natalie moreno

Tonight, Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s West Side Story plays the Tribeca Drive-In, which is free and open to the public at Westfield World Trade Center! Come watch a true-blue cinematic classic on the big screen it was meant to be seen on.



Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s film adaptation of the 1957 musical had its world premiere in New York City on 18 October 1961.

Robbins, who had directed the stage version, was fired during the production due to creative differences.

Elvis Presley was offered the lead part of Tony, but turned it down on the advice of his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Robert Wise wanted Warren Beatty for the role and Beatty brought Natalie Wood to read opposite him on the audition. Beatty didn’t get the part, but Wood was hired as Maria. Wood took singing lessons and sang all of her songs during filming, but in the end, Marni Nixon was brought in to dub all of Wood’s singing parts.

West Side Story was a critical and commercial success. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and received 10, including Best Picture, Best Director(s), Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), Best Art Direction (Victor Gangelin and Boris Leven), Best Cinematography (Daniel Fapp), Best Costume Design (Irene Sharaff), Best Film Editing (Thomas Stanford), Best Sound (Fred Hynes and Gordon Sawyer) and Best Score (Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal, and Sid Ramin).

One of the few things that I disdained while filming the movie was the makeup used to paint the Puerto Ricans the same color. We Sharks were all the same homogeneous brown! Our gang, including me, was a uniform tobacco brown color, and that was just plain wrong and inaccurate. Puerto Ricans, with their varied genetic ancestry–Spanish, Taino Indian, Black, Dutch–are born with a broad palette of skin colors, from outright white to true black.

And, of course, it was uncomfortable for Hispanics to see Natalie Wood play Maria, especially because we’d heard that Natalie hadn’t wanted the part, but had been so prevailed upon to take it that she couldn’t refuse. Natalie seemed uncomfortable in her role as Maria when she was around use, a rowdy, raucous group of dancers. This may explain her nonengaging demeanor with us “Gypsies” throughout the shoot. It might have been helpful had we been able to bond with Natalie, but she kept her distance. 

– Rita Moreno: A Memoir