West Side Story
Introduction

West Side Story was quite the rage. The film won 10 Academy Awards after its release in 1961, and before that it won Tony Awards as a Broadway musical in the mid-1950s'.

While most people look at the West Side Story as a "Romeo and Juliet" tale, our class will be looking at the movie from a different angle. New York City in the late 1940 and 1950s' saw the influx of Puerto Rican immigration. Like the generations of immigrants before them, Puerto Ricans often competed with the last group of immigrants for jobs and housing and were targets of harassment. Puerto Ricans often competed with poor Italians and Irish for the city's scare post-war resources. (Our class will return to these issues in the coming weeks when we look at The Young Lords.)

 

Task
 

Please answer the following questions in your journals;

  1. List the differences in what New York City looked like in the film and what the city looks like today. Did you notice anything in particular?


  2. We expect gangs to be violent and often unsophisticated. What were your thoughts as you saw gangs dressed in pastel colors singing and dancing?


  3. How does the movie touch on the themes of racism and bigotry? Does it do an adequate job?


  4. Do you have a favorite dance or musical number from the film?


  5. Is West Side Story a New York story?
  6. Have you come across a similar story while living in New York City?

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Resources
 

The official West Side Story web site

Is West Side Story over-rated?

 

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10/28/04