Monday Night’s Screening of West Side Story at the Coolidge Corner Theatre:

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

  Monday Night’s screening of the film West Side Story at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre,

and Other Things:

Monday night was another big night for me;  The screening of the film West Side Story, at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre, as the final part of this year’s Big Screen Classic Film series that this particular theatre shows every year.  I was all agog over West Side Story, as usual, and was almost done cleaning Aziza’s cage, when a friend of mine called me to tell me that West Side Story was playing at the Coolidge Corner Theatre that night, at seven o’clock.   Our conversation, although brief, went something like this:

The phone rang, and recognizing the name and phone number that came up on my caller ID, I immediately answered it.  Our conversation, although brief, went something like this:

Me:  Hello!

“Chloe”:  Miki, it’s “Chloe.  

Me:  How’re you doing, Chloe?

“Chloe”:  I’m fine.   How’re you?  You know that West Side Story is playing tonight at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, at seven o’clock.

Me:  I sure do, Chloe!   I bought my ticket for this event back in March, and I’m really happy and excited about it!  I’ve just got to finish cleaning out Aziza’s cage, and then I’m going to get ready to go.

“Chloe”:  I also told “Sandy” about it.  She also knew.  Have a great time tonight!

Me:  I know i will,  “Chloe”!  Thanks for thinking of me, and calling.

“Chloe”:  You’re welcome.  Bye-bye.

Me:  Bye.  

Deciding to leave at around five-ish, due to the unpredictability of the evening rush-hour in our area, and after cleaning Aziza’s cage, I  cooked myself an early dinner, and then, after getting into some neater, decent clothes, I set off.  I ended up leaving at around 5:15,  expecting the worst when it came to rush-hour traffic.  Surprisingly enough, the traffic starting out from my house wasn’t too bad, considering that it was rush-hour, but I steeled myself for the traffic approaching and getting onto the Boston University bridge, which is often quite backed up during both the morning and the evening rush-hour(s), given the construction on the bridge that’s presently going on, and the fact that the traffic frequently gets quite backed up at that rotary, generally.  Surprisingly, the B. U. Bridge traffic wasn’t too bad, either, except for somewhat of a slowdown approaching the rotary, and some crawling along the bridge.  Thank heavens the BU Bridge is almost done, but I bet they’ll find something else to work on in that general area once the construction on the bridge is completed.  

I went straight over the B. U. Bridge,  turned right onto Dummer street, went straight, and took a left onto St. Paul Street, kept going straight, and then took a right onto Beacon Street.  Fortunately, there was plenty of parking, so I was in luck, and I got an okay parking space.  (Meters come a dime a dozen if one arrives at six o’clock in the evening or before.)  I was in plenty of time,  so I decided to take a small walk and do a small errand, and get some small dessert for myself, which I did.  Fortunately, since I’d bought my ticket  online, through  the  Coolidge Corner theatre’s website, for West Side Story back in March of this year and printed it up at home, I didn’t have to wait in line to get a ticket.  Printing up one’s ticket at home makes things a good deal easier, although I would’ve avoided the handling & service fee had I just gone to the Box office in person and picked up my ticket there, instead of purchasing it online.  

By the time I got my errands done and decided to wait outside the theatre for the movie, other people who’d decided to see West Side Story had lined up in the special place for ticket-holders for the film, and I took my place in line alongside them, all agog about seeing my all time favorite film on the great big, wide screen, as it’s truly meant to be viewed,  in a real movie theatre, with the lights down low,  once again.   The seating for West Side Story was supposed to begin at around 6:45, but at 6:20, the theatre staff decided to let us go in and choose our seats.  At first, there was only a trickle of people, but, as I’d predicted, people began streaming in, pretty much at the last minute(s) before the movie began.   Much to my relief, there was a good crowd, and most of the theatre (probably 2/3 to 3/4) was filled up.  The showing for West Side Story wasn’t sold out by any means, but, as usual, it was well-attended.  Whereas in New York, screenings of West Side Story often do tend to sell out,  that’s often not the case here in the Boston area,  but they are well attended, which helps a great deal.  West Side Story’s not quite as popular here in Boston as it is in New York and Los Angeles, but it’s popular with Boston moviegoers nonetheless, as the many well-attended screenings of this great film indicate.  

The one exception, however, was five years ago, when a sing-a-long screening of West Side Story was played at the Brattle Theatre, so it was a good thing that I’d purchased my ticket well in advance.  Since Marni Nixon (the woman who dubbed Natalie Wood’s/Maria’s voice in the film WSS) had recently written a new book, called “Danced All Night”, which was hot off the press, and was selling for $20.00 apiece, was in the Brattle Theatre lobby holding a book signing for people who’d purchased the book, I got to meet her briefly, and we had a short, but pleasant chat.  We shook hands afterwards, and when I told her that West Side Story was my all time favorite movie, she seemed happy.  

