Trivia / West Side Story

  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Adaptational Context Change:
    • The lyrics to "America" are almost completely rewritten from the musical to film adaptation. The original had been criticised for Unfortunate Implications that it was mocking Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. The film instead emphasise the discrimination the Puerto Ricans had suffered in America. The song is also changed from an all-female number revolving around an argument between Anita and another girl to a male-and-female number with Anita vs. Bernardo; the latter was Sondheim's original intent, only rewritten because Jerome Robbins wanted an all-female dance number in the show.
    • In the film, "I Feel Pretty" and "Gee, Officer Krupke" happen much earlier than they do in the stage version. In the stage version, they're meant to act as a tension break after the deaths in the first act. In the film, there are now no light moments after the rumble with the songs happening earlier. In the former's case, this required changing the line "bright," rhyming with "tonight," to "gay," rhyming with "today."
  • Breakthrough Hit: Despite Sondheim disowning it later on, this musical put him on the map as one of the most well-known writers on Broadway.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Stephen Sondheim doesn't think very highly of the lyrics he wrote for this. Some songs sound as simplistic as something a real New York teen would improvise ("Maria!/I've just met a girl named Maria/And suddenly that name/Will never be the same/To me.") while others sound too complex ("I feel pretty/Oh so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and gay!/And I pity/Any girl who isn't me today.").
    • Richard Beymer later felt his performance as Tony was subpar. He felt there was too much dissonance between Tony's personality as a Nice Guy and his backstory - feeling Tony should have been a bit rougher. According to him, it was hard not to avoid Corpsing on some of the more romantic lines.
    • Leonard Bernstein was also dissatisfied with some of the orchestrations made for the film version.
  • Dawson Casting: Defied to an extent. Most of the original Broadway cast were rejected for the film version, being thought too old to believably play teenagers. Even some of the few who made the transition are recast in different, slightly older roles (the original Baby John, David Winters, plays A-Rab in the film, while the original A-Rab, Tony Mordente, plays Action.). Still, most of the film's actors in the "teen" roles were in their 20s, with Eliot Feld (Baby John) and Susan Oakes (Anybodys) the two youngest at 19 and 17.
  • Disowned Adaptation: Arthur Laurents, who wrote the stage script, always disliked the film, disparaging the Narmy acting, Richard Beymer's bland Tony, the excessive makeup on the actors, and the "Day-Glo" costumes on the Puerto Rican characters, which he viewed as making them look like racist caricatures.
  • Dueling Works: With Romanoff & Juliet, another film based on a Broadway version of Romeo and Juliet - this one being a Cold War satire.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • While filming the movie, the actors playing the Jets and the Sharks were roomed separately in order to heighten the tension between the two groups. They were also encouraged to play pranks on each other off the set to keep up the tension. Russ Tamblyn claims that two actors from different sides roomed during filming anyway.
    • Averted in Anita's near-rape scene. In that scene, the actress playing Anita, Rita Moreno, was reduced to tears as a result of shooting that scene, as it brought back memories of when she was raped as a child. When she started crying, the actors playing the Jets immediately stopped what they were doing and began comforting her, while pointing out that the viewers were going to hate them for what they were doing.
  • Fake Nationality: In the film, several of the actors playing the Sharks and their ladies are not Puerto Rican. Maria is played by Natalie Wood, who was a Russian-American. Greco-Americans George Chakiris and Gus Trikonis portray Bernardo and Indio, respectively. Trikonis's sister Gina actually played Riff's girlfriend Graziella.
  • God Never Said That:
    • The popular fan-theory of Maria killing herself off-screen has never exactly been confirmed.
    • It is common among theater groups to think that the Jets actually rape Anita in the original musical, but this is toned down to empty taunting in the film version. The original script for the musical is also kind of ambiguous if they are only taunting her (Baby John is said to be lifted on her by the others, rather than willingly going on her). Even if they were seriously going to rape her, it is also possible that Doc stops it in time.
  • Hostility on the Set: Richard Beymer later revealed that he and Natalie Wood did not have a close rapport off camera, describing her treatment of him at the time of filming as aloof at best. Beymer believed part of the problem was a screen test from a previous film that went south, while additionally it has been speculated that Wood herself was upset that Beymer won the role of Tony over her then boyfriend Warren Beatty who was just one of many non-singing actors to audition for the part. Ironically, Beymer says that a few years later he and Wood crossed paths at a night club, she said hello to him and chatted with him for a few minutes, and he was left surprised at how sweet and kind she was to him.
  • Non-Singing Voice:
    • Natalie Wood wanted to do her own singing and trained very hard for it, but she ended up dubbed by Marni Nixon. Nixon also supplied Rita Moreno with a few high notes in another number (something she would do for Moreno again in The King and I.
    • Betty Wand also dubbed Rita Moreno for "A Boy Like That", but Moreno sings "America" and "Quintet" herself. Tucker Smith (Ice) also dubbed Russ Tamblyn for "The Jet Song".
    • Richard Beymer's singing voice was dubbed by Jimmy Bryant.
    • Russ Tamblyn (Riff) was dubbed for "The Jet Song" by Tucker Smith, who played Ice, his lieutenant in the movie.
    • George Chakiris was the only castmember whose singing wasn't dubbed, and that was because he didn't have any big solos.
  • Production Posse: One of the co-directors and the producer of the movie version, Robert Wise, would later collaborate with the associate producer, Saul Chaplin, again on two Julie Andrews movie musicals: The Sound of Music and Star!. The former also shares West Side Story's screenwriter, Ernest Lehman (who wrote four Wise-directed movies in total), and musical director, Irwin Kostal.
  • Real-Life Relative: Gus Trikonis who played Indio, one of the Puerto Rican Sharks - and who is actually Greek - is the brother of Gina Trikonis, who played Graziella, the tough red-haired Italian girlfriend of Riff, leader of the Jets.
  • Troubled Production: During production of the movie version, Jerome Robbins, with his background in stage, shot and re-shot until the film was over $1,000,000 over budget and six months behind schedule. He was fired, and co-director Robert Wise, who was supposed to helm only the non-dancing scenes, had to finish the film alone, including the numbers Robbins was supposed to direct. Despite directing the majority of the film (and also being the producer), Wise still insisted Robbins share the directing credit with him.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • In the first draft, East Side Story, Tony was an Irish-Catholic and Maria a Jewish Holocaust survivor.
    • An alternate opening showed the Jets in a clubhouse, fantasizing about going to the moon.
    • Maria would have sung about the murderous power of hate, instead of making a dramatic speech.
    • Early casting choices for the movie's Tony included Elvis Presley and Warren Beatty. Ironically, both of them had real-life affairs with Natalie Wood. Anthony Perkins also pursued the role of Tony, as he was looking to avoid Typecasting after playing Norman Bates in Psycho. Dennis Hopper, Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds also tried out.
    • The directors originally wanted Audrey Hepburn for Maria, but she had to turn it down, as she was pregnant at the time.

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