Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday Thirteen #156


As we wait to see which picture wins the Oscar for 2011, let's look back at the one that won 50 years ago -- The Best Picture of 1961: West Side Story

I personally like this movie well enough but I don't love it. Still, many people do. Recently, when we were gossiping about Natalie Wood's death, one of my coworkers sighed and confessed how much he loved her as Maria. Now 32 years old, he was only a toddler when she died. But West Side Story is still shown in high schools every year as an introduction to Romeo and Juliet. So I guess boys not yet born will see it and fall a little in love with Natalie Wood, too.

1) Director Robert Wise originally wanted Audrey Hepburn as Maria. Ms. Hepburn, then 31, didn't think she could credibly play a Puerto Rican teen and besides, she was pregnant.

2) Marni Nixon did all Natalie Wood's singing. Coincidentally, you can also hear her as Eliza Doolittle, singing for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

3) Like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Natalie didn't know she wasn't doing her own singing during filming. On set, both women sang their hearts out. It wasn't until later that producers decided to bring Marni Nixon, who had to synch her vocals with their lips. 

4) Director Robert Wise wanted Elvis Presley to play Tony. I would have loved that. As it is, Richard Beymer kinda sucks.

5) At least Elvis could have done his own singing. Beymer's vocals were done by a singer named Jimmy Bryant.

6) Rita Moreno won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Maria's friend and Bernanrdo's lover, Anita. A usually strong singer, her voice was dubbed for one song, "A Boy like That," because she had a cold and was struggling with the deeper notes.

7) The "slum" where the movie opens is really the west side of Manhattan, where Lincoln Center stands today. In 1960, buildings were demolished to make room for Lincoln Center and the film makers decided to use the rubble and chaos to lend authenticity to the scene.

8) In the stage play, the Jets' oath was brotherhood that lasts "Womb to tomb, sperm to worm." Hollywood censors changed it to, "Womb to tomb, birth to earth" for more sensitive movie audiences.

9) Shooting lasted 6 months. Most movies in 1960 were filmed in 6 weeks.

10) The cast went through 200 pairs of shoes.

11) Once it opened in Paris, it played for 249 consecutive weeks, making it the most popular Hollywood movie in French history.

12) 50 years ago, it was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10. The one it didn't win? Best adapted screenplay.

13) Natalie Wood went to the Oscars that night as a Best Actress nominee but not for West Side Story. Instead she was nominated for Splendor in the Grass. She's shown here in the audience with her date and Splendor costar, Warren Beatty. She lost to Sophia Loren, the first and (I think) only actress to win in a foreign language role (Two Women).

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  1. Interesting TT. You know, while I'm very familiar with the music I've never seen the movie.

  2. I've seen the film and the stage show - enjoyed them both - and when I was in high school, they had us read the play. Literally. (That's possibly the only way to take the life out of the thing in a drama class!)

    Happy TT!

  3. Interesting! I would have preferred Elvis, too.

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. I learned a lot! I guess I'm naive but didn't know she didn't do her own singing...and now I'll be listening closely to both West Side Story and My Fair Lady :)

  5. My hubs is always referencing WSS. Especially the finger snapping. Elvis? They also wanted him first for A Star is Born. that would have been interesting too.

  6. I've always loved Natalie Wood, but I never saw West Side Story. One day I will. Elvis would have been a good choice in anything. I sure learned a lot I didn't know, so when I watch the movie, I'll have to come back and re-read this. :-)

  7. Very interesting!

  8. That's a great choice for Thursday Thirteen! I actually have no idea if I've ever seen the movie (I don't think my school was big on movies) . .. I did see a local(?) stage production of it and liked that.

    Now, if I see the movie I'll definitely have some interesting things in mind :)

    My Thursday Thirteen
    To Kill a Mockingbird Blu Ray Giveaway

  9. Very interesting list. I've never seen the movie. Makes me want to see it.