mapol (mapol) wrote in westsidestory,

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What the Results would be if the film version of West Side Story had Come Out Later Than It Did:

As I've pointed out on a number of occasions, West Side Story is hauntingly beautiful on the screen, especially if viewed on a great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre, with the lights down low, and with a whole bunch of other people, whether one knows them or not. ...

Some people have mentioned that back in the fall of 1961, when censorship rules were still in place, and when the film version of West Side Story first came out, that it was necessary to tamp down the language and the insults to cater to more sensitive audiences prior to releasing it in the movie theatres. That's probably true. The film West Side Story, however is a rare film that has haunting beauty without any nudity scenes, super steamy romances, explicit sex scenes, or super-graphic and/or violent fights or language, and I've always been more than willing to go along with that.

What do I personally think would've been the results if the film West Side Story had come out later than it did? Had the film version of West Side Story come out any later than it did, there would've been a real abundance of "blue" language, even more overt expressions of hatred and racial/ethnic prejudice, not only among the Jets, the Sharks and their girls, and among the police, but even Doc (the Candy Store owner, who truly tried, without avail, to steer the Jets, the Sharks and their girls in a better direction), as well as "Glad Hand" (the social worker who presided over the Dance at the Gym scene), would have been much tougher on the kids, and not so nice as they were. Even the Jets and the Shark girls would've been way rougher and tougher, with a propensity for the use of obscenity and profanity.

The romance scenes between Anita and Bernardo, as well as Tony and Maria, would've unquestionably been way steamier, more graphic and explicitly sexual, and rougher, as well.

The playground skirmishes between the warring Jets and Sharks would've been much more graphic and bloody. This would've been especially true of the Rumble, which would've invariably involved guns, chains and brass knuckles, rather than fisticuffs or switchblade knives. There would've been many more deaths in the Rumble in addition to the deaths of Riff, Bernardo and Tony, plus they would've been much bloodier and more graphic. The Jets would've more than likely remained extremely angry, sullen and sore, and would not have been amenable to Ice's keeping them cool after the Rumble and the deaths that occurred as an aftermath.

The drug store scene, in which Anita is nearly raped by the Jets, too, would've been more graphic, and the rape of Anita more than likely would've occurred, despite Doc's coming in right at that moment, and Anybodys, who'd had to fight to be accepted as an equal by the Jets, would've had an even harder time gaining acceptance, and would've had to become even tougher and rougher than she was in order to do so.

There would've been no hint of reconciliation between the Jets and Sharks in the end, but if there had been, it would've been even harder to come by, if one gets the drift. Some people would claim that if the film version of West Side Story had come out later than it did, the Jets, the Sharks and their girls would've been dressed more like street kids, and the girls would've worn huge go-go earrings to the Dance at the Gym.

Moreover, I think that had West Side Story come out later, both as a Broadway stage play and a film, the message that it conveyed would've been different. There would've been a glorification of violence, racial/ethnic hatred and prejudice, defense and honor, gangsterism, graphic violence, and death, and the style would've been slight to non-existent, thus obscuring the real story of love and romance that developed without really taking root, due to the hatred between the Jets and Sharks. The friendship, tribal and ethnic loyalties, as well, would've been even stronger and more obvious, on the part of both the Jets and the Sharks.

Having said all of the above, I believe that the beauty of the film West Side Story is the fact that it managed to develop into a hauntingly beautiful film, whose various emotions were not only succinctly expressed through dance and song, but with the absence of "blue" language, explicitly sexual, steamy and graphic romance scenes between Tony and Maria, as well as Anita and Bernardo. The absence of overly graphic action and bloody deaths also gave West Side Story its strength and beauty as a film, and so did the fact that Ice, who'd taken over the Jets gang leadership after Riff's death during the Rumble, managed to calm the Jets down and assign the Jets and their girls different places to look for Tony, who'd been hiding out in Maria's bedroom after he'd stabbed Bernardo to death in retaliation for his having stabbed his close buddy, Riff, to death during the Rumble.

Would Tony and Maria been able to at least attempt to elope, out into the country, or would Tony have turned himself over to the police after he'd stabbed Bernardo to death during the Rumble? That's really hard to know. Would the Jets and Sharks and their girls remained enemies, or would they have become true friends after realizing that all their feuding was for nothing? That, too, is very hard to know.

Another beautiful aspect of West Side Story as a film is the fact that it leaves so much to the audiences' imagination(s), and, as some people have pointed out, it's also proof that a story doesn't have to evolve into a "so they lived happily ever after" ending. West Side Story was created through yesterday's Hollywood. Therefore, it would be asking much too much of today's Hollywood to create a movie/musical like West Side Story without overly graphic and violent scenes, and without romance scenes that were steamier and more explicitly sexual. This all points to why a re-make of West Side Story would only cut the heart, soul and beauty right out of it, and the same thing would've applied if West Side Story had come out any later than it did, as a movie/musical.
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