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West Side Story (1961)

Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise |USA |1961 |151min
Rating: G Cast: Richard Beymer, Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris


March 12:3:30 pm, 6:15 pm

West Side Story won a whopping 10 Academy Awards for its take on Romeo and Juliet, in which an ill-fated romance blooms during a turf war between rival street gangs — the Jets and the Sharks — in 1960s New York City. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer star as young lovers Maria and Tony, supported by George Chakiris and Rita Moreno in Oscar-winning turns as Maria’s brother and best friend. While racial politics were a salient part of the film’s reimagined story, the primarily non-Latine actors cast as the Sharks (including Wood and Chakiris) were in brownface for their roles; this makeup policy extended even to Moreno, who is Puerto Rican. Despite the challenges West Side Story presents to newer audiences, classic musical numbers such as “America,” “Maria,” and “Somewhere” will forever be imprinted on the memories of viewers across generations. This Spanish Harlem Romeo and Juliet tale is one for the ages.—Toronto International Film Festival

“What they have done with West Side Story in knocking it down and moving it from stage to screen is to reconstruct its fine material into nothing short of a cinema masterpiece.”—New York Times

“It’s impossible to begrudge the vertiginous energy and feeling that make this one of the great American musicals, and one radically told through dance.”—Daily Telegraph (UK)

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