arts & entertainment
West Side Story
gets the Blu-ray
By Steve Fisher
WEST SIDE STORY is the most honored movie
musical, winning 10 Academy Awards, including
Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best
Supporting Actor. Those two actors, Rita Moreno
and George Chakiris, who played Anita and
Bernardo, along with Russ
Tamblyn (Riff), will be immortalized on November 15, putting
their hands and feet in cement at
Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre.
The Connection spoke by
phone to the actors for their
recollections of the film.
stage musical, handled the musical numbers, and
Robert Wise handled the acting scenes.
Moreno worked mostly with Robbins. “The
dances were the hardest thing,” she remembers.
“We were rehearsing for months before we even
started to film the movie.”
Working with Robbins
was difficult but rewarding.
“[Robbins] was the motor, and
he was a person who inspired,
and scared us to death because
he was a very mean sort of fel-
low,” she says. “But he really
brought out the best in us—
there was no question of that,
and we knew that. As much as
some of us may have hated
him, we worshipped
him at the same
time because he
© MGM/FOX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
was a genius. People like that inspire
others to go way beyond what they
think they can actually accomplish.
He certainly did that for me.”
The American Film Institute
rates West Side Story the number-two
musical film of all time (Singin’ in the
Rain is their number one). Moreno
says, “It’s a treasure. And it is to be trea-
sured just as it is, with the dated dialogue
and all that kind of stuff. That’s how West
Side Story was then. And I hope they don’t
try to do a remake.”
According to Rita Moreno,
West Side Story was “top of the
line” in a career filled with
including earning all four major
acting awards: Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony.
She soon starts shooting the second season of
the TV series Happily Divorced, and is currently
doing a one-woman show. “It’s called Life Without
Makeup,” she says. “I’m about to be 80 in December,
and I’m tap-dancing, and doing ‘America’ from
West Side Story, and the mambo from the gymna-
Working hard for a living isn’t new to Moreno,
who worked hard to get the part of Anita in West
“I screen-tested like everybody else,” she recalls.
“I screen-tested for the acting part and I sang for
them and I danced for them.
“It took weeks and weeks of waiting,” she says.
“They were testing anyone with dark hair and dark
eyes at that time. It must have taken a month and half.”
The production had many unique aspects. For
example, the film had two directors. Jerome
Robbins, who had
directed and choreographed the original
Above: Rita Moreno in West Side
Story, 1961. Right: Moreno in 2011.
George Chakiris, whose passion has
turned from acting to making jewelry
( www.georgechakiris.com), was playing
Riff, the leader of the Jets, in the London
company of the stage version of West
Side Story when the film began pre-
CONTINUED ON PAGE 54
The Costco Connection
The West Side Story Blu-ray limited-edition 50th-anni-
versary set, including book, postcards and tribute CD,
is available November 15 in all Costco warehouses.
Costco will have the first 5,000 numbered sets.