1961: Dir.: Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2006
The most lauded movie musical ever made. Winner of no fewer than ELEVEN Oscars! Only two films (“Ben Hur” and “Titanic”) have ever equalled that score.
This film's unprecedented integration of song, dance and narrative ushered the movie musical into the modern era. The artistry with which “West Side Story” combined elements of drama, opera and ballet - not just to stylise William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but more importantly, to evoke the mood of the classic tragedy in a modern setting - raised the standards by which musicals are judged. Its success doesn't rest with the talent of its performers (though they are talented), but rather, comes from the construction of the film -- its use of sights, sounds, songs, steps, settings and the relentless energy of its ensemble cast to drive the plot forward through its emotional highs and lows.
The film was based on the successful Broadway hit - a staged musical play (opening in 1957) by writer Arthur Laurents and directed/choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The show was adapted for the screen by Ernest Lehman, and the film retained the beautiful and electrifying musical score, songs and lyrics of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
It was co-directed by two clashing individuals - veteran director Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins. Both are credited - although Robbins was removed after a few months due to schedule delays and disagreements over the film's degree of faithfulness to the stage production - as well as Robbins' expensive and obsessive demands for perfection.