Today is the anniversary of an event that occurred eight years ago.
It was a Saturday, at the end of my 8th grade spring break. I had just gotten over being sick and had watched many other great films for the first time while I was couch ridden including “Peyton Place” (1957) and “Singin’ In the Rain” (1952). But none of them were compared to this film.
On March 8, 2003, my dad thought I should be introduced to “West Side Story” (1961) because of my newly developed interest in classic musicals. He now shakes his head and says he created a monster.
Who knew snapping fingers, mambos, dancing on roof tops and signal whistles in NYC would be so Earth shattering for a 14-year-old?
I sat there in one of our family’s old corduroy, gold rocking arm chairs, skeptical on what this movie would be like. But after the movie was over, I floated upstairs to my room feeling a change inside me and knowing my movie interests would never be the same.
It wasn’t just one scene in “West Side Story” that affected me: it was the whole movie:
-The beauty of everything blurring around Tony and Maria when they first see each other.
-The emotion that fills Tony’s face as he sings “Maria.”
-The mix of reds and orange hues in the movie set that fit the movie so well.
-The last heart-wrenching 30 minutes of the movie that never fails to make me tear up.
Prior to “West Side Story” I was already well into my old movie interest starting the previous summer when I became fascinated with Audrey Hepburn and then Doris Day.
I’m not sure if I would have appreciated “West Side Story” as much as I did if I hadn’t already had a good classic movie cushion to fall back on.
But “West Side Story” wasn’t just a passing interest, it became a lifestyle.
I perfected my whistling so I could do the signal at the beginning of the movie. I learned how to snap so I could snap like the Sharks and the Jets. I a tried my hardest to learn the mambo and dances from “The Dance at the Gym”-which didn’t work out too well. I printed over 100 photos from the internet and plastered my closet doors with them.
Much to my family’s frustration I also listened to the soundtrack-every night in the shower. It quickly got old for everyone but me.
It is safe to say that I was hyperventilatingly, unhealthily obsessed with “West Side Story.”
I still love the movie, but it is safe to say I’m not longer obsessed. This crazy obsession lasted through my freshman year of high school. It tapered off when I found other great movies like “So Proudly We Hail” (1942), “Since You Went Away” (1944) and “Sunset Boulevard” (1951).
I can still listen to the soundtrack and know exactly what is going on during the song, and I still cry at the end of the movie.
Though my “West Side Story” obsession may have irritated my family, caused friends to roll their eyes and was a bit unnatural, I don’t see it as a bad thing.
“West Side Story” opened me even more to musicals and classic movies; searching for another movie that could beat it. It’s still one of my favorite movies and I bless the day I discovered it.
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I’ve never seen West Side Story, believe it or not! I think I need to check it out now! 🙂
You should! It’s a really really really good movie. Great music and dancing. Funny at parts but then others make you cry
Like you, I first saw West Side Story on TV as a teenager (this was back in the 80s) and I was hooked from the very first shot of Riff snapping his fingers. I didn’t become as obsessed as you did but it was my introduction to movie musicals, and as a result, I sought out tons of other old Hollywood movies and musicals that got me quickly labeled as a ‘nerd’ by friends and family. I didn’t care. I wear my nerdiness with pride: WSS opened up an entire new world to me, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.