This legendary film is an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, which itself was adapted from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, with music by Leonard Bernstein.
The action was filmed largely in Los Angeles on sets designed by Boris Leven, although the film’s opening sequence was shot on the streets of New York City, mainly in the area where the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts campus of Fordham University now stands.
Veteran director Robert Wise was chosen as the director and producer because of his familiarity with urban New York dramas, such as Odds against Tomorrow. Wise had never directed a musical before, and when it was suggested that Jerome Robbins (who had directed the stage version) be brought in to handle all the music and dance sequences in the film, Wise agreed. However, the gentlemanly Wise and the abrasive Robbins repeatedly clashed, and by the first day of shooting they were not speaking.
After the New York location scenes were shot, the Mirisch Company became concerned that the production was over budget, and Robbins was fired. His final contribution before leaving the film was to write the staging for the rumble. The remaining dance numbers were handled by Robbins’ assistants. However, because of his creative input in the planning stages, Wise insisted that Robbins be given co-directing credit, even though Wise directed the majority of the film himself.
The film won ten Academy Awards in its 11 nominated categories, including Best Picture, as well as a special award for Robbins. West Side Story holds the distinction of having won more Academy Awards than any other musical film. The soundtrack made more money than any other album before it.
Tickets for the Friday, March 11 screening of West Side Story are available through the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; or through TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com. UPAC is handicapped-accessible and offers secure and convenient parking. For more information, log onto www.bardavon.org or www.upac.org. The Kevin & Brian Ginty CFP Friday Film Series at UPAC will conclude with Easy Rider on April 15.