West Side Story Analysis Essay

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In the context of 1960s, chain gangs and gang wars are prevalent between Latin and White American adolescents. For the reason that the White American adolescents despise and discriminate against the Latin Americans (particularly the Puerto Rican race), the Whites resort to bully the minorities and they even ostracize the Latin Americans by depriving them of their rights to use recreation places like the street’s basketball court, food houses, and the like upon believing that the White Americans are the most superior and the better race than the Latin Americans; and in so doing, the White Americans perceive and believe that should not mingle with those inferior and minority race (such that of the Latin Americans as an example) who were different from them (Brian 2005). Moreover, in this movie directed in 1961 by Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise entitled: West Side Story, the conflict between the two opposing races namely the White and the Latin Americans was further described through presentation of some prevailing scenarios that the Latin Americans unjust encounter and experience with the White Americans.The West Side Story is a movie adapted from Broadway’s musicale. It was an adaptation of the infamous Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet (UAPI 2009). Starred by Natalie Wood as “Maria,” Richard Beymer as “Tony,” and George Chakiris as “Bernardo,” the rest of supporting characters of the film includes: Russ Tamblyn as “Riff,” Rita Moreno as “Anita,” Simon Oakland as “Lieutenant Schrank,” Ned Glass as whom they call “Doc,” William Bramley (as the notorious police of the street) named, “Officer Krupke,” Tucker Smith as “Ice,” Tony Mordente as “Action,” Eliot Feld as the “Baby John,” and lastly, David Winters, as the one who portrayed the character of “A-Rab (Shulman 1961).

”The Movie West Side Story was depicted in the life of the citizens of the White and Latin Americans living in the 1950’s in Manhattan streets of the United States. A division was clearly evident as it was created and recognized by the adolescents of the east coast and west coast of Manhattan. The setting begins in the mentioned streets of Manhattan as a self-gratifying and self-centered musical song was sung by the Jets (the name for the White Americans’ gang and clique). Throughout the song sung by the Jets, the Puerto Ricans/Latin American adolescent gang led by Bernardo were discriminated and ostracized.

First instance was when a fruit held by one of the Sharks (the name of the Latin adolescent Americans)–it was abruptly grabbed by another member of the Jets without consent and respect to the quiet Latino. Moreover, the Latin Americans/ Puerto Ricans were mostly driven away and out of establishments and public leisure places. It was evident in the entire film that the height of discrimination and prejudice occurred in the late 1950s to early 1960s and it was shown how the Latinos were mostly bullied by the White Americans (Dirks 1961).The setting of the West Side Story is at the basketball court of Manhattan. Even if the scenario in the court, it was obvious that the Latin Americans were discriminated as they were not favored to play in the same court with the White Americans.

It was evident however, that there was a rival even in basketball for the two different races. Furthermore, a representative member of the Jets (White American adolescents) vandalized a wall and wrote: “Sharks stink!” Upon catching this adolescent in the act, the Sharks saw what the White American adolescent did and so they chased after him and the riot between the White and the Latin Americans began (Howe 2003).A hot-tempered and authoritative cop was assigned in monitoring the activities of the two distinct groups, The Sharks and Jets. The cop’s name was Officer Krupke, played by the actor William Bramley. Officer Krupke’s major task and obligation is to control and to minimize the rate of crime and therefore maintain peace and order in the streets of Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the Jets (West side) were preoccupied in praising themselves with all pride and self-centered egoism. According to the Jets, they walk tall as they consider themselves the kings of the streets in Manhattan. The Jets perceive that the east side, Sharks (the Latin Americans) were a threat to their dream of being the king of the streets, in so doing, the Jets consisting of the White Americans just would not stop throwing mock at the Latinos and drive them away wherever the Jets hang out. Further, the Sharks or the Latin Americans led by Bernardo just kept themselves mum at a time just to keep their group away from trouble.

