Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, George Chakiris, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, Ned Glass
(7-Very Good Film)
Colorful. Vigorous. Grandiose.
Maria loves Tony and Tony loves Maria. The problem is that Maria, played by Natalie Wood, is a Puerto Rican immigrant, and Tony, played by Richard Beymer, is a white American. In their lower-class neighborhood of New York, the Puerto Ricans and the whites are at war personified by local gangs known as the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) and the Jets (whites). Maria’s brother, Bernardo (Chakiris), leads the Sharks, and Tony, a former member of the Jets, is best friends with its leader, Riff (Tamblyn). It’s an update of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and it’s epic entertainment, shot and crafted to perfection by true experts in directors, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The acting is strong despite the obvious and outdated whitewashing. Natalie Wood is a luminous Maria. The soundtrack, while not my favorite, contains many memorable songs, “Maria” being one of my all-time favorites. My one big problem with West Side Story is the dialogue in between songs which is corny and overdone. Unlike My Fair Lady, my favorite musical, which is more cerebral, West Side Story wears its emotions on its sleeves.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-