The print of the film West Side Story that they showed on Monday night was a very good print, most likely, I thought, made for the 50th-year Anniversary.  One of the women on the staff, who announced the beginning of the movie, began the evening by asking how many people had not seen the film West Side Story before.  Only a handful of people in the audience raised their hands.  “That’s amazing!” said the  woman, somewhat facetiously.   “There are lots of spoilers here!  Don’t spoil it for them”  There was a ripple of lucrative laughter among the audience, and some of the audience, including myself, began snapping their fingers even before the film started.  

West Side Story was immensely enjoyed by everybody in the audience, and there was much reaction on the part of the audience;  Intense attention to the tenser, more sober parts of the movie, and laughter at the funnier moments.  One of the things that I noticed was the fact that, on a regular film, West Side Story looked so much more three-dimensional than it does on a VCR or DVD, especially, which looks a lot flatter, like a wall painting or something (though I never thought about that until it was pointed out by another person online.)  The funniest parts for me were  A) Riff’s “cause your ma’s hot for me” response to Tony’s “end your suffering’, little man.  Why don’t you pack up your gear and move out” suggestion to Riff, after Tony rejected his overtures for challenging Bernardo to a rumble, and Riff’s  “no..Cause I hate liven’ with my bugging’ uncle…uncle…UNCLE!”, response to the same suggestion by Tony.  Other funny parts were Anita’s responses to Maria’s questions of “What happens when you look at Bernardo in the movies”,  which were asked as a way of distracting Anita from the original point during their dispute as to whether or not Maria should have the neck of the old white communion dress that Anita was altering for Maria to wear to the upcoming dance at the gym that night, such as  “It’s when I don’t look that it happens”., and “listen, with those boys you can start in dancing and end up praying”, in response to Maria’s protest  “It’s now to be a dress for dancing, no longer for praying”  

The Dance at the Gym, America, Officer Krupke, the pre-rumble War Council between the Jets and Sharks which culminated in the exchange of ethnic insults,  the Prologue/Jet Song, the Quintet, the Rumble, and the Cool scenes were, imo, the strongest scenes in West Side Story, but without the other scenes, there’d be no story and no musical.  The same would be true if the romance between Tony and Maria weren’t there.  Sure, Richard Beymer did play a somewhat weak, lackluster Tony, but after learning of Natalie Wood’s overt hostility towards Beymer, who’d been chosen to play the role of Tony, and the several attempts on her part to get Richard Beymer kicked off the set on several occasions, I was more willing to give Beymer the benefit of the doubt and decided that he probably would’ve played a stronger Tony if not for Natalie Wood’s open hostility, which was obviously quite painful for him, and it showed somewhat, which was unfortunate.  

As for the characters, I thought that Bernardo, Anita, Ice, Baby-John, Action and A-Rab were the strongest among them, and were real pillars to West Side Story, but all of the characters, as well as all of the songs/scenes helped make West Side Story the great, golden oldie but keeper of a classic film that it is.  

Interestingly enough,  the late Elvis Presley was the first one that Robert Wise had approached for the part of Tony in West Side Story.  Unfortunately, however,  Elvis Presley’s extremely controlling manager, Colonel Parker, forced Elvis to reject the part, because he didn’t want him “playing the part of a juvenile delinquent”.  Elvis Presley was said to regret not playing the part of Tony when the film West Side Story became a hit.  How well would Elvis Presley have played the part of Tony in West Side Story?  That’s of some dispute in some circles.  Elvis, after all, did have the sort of “tough but tender” look that made him look like an (ex) gang member, and he had a terrific voice, but who knows what would’ve come of that.  Would it have made West Side Story even more popular?  Would West Side Story been cheapened into another, ordinary Elvis Presley movie?  Who knows?  It might’ve been cool, too.   Other people that Robert Wise approached were Bobby Darin and a bunch of others, but due to politics as usual, Richard Beymer was ultimately chosen for Tony, and his singing voice dubbed by Jimmy Bryant.  

While parts of West Side Story were filmed on the part of NYC’s West Side, where Lincoln Center now stands, parts of it were also filmed in the streets of downtown Los Angeles, and much, if not most of it, was filmed on a great big sound stage, with well-designed sets that looked uncannily like a rough and run-down urban backdrop, due to extremely creative designing by Boris Leven.  The dubbing of singing voices, which was quite common back then, didn’t bother me either.  West Side Story is a wonderful film, and they managed to transfer this great musical from stage to screen beautifully, imho.  

