West Side Story is fiction, in many ways it's closer to realilty. Things such as urban gang warfare, racial/ethnic tensions, and people crossing the racial/ethnic/religious barriers to fall in love, date, and even marry are things that get played out in real life, even now. To paraphrase a certain adage: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

(pardon my rambling)

Please note: This essay, of which I'm the author, is also posted on a forum called firefly-dreaming.com, and some other forums. This whole essay is my very own writing and nobody else's!

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