West Side Story (1961)

Fifty-nine years ago today, the film West Side Story premiered. Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Marnie Nixon, and Super Panavision 70 are a winning combination in my book, but actually just not my book. The film went on to be the highest grossing release of 1961. You should see this movie.

Title: West Side Story
Directed by: Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins
Produced by: Robert Wise
Screenplay by: Ernest Lehman
Based on: West Side Story, by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Russ Tamblyn
Music by: Leonard Bernstein
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Edited by: Thomas Stanford
Production Company: Mirisch Pictures, Seven Arts Productions
Distributed by: United Artists
Release date: October 18, 1961
Running time: 152 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $6.75 million
Box office: $44.1 million
Academy Award Best Picture – Robert Wise
Academy Award Best Director – Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
Academy Award Best Supporting Actor – George Chakiris
Academy Award Best Supporting Actress – Rita Moreno
Academy Award Best Art Direction – Color – Boris Leven and Victor A. Gangelin
Academy Award Best Cinematography – Color – Daniel L. Fapp
Academy Award Best Costume Design – Color – Irene Sharaff
Academy Award Best Film Editing – Thomas Stanford
Academy Award Best Scoring of a Musical Picture – Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin
Academy Award Best Sound – Fred Hynes and Gordon E. Sawyer
Golden Globe Best Motion Picture – Musical
Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture – George Chakiris
Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture – Rita Moreno
Grammy Award – Best Sound Track Album or Recording of Original Cast From a Motion Picture or Television – Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin

Two teenage gangs struggle for control on the Upper West Side in New York City in the 1950s. The Jets, a white gang led by Riff, brawl with the Sharks, a group of Puerto Ricans led by Bernardo. Lieutenant Schrank and Officer Krupke arrive and break it up. The Jets decide to challenge the Sharks to a rumble after an upcoming dance.

Riff wants his best friend Tony, co-founder of the Jets who left the gang, to fight at the rumble. Riff invites Tony to the dance, but Tony tells Riff that he senses something important is coming, which Riff suggests could happen at the dance. After more persuasion, Tony agrees to go. Bernardo’s younger sister, Maria, tells her best friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita, how excited she is about the dance. At the dance, the gangs and their girls refuse to intermingle. Tony arrives; he and Maria fall in love, but Bernardo angrily demands that Tony stay away from her. Riff proposes a meeting with Bernardo at Doc’s drug store at midnight to settle the rules for the rumble.

Maria is sent home; Anita argues that Bernardo is overprotective of Maria, and they compare the advantages of Puerto Rico and the United States. Tony sneaks onto Maria’s fire escape, where they reaffirm their love. Krupke, who suspects the Jets are planning something, visits them and warns them not to cause trouble. The Sharks arrive, and the gangs agree to have the showdown the following evening under the highway, with a one-on-one fistfight. When Schrank arrives, the gangs feign friendship. Schrank orders the Sharks out and unsuccessfully tries to discover information about the fight.

The next day at the bridal shop where they work, Anita accidentally tells Maria about the rumble. Tony arrives to see Maria. Anita, shocked, warns them about the consequences if Bernardo learns of their relationship. Maria makes Tony promise to prevent the rumble. Tony and Maria fantasize about their wedding.

The gangs approach the area under the highway. Tony arrives to stop the fight, but Bernardo antagonizes him. Unwilling to watch Tony be humiliated, Riff initiates a knife fight. Tony tries to intervene, which leads to Bernardo stabbing and killing Riff. Tony then kills Bernardo with Riff’s knife, and a melee ensues. Police sirens blare, and everyone flees, leaving behind the dead bodies. Maria waits for Tony on the rooftop of her apartment building; her fiancé Chino arrives and tells her what happened. When Tony arrives, he asks for her forgiveness before he turns himself in to the police. Maria confirms her love for him and asks Tony to stay with her.

The Jets and their new leader, Ice, reassemble outside a garage and focus on reacting to the police. Anybodys arrives and warns them that Chino is now after Tony with a gun. Ice sends the Jets to warn Tony. A grieving Anita enters the apartment while Tony and Maria are in the bedroom. The lovers arrange to meet at Doc’s, where they will pick up getaway money to elope. Anita spots Tony leaving through the window and chides Maria for the relationship with Bernardo’s killer, but Maria convinces her to help them elope. Schrank arrives and questions Maria about the rumble. Maria sends Anita to tell Tony that Maria is detained from meeting him.

When Anita reaches Doc’s, the Jets harass her until Doc intervenes. Anita angrily says that Chino has killed Maria. Doc banishes the Jets, gives Tony his getaway money in the basement and delivers Anita’s message. Tony, distraught, runs into the streets, shouting for Chino, intending to kill him. In the playground next to Doc’s, Tony spots Maria and they run toward each other, only for Chino to shoot Tony. The gangs arrive to find Maria holding Tony, who dies in her arms. Maria stops the gangs from fighting, takes the gun from Chino and threatens to shoot everyone, blaming their hate for the deaths. Schrank, Krupke and Doc arrive, and the gangs form a funeral procession, with Maria following. The police arrest Chino and lead him away.

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