However their threshold of patience was reached at a certain point of them when Bernardo was mocked by the cop, Officer Krupke himself—showing that he was in favor of the White Americans. In this case, Bernardo decided he would stand up for his group and race and they decided to fight in defense of those Jets and other White Americans who interfere with their freedom and right of peace (RC 2008).Upon Bernardo’s (leader of the Sharks in west side) and his group’s implicit decision to fight for their right of freedom, respect, and peace in Manhattan, they resort to fight with the Jets in a dance showdown. From that dance, the difference of the two cultures was shown in terms of their specialties in music genre: the Latinos were good dancers of boogie, salsa, twist, and cha-cha, whereas for the white Americans, they are good dancers but not as good and as creative dancers as the Latin Americans. During the dance showdown, two eyes met as if they were magnetized to notice each other inspite of the numerous Sharks and Jets dancing on the floor. The two love birds were Maria (played by the famous Natalie Wood) and Tony (as portrayed by Richard Beymer).

Maria (a Puerto Rican/ Latin American woman) fell in love at first sight with Tony ( a member of the Jets, a white American) during the first dance showdown between the White Americans and the Latin American adolescents. Further, the dance showdown halted as soon as Bernardo (Maria’s brother) noticed the undesirable scene. Bernardo obviously did not want his sister to fall in love with a White American especially with belonging in their opponent Jets (Shulman 1961).In the next scene of the film, the West side Jets claim they have departed the social norm that is why they are anti-social and juvenile delinquents.

According to the songs they sing, they need help and they could not be blamed for their behavior since each one of them have their issues and problems in their families. Most of them were misunderstood and belonging in broken family set-up. At the end of their song, they address officer Krupke (RC 2008).The climax of this move is when the conflict between the Jets and the Sharks became intense up to the point that both parties decided to pick a fight and end their rival in duel.

ON the other hand, Maria (Bernardo’s sister and Tony’s girlfriend) secretly meet with Tony even she knows that it is dangerous for the both of them. Since Tony was madly in love with Maria, he took the risk and courted Maria. However, Maria requested and pleaded her Tony to try to stop the war between the two groups. Tony, hesitant at first for the difficult request of Maria, agreed to do his best and try to stop the fight as soon as possible (Shulman 1961).Having been released by the United Artists in 1961, the West side story gained praise and at the same time critiques from the viewers and it also achieved the title of: “the 2nd highest grossing movie” in 1961. The West side story received a total of ten Academy awards and it achieved several nominations and recognitions in the United States.

This award winning movie, West Side Story achieved success in depicting the current existing culture of the Americans (both for the White and Latin Americans) during the 1960’s. The West side story achieved several honors and Academy awards namely for the following categories: for Best Picture, considering Robert Wise is the producer; Best for Supporting Actor played by George Chakiris as “Bernardo;” Best Supporting Actress for Rita Moreno who portrayed the role of “Anita;” another Academy award for the film’s Best Art Direction category considering the aspects of the right choice of set color and design, claimed by Victor Gangelin and Boris Leven; Best in Cinematography category: good choice and quality for the film’s color which induces the movie’s theme, claimed by Daniel Fapp; another award of Best in Costume Design for Irene Sharaff; Best in Directing for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins; Best Academy award in Film Editing for Thomas Stanford; Award for the film’s Original Music Score and of the  Musical Picture credited to Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, Sid Ramin, and Irwin Kostal; and last but not the least, the West side story also gained the Academy award Academy for Best Sound as credit to Fred Hynes (Todd-AO SSD) and Gordon Sawyer (Samuel Goldwyn SSD) (Howe 2003).In addition, the West side story achieved further recognitions, awards, and nominations were the result of the cooperation of the cast and those working staff behind the scenes. In 1997, the film was promoted by the United States Library of Congress (USLC) as it has been considered as a film that is being “culturally significant” and it was chosen to be preserved in the collection of the National Film Registry. Similarly, the West side story achieved further awards and recognition as Best in Writing and Screenplay based on material from another medium, as credited to Mr. Ernest Lehman; another received award by this film is the Academy Award for Brilliant Achievements in the Art of Choreography on Film credit to and for Jerome Robbins (one of the directors of the West side story).

