On 18th October 1961 West Side Story premiered at the Rivoli Theatre, New York.
The film’s popularity has continued throughout the decades, perhaps due to the Romeo and Juliet plot or the iconic Jerome Robbins choreography. What sets West Side Story apart from other musicals though is its appeal outside of the genre. As Empire Magazine put it in its 5 star review of the film, West Side Story is ‘the musical for people who don’t like musicals.’
Set in Hell’s Kitchen, rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks battle for territory. The film follows the fates of former Jet Tony (Richard Breymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of the Sharks leader as they fall in love. The film also stars Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris.
The film went on to win 10 Academy Awards – a record number of wins for a musical.
The wins included Best Picture and Best Director – a credit which was shared between Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins – it was the first time the Oscar has been awarded to collaborators.
West Side Story’s continued popularity was noted in 2006 when it came second (behind Singin’ in the Rain) in AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals as part of their 100 years 100 movies series.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the film’s release Life magazine have put together a gallery of images charting West Side Story’s journey from stage to screen.
The original movie poster has also been redesigned to celebrate the 50th anniversary re-release of the film. Personally, I don’t think anything could rival the original.