Directed by: Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins
Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, Rita Moreno, Simon Oakland
Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ film version of West Side Story (1961) won a slew of Oscars and is one of the most highly regarded film musicals ever made. Essentially, it’s a modernized version of Romeo and Juliet (meaning it won’t turn out well) involving rival street gangs—the Jets and the Sharks—in the New York City slums, with songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Robbins. Its credentials are impeccable, and it is undeniably cleverly and beautifully crafted by Robert Wise. (Co-director Robbins seems primarily responsible for the dancing, which does make up a lot of the film.) Apart from the lackluster Richard Beymer (who apparently also didn’t think much of his own performance) in the lead, it’s a movie that’s impossible to criticize. I will, however, confess that it isn’t my cup of tea—not in the least because while I can admire Robbins’ choreography, it’s simply a style of dance that I don’t care for. Also, the film strikes me as being exactly the sort of thing that people mean when they make the blanket statement, “I don’t like musicals.” But for those who like musicals in this style, it’s the bee’s knees.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show West Side Story at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.