Turner Classic Movies presented West Side Story(1961) in movie theaters all over the country last Wednesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Academy Award-winning retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Everything that is great when viewing it at home is even better on the big screen! Why? The details! The details that I never noticed before are now inescapable.
The big screen makes you very much aware of the grit and grime of the story.
- Tony has a ring around his collar during the "Something's Coming" number. A gangster gone straight, he's a working man now with the sweat to prove it. Good for him.
- What I thought was a beige tile floor in the Sharks' tenement is actually a white tile floor with smudges.
- Dear Graziella, your beautiful burnt orange dress has armpit stains. I wish I could unsee them.
- A copy of Trumbull's Declaration of Independence is so dingy that you barely notice it amongst the filth on the wall during the war council scene.
- When Action points his grimy finger at the camera, "pulls the trigger" and yells "pow!," what seems hokey on TV becomes menacing when the little guy with the jazz hands is 30 feet tall.
- Tony, Riff, Bernardo, Chino, all of you! How much Brylcreme does a guy need? You look greasy.
- The archer bands on the Sharks' wrists are a dramatic statement even on the small screen. But note that when we first meet the rival gang that many of the Jets wear their belt buckles on the side.
- Throughout the film, the Sharks can be found in reds and purples. Dominant colors for the Jets are gold and yellow. You'd notice the colors in whatever format the movie is in, but on the silver screen you notice sumptuous details in the fabrics! Tony is not just wearing a yellow jacket at the dance, he's wearing a velvet goldenrod sports coat. Maria is not just wearing a white dress (which symbolizes her lack of involvement in gang life); it has little white curlicues embroidered throughout which add to the child-like quality of the outfit and to the innocence of the character.
- The color schemes come in handy when Maria and Tony profess their undying commitment to each other. We know they are serious, not just because of the stellar acting, lighting and music, but because the costume designer, Irene Sharaff ,dresses the couple in their rival's color. In the "wedding" scene, Maria wears a pale yellow dress - the Jets hue. Tony wears Maria's "family color" close to his heart - an aubergine lining in his varsity jacket (something I wouldn't have noticed except on the big screen). The former leader of the Jets is becoming a Shark from the inside out! Also note that the banded collar is pulled back slightly like a lapel, revealing a slight floral pattern; it is as though he is wearing a buttonhole at the "wedding".
|Adhering to family colors........................................................... Beginning to switch colors and allegiances|
- "I don't remember the colors being so bright! Is our copy in black and white?"
That's my red carpet experience. What is yours? Did you go?