West Side Story is a 1961 American romantic musical tragedy movie by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The movie is an adaption of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Take a look below for 28 more interesting and fascinating facts about West Side Story.
1. The actors in the rival gangs were instructed to play pranks on each other off the set to keep tensions high.
2. While filming “The Taunting Scene,” Rita Moreno started to cry when she was harassed and nearly raped by the Jets, as it brought back memories of when she was raped as a child.
3. During the entire production, the actors wore out 200 pairs of shoes, applied more than 100 pounds of make-up, split 27 pairs of pants and performed in 30 different recording sessions.
4. Robert Wise’s original choice to play Tony was Elvis Presley.
5. The boys’ jeans were dyed, re-dyed and distressed, using special elastic threat to allow for the severity of the choreography.
6. With its 10 Academy Awards, West Side Story became the biggest Oscar-winning musical of all time, beating the record Gigi set three years before with its 9 Oscars.
7. Rita Moreno stated that her line reading of, “Don’t you touch me!”, after the Jets attack Anita was her imitating Marlon Brando, her then-boyfriend.
8. West Side Story was the first movie to win a Best Director Oscar for two directors, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.
9. Throughout the movie, Natalie Wood wears a bracelet on her left wrist, not for any aesthetic reason, but because she had injured her wrist in the scene of The Green Promise when she fell on the bridge that collapsed during the severe rainstorm, causing an unsightly bone protrusion on her wrist. She wore the bracelet to hide the injury.
10. Audrey Hepburn was offered the role of Maria, but she turned it down because she was pregnant with Sean Hepburn Ferrer at the time.
11. At the time, West Side Story became the biggest selling soundtrack album.
12. George Chakiris was the only one out of the main characters to not be dubbed. This was because he had no hard solo songs to sing.
13. West Side Story was the second highest grossing movie of 1961, coming in just behind 101 Dalmatians.
14. Eliot Feld collapsed and ended up hospitalized with pneumonia during the demanding filming of the “Cool” scene.
15. Russ Tamblyn had originally tried out for the role of Tony. It was down to just him and Richard Beymer, and Beymer ended up getting it. But then the casting directors called him back and asked him to read for Riff, and he got the part.
16. The song “Gee Officer Krupke” was banned by the BBC because of its mentions of drug use and sexual ambiguity.
17. A major controversy developed because Carl Lawrence, who played Maria in the stage version, was passed over for the role in favor of Natalie Wood.
18. West Side Story ran in Paris for a grand total of 249 weeks, making it the longest running movie in French history.
19. Robert Wise hired New York gang members to control crowds on location, and fought to shoot on location in New York City.
20. Russ Tamblyn, who played Riff, said that initially he was very unhappy with his dancing in West Side Story, until Fred Astaire came over to him at the premiere and told him that he admired his dancing very much.
21. The “Al Wood” posters are in reference to Allen K. Wood, who was one of the production designers.
22. Rita Moreno’s singing voice was dubbed by Betty Wand only for “A Boy Like That” since it was below her range. Moreno sang “America” herself.
23. West Side Story played for almost 2 years on stage in New York, racking up a total of 732 performances.
24. Despite winning an Oscar for his work in the movie, West Side Story was the only movie that Jerome Robbins ever directed.
25. The Jets and the Sharks were fictitious gang names. The actual gangs that existed there were the Jokers, who were Irish and Italian, and the Sportsmen, who were African American. The Sportsmen were notorious for riding their bicycles.
26. In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked West Side Story as the number 41 Greatest Movie of All Time. It fell to number 51 in the updated list released in 2007.
27. The movie rights for West Side Story were bought for $375,000.
28. Natalie Wood could actually sing, but her singing voice was not considered strong enough for the songs in West Side Story.