20th Century Fox… I mean, MGM has created a new 70mm print of Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins‘ West Side Story (’61), and Fox Home Video will issue a Bluray, I’m told, sometime later this year. The 70mm print will screen it this Sunday at 7pm at the American Cinematheque under the aegis of TCM’s Classic Film Festival.
The 1961 consensus, of course, was that West Side Story lacked the snap and vitality of the 1957 Broadway play, and that the play was an exuberantly jacked-up theatrical impression of street conditions among upper-west-side Manhattan’s poor whites and Puerto Ricans in the early ’50s. So the film was twice removed to begin with, and by today’s standards it seems almost satirically inauthentic.
But the overture really works emotionally, and so does the helicopter footage over Manhattan that precedes the opening Jets-vs-Sharks dance number (which was shot not far from where Lincoln Center stands today). The overture, really, is the whole ball game. I can watch this section and the scherzo and ballet sequence over and over. But the rest of it? Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn and those freshly painted bright-red tenement walls and Natalie Wood wearing brown Puerto Rican makeup? Later.