Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. The Mirisch Corporation, Seven Arts Productions. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman, from the play conceived by Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, adapted from the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp. Produced by Robert Wise. Music by Leonard Bernstein. Production Design by Boris Leven. Costume Design by Irene Sharaff. Film Editing by Thomas Stanford. Academy Awards 1961. Golden Globe Awards 1961.
Fantastic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet takes the tale of star-crossed lovers and sets it as a musical among warring gangs of 1960s New York. Jerome Robbins’ energetic choreography is the main highlight of this colourful film, about a young Puerto Rican girl named Maria (Natalie Wood, with singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon) who falls in love with a white boy named Tony (Richard Beymer) against the wishes of their friends and family. It’s a huge danger for them to want to be together considering that Maria’s brother is part of the Sharks gang and Tony is an ex-member of the Jets. Supporting cast members Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris and especially Rita Moreno add a lot of flair, though the film sometimes borders on the tiresome and is much more enjoyable when the cast is dancing up a storm than when it’s trying so hard to be a realistic drama. Still, the overall effect is powerful by the time you get to the end, and the many excellent Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim songs are memorable to the point of unforgettable.