Furthermore, the west side story achieved 1998 American Film Institution Recognition (AFI) as rating number 41 out of 100 movies in the United States. In 2002, it also gained American Film Institution Recognition (AFI) as rated number three in the Passions of the United States for 100 years. The songs used in the West side story also top rated the charts especially for the songs: Somewhere (rated number 20 for 100 years), also for the song America (rated number 35 for 100 years), and also including the song, Tonight (rated number 59 for 100 years) consecutively as recorded in 2004 charts. In 2006, it achieved recognition of100 Years of Musicals rating number 2 from AFI and apparently, the West side story achieved the recognition of 100 Years for 100 Movies in its tenth (10th) Anniversary Edition rating number 51 from AFI, as put into account in year 2007 (Howe 2003).In order for a great multi-million dollar winning movie to become possible, the choice of songs as background music for the movie’s soundtrack plays a very important factor in determining the success of the movie. Originally, the West side story was a musical created by Johnny Richards.

In 1961, West side story was adapted and recorded by the Stan Kenton Orchestra as musical collection jazz orchestra using Bernstein scores. However the Stan Kenton Orchestra’s version was viewed and evaluated by the film directors of the West side story, it was the different version of musicale from the musicale included in the ongoing film. In fact, upon seeing the Stan’s orchestra jazz version, the directors claim that they should have used Stan’s version as soundtrack of the film but it was too late and a new and different version was created by the song directors to be used in the West side story. Although The Stan Kenton’s version was not used as the basis of musicale background of the film, it gained a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Recording of a large group in 1962 (Shulman 196).This is not saying that West side story was free from flaws and considered therefore as perfect, but it was generally agreed by majority that the film was a good and timely musicale reflecting the current cultural norms and values of the Americans in 1960s.

In manner of clothing, perception of power, basis for conflict, the prevalent prejudice and discrimination, and the diverse nature of language, music, and dance steps. The difference between the White and Latin Americans was explicitly described and presented in the portrayal of the main and supporting characters of the movie (RC 2008).Described as “New York’s classic of the 1960s,’’ West side story was astoundingly studded with magnificent and good starts who sang the songs like Tonight, Maria, I Feel Pretty, America, Officer Krupke, A Place for Us, and I Have Love (citation). Although Maria was criticized for delivering some lines the songs with uncertain accent, the musicale was a success for its overall success in portraying the life and culture of the adolescent, White and Latin Americans in 1960s. The characters of the West side story played a major role in making the film on of the best musicale created in the United States.First and foremost, Rita Moreno (girlfriend of Bernardo) and the one who played the role of “Anita,” delivered a great portrayal of her character in the movie.

Anita, as a Latin American, was a graceful and flexible dancer, and at the same time, was good singer as she sang some songs in the film. Similarly, Russ Tamblyn, who played the role of Rif, was the persuasive leader of the Westside Jets and portrayed his character fairly as well.Having been playing the role of Maria, Natalie Wood portrayed her character as an innocent-looking, young, and a graceful dancer and singer, Maria. The character Maria fell in love with Tony, the member of the Jets gang in the west side.

On the other hand, George Chakiris playing the role of Bernardo, as the brother of Maria and leader of the Sharks in the East side, portrayed the role of a discriminated leader of a minority group of the Latino adolescents in Manhattan. Bernardo could be quiet and soft spoken at times but he has the tendency for aggression to assert himself and represent his group in defending their race against discrimination and prejudice of the white Americans. Most and the rest of the characters exerted their best performance level in portraying their roles for the West side story (UAPI 2009).Works Citedhttp://www.wsu.edu/~brians/love-in-the-arts/west.htmlhttp://www.filmsite.org/wests.htmlhttp://www.amazon.com/West-Side-Story-Special-Collectors/dp/B00008972S 

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