How I Came to Love West Side Story:

After writing a whole diary about how I came to love West Side Story and just about finishing it, only to have it disappear on me just out of the blue (yes, this has happened on occasion while writing on a blog!), I have resolved to try again, and not give up until it sticks, if one gets the drift.  Here goes:

West Side Story is a beautiful film which carries a very strong message, which is sort of a two-edged sword;  the destructive consequences of racial/ethnic hatred and hostility and the often-ensuing violence, as well as the senseless of gang violence, arrogance and hubris.  Yet it also carries a message that reconciliation between people, as difficult as it often is, is still possible.  

As a devout fan of the film West Side Story who's also seen several stage productions of this great musical, including the newer, more up-to-date Broadway stage revival (which, although I enjoyed, viewed with a harder, more critical eye.), this is a hard film for me to resist.  I go to see screenings of West Side Story, whenever I have a chance (the one exception being in mid-March of 2001, when a Sunday afternoon screening of WSS conflicted directly with my late dad's memorial, so I didn't go that day!)  

West Side Story is my all time favorite movie, hands down, and I've never really been able to put a finger on why that is so.  A friend of mine asked me the other night if I'd ever analyzed why I liked this particular movie so much.  I told her that I couldn't really put a finger on it...that I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it.  My friend told me about why she liked the movie "Arthur" so much;  she identified with being frustrated about how romances had gone terribly wrong, but when a romance did come, with the right person, it was beautiful!   I had never heard of the movie Arthur until my friend told me about it, but, in all honestly, from the way she described  this movie, it sounded kind of slow for my tastes.  I actually tend to like movies with more action to them, and that have a somewhat faster pace to them, but that's just me.

Not only do I go and see the film West Side Story every time it comes to one of the two independent, non-profit movie theatres in our area, as well as other places, but, believe it or not, I've even made special road trips to the opposite end of the state in which I reside, as well as to neighboring states, to see a screening of West Side Story.  Why does a 50 some odd year old movie like WSS have so much appeal for me?  Again, I can't really put a finger on it, and have never been able to.  Hey..I think I'll just continue to sit back and enjoy it!

Sometimes I've had friends and family members come with me, while other times, I've gone by myself to see West Side Story.  Although West Side Story definitely has its detractors, imho, it definitely earned every one of the ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year when it was released in late October of 1961.

Although I've found West Side  Story to be enjoyable on TV, nothing beats seeing West Side Story on a great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre, with the lights down low.  In fact, this great, golden oldie but keeper of a classic absolutely cries out for a great big wide movie theatre screen, for that's how it's really and truly meant to be viewed!  

Now for the real crux of my essay!  Here we go!

My initial introduction to West Side Story, which was through the music of the original Broadway stage production, came in the summer of 1962, prior to entering the sixth grade, while attending day camp out West, in Tucson, AZ.  A girl in the group I was with that summer, who'd just received a copy of the LP album of the soundtrack of the original Broadway stage production of West Side Story, brought it to camp and played it for the rest of the group.  My love of West Side Story and the music took off..instantly.  

West Side Story-mania was in the air that summer.  Kids would roam the hallways, often in packs, singing all the songs from WSS and snapping their fingers.  It was so cool.  The various songs from West Side Story also rang through the buses to and from camp five days a week, as kids sang the songs.

Since my parents had a copy of the LP album to the Broadway soundtrack of West Side Story, I played it on my parent's Hi-Fi player whenever I could.  I also liked to bang around with the songs on the piano, much to the chagrin of my parents, who wanted me to concentrate much more on classical music.

Due to my relative social isolation from other kids, and to the fact that my parents didn't consider West Side Story a kids' movie, I would not get to see it until six years later, at around Christmastime of 1968, during a big national re-release of this movie, as a high school Senior, at a now-defunct cinema 45 minutes north of where my siblings and I grew up, and of Boston, as well.  I fell in love with West Side Story immediately.  Since I was still a teenager in high school when I first saw it, I identified with the Jets, the Sharks and their girls, regarding kids being kids and so on, but when I got a little older and was out of high school already, and began seeing WSS in independent movie theatres,  I began to view West Side Story somewhat idfferently.  I developed a real appreciation for this great classic film as a real work of art, with a great musical score, a wonderful cast,  wonderful scenery, beautifully-choreographed dancing, great cinematography and costume design, and a beautiful story overall behind West Side Story.

Four years after I'd first seen West Side Story in the movie theatre, it went on TV, when it was shown in two parts.  I was taking a springtime evening Jewelry-making and Metalsmithing class at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston.  Someone in the class had brought in a small black-and-white TV, and we all gathered around to watch the airing of West Side Story that night.  

That summer (1972, to be exact!), I went on a six-week trip to Europe.  Someone in the group I went with had brought along a cassette tape of the film version of West Side Story, which was played almost every evening, during free hours.    My love for West Side Story was re-awakened after having been put on the back burner due to seeing other films that I also liked very well.  I found myself wishing that I could see that movie again.  Shortly after coming home from Europe, I mentioned it to my (late) dad over dinner one night.  Our conversation about it, although brief, went like this:

Me:  Gee, I wish the movie West Side Story would come around again.

Dad:  You never forgot it, did you?

Me:  No.  

That fall, I had my wish.  West Side Story aired the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, and I cut my evening Jewelry-making class to stay home and watch it, and enjoyed it very much.  Although seeing West Side Story on TV is enjoyable, it always whets my desire to see it on a great big, wide movie theatre screen.  Little did I or my family know that all this was the beginning of my love affair with West Side Story that would last for more than 40 years, all the way to the present, much to the amusement and chagrin of my family.  

Need I tell everybody that I've been  hooked on this great classic ever since?  

Oh, there are other movies that I've liked well enough, some to even see more than once, but my heart keeps returning to one movie:  West Side Story.  It's the only film, imho, that's been really successful on both stage and screen.


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  • Display: Sort:
    Tip Jar/Ratings/Thoughts, anybody? (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by mplo on Fri May 10, 2013 at 11:50:01 PM EST

    For starters, (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 12:21:53 PM EST
    The music is great.  :)

    Also, it's the classic story - even Shakespeare wrote about it - boy and girl have a simple love, even though they are from different backgrounds, but it's friends and family, who are married to their own prejudices, that won't let them be together.

    How simple our world would be if we would encourage love for people who are different than we are, instead of being steadfast in our prejudices!  That's not to say we all have to agree, or even like each other, but this movie trumpets tolerance - and without tolerance, well, we all know how the end turned out.

    Keep up the good work!

    Thank you for your input, jbindc. (none / 0) (#3)
    by mplo on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:48:59 PM EST
    Hi, jbindc.  Thanks for a great post, which says it all, in a nutshell, if one gets the drift.  The hatred, prejudice and intolerance are all what lead to deleterious consequences, and it's the kind of thing that's played out, even today, in real life, throughout the United States and throughout the world, generally.  Yet,  interdating and intermarriage between people of different backgrounds, whether or not the friends & family are receptive to them, also happen in real life.  

    All of the above having been said, while West Side Story sends a clear message about the consequences of racial and ethnic hatred and prejudice, it also points out that reconciliation between people, while often difficult, is not impossible, either.

    Thank you for much for your compliment, too, btw.  

    I also agree that the music really is fantastic, as well.


    guoyanying (none / 0) (#4)
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