I’ve been rewatching Twin Peaks, which is just too good to encapsulate in a mere blog post, but my subliminal mind has been chewing over the fact that two actors in Twin Peaks also starred in West Side Story – the fairy-footed Russ Tamblyn and the not-so-fairy-voiced Richard Beymer – they dubbed over his singing voice in West Side Story if I remember correctly. But he was the perfect Tony so we can forgive that.
I remember seeing West Side Story on the TV one Saturday afternoon when I was a kid. The long opening titles mesmerised me and confused me at the same time. I was captivated by the setting, the way the people talked, their attitude, the strange enmity between the two sides, the amazing dancing, and the uncomfortable mix of humour and pain, love and hate.
Russ Tamblyn always stood out for me in that film. He says he wasn’t a trained dancer but a tumbler so he struggled learning the moves. You wouldn’t know it though – he just had that gift of movement and I could watch him dance forever. Yes, yes, possibly the gayest thing I’ve ever said, but