Among the many plots that writers have used across the centuries, one of the most common is forbidden love. One of the most famous stories of forbidden love is William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
In 1957, Romeo and Juliet was transformed into West Side Story. The warring Montague and Capulet families are taken out of 16th century Verona and placed in 1950’s New York City. Instead of two warring families, two gangs of young men, one white (The Jets) and one Puerto Rican (The Sharks) fight for territory. The play’s title characters are now Maria and Tony.
In 1961, West Side Story hit the big screen. Playing the iconic lovers are Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Trying to keep them apart is Maria’s brother, Bernardo (George Chakiris) and Tony’s best friend Riff (Russ Tamblyn). Maria and Tony, like their previous incarnations are in love and must keep their love a secret. But when it is revealed, the consequences are devastating.
This movie and this musical is profound. It proves that love can conquer hate and prejudice. What makes it more profound is the bi-racial element of the plot, in both tension between the gangs and romantic relationship between the lead characters. Especially in the years that led up to the civil rights movement.
Do I recommend it? Yes.