West Side Story

Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy.

Adolescence & Coming of Age, New York as character, Peace & Conflicts

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About the Film

Winner of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, this classic musical is set among the tenements of New York City. Star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) are caught in the midst of a turf war between rival street gangs in a 1960s take on Romeo and Juliet. The film features original choreography by Jerome Robbins, and was filmed on-location in Manhattan, on 8th and 10th streets.

The Film In Context

Puerto Rican Migration to New York during the 50s

West Side Story is an award-winning Broadway musical loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Set in 1950s New York, the musical was adapted for the big screen in 1961. Instead of two rival families pitted against each other as in Shakespeare’s play, the musical features two rival street gangs—the Jets, made up of second and third generation Americans, and the Sharks, made up of newly arrived Puerto Rican immigrants. West Side Story presented a turning point in American musicals by moving away from traditionally light themes and focusing on the social issues of the day including immigration and assimilation, racism, interracial relationships, and street gangs and turf wars.