Because the part of NYC  where West Side Story was being filmed was an extremely rough and tough neighborhood back then,  the cast and crew members of West Side Story alike  often had  rocks and bottles, etc. thrown at them, while the filming was going on.  Ironically (since West Side Story is about conflict between two warring street gangs), an actual street gang (yup, you read right!) was hired out for security purposes.  

All told, the film West Side Story is a wonderful musical that touches on social issues that’re rather pressing, even today, and is as relevant as ever, imo;  drug abuse and alcoholism, domestic violence, prostitution, racial and ethnic tensions and hostility, delinquency and conflict with the law, and the interdating, falling in love and intermarriage between people of different racial/ethnic groups.  The Coolidge Corner Theatre’s big main screen was the screen that WSS was shown on, and, since there’s a curtain, the curtain opened up on the film just as the three Jet gang whistles came on to introduce the film.  It was cool.  I remember seeing West Side Story on film for the first time 43 years ago, as a Senior in High School, at around Christmastime  of 1968.  Since I was still a teenager back then, I could identify with the Jets, the Sharks and their girls regarding kids being kids and so on, but when I reached early adulthood, I began to see West Side Story differently;  a piece of great art that lives on and on in most people’s minds and memories and still tugs at my heartstrings enough to go see it every time it comes to our neck of the woods, or near enough so that I can make a special road trip to a neighboring state to see this great film.  

Here’s hoping that West Side Story continues to occasionally be seen in the few independent movie theaters that’re here in the United States and Boston, and doesn’t disappear into the dustbin of history.  

Now that I’ve written about West Side Story, here’s the second part of my open thoughts:

I have many favorite songs from different decades.  Here are some more of them:   This particular song, which was a hit 40 years ago last summer, is also a cool song, a happy song, which  is about a guy whose girl finally came home, shared lots of exuberance and love together, and finally got married on a sandy beach, by a preacher man.  it’s about how everything, from the telephone ringing to wedding rings, are all around.  it’s a pretty song, which makes me smile, despite not being hitched up to anybody.  This particular song, “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers, is also a very exuberant song, with an undercurrent of sadness, and a theme from the movie “Georgy Girl”, which I saw when it first came out, about a very gawky, homely girl who, unlike her slender, attractive roommate, who was always out on dates and going to parties, was very lonely and isolated.  

Yet, her immature roommate, who was always out on the town and making it with guys, ended up in a bad way;  a teenaged pregnancy that she couldn’t handle, an ill-gotten marriage, and, just generally, not turning out that great.  

Later, Georgy Girl got married, to a rich guy, after re-arranging herself a little bit, and ended up somewhat happier.  This particular song, called Chevy Van, although it sounds very much like a late-1960’s song (it actually came out in the mid-1970’s (around 1975 or so), is about a guy in a Chevy van who picked up a weary girl, who was attractive-looking and needed a ride and some rest.  They formed a casual but temporary relationship, based on sex, mainly, until the guy left the girl off in a very small town, and then went on his way.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this song, in a way;  The guy who picked up the girl was kind, and yet not so kind in the end, if one gets the drift.  It’s a nice song, nonetheless.  Here’s another very exuberant, happy and very catchy late-1960’s song by the now-defunct group, The Association.  This particular song, “Windy” is a song that I loved from the first time that I heard it, back in the spring of 1967, during my Sophomore year of high school.  This is a song that makes me smile when I hear it, even today.  Fond memories these songs have, even though I could not and would not be a part of all the craziness that went on back then due to issues that I had, which precluded that.  

1 comment

    • mplo on November 17, 2011 at 14:18

    Here’s a bridge for sale, folks:  

    West Side Story, imho, is a wonderful alternative to many, if not most of the movies coming out nowadays, and Ben Affleck’s 1 year old movie, The Town, which is about four Townie bank robbers who rob banks at gunpoint, and ultimately take a female bank manager hostage at one of their heists, with the leader of the gang supposedly falling in love with her, and then skipping town for Florida without her when he got what he wanted from her (a promise from her not to squeal to the Feds), and who’s an armed felon and wanted fugitive on the lam from the Feds, who’re closing in on him and his gang, couldn’t even begin to compete with West Side Story, despite some certain similarities (both movies are set in rough and run-down urban areas, both have tough guys, and both movies entail two people from opposite sides of the track falling in love, with plans to elope together, which don’t pan out.).  Imho, The Town has too many differences and far too many flaws to be able to compete with West Side Story.  

    The next morning, I phoned the program director at the Coolidge Corner Theatre specially to thank him for playing the film West Side Story, and after he said “you’re welcome”, he said that they even thought of me when they scheduled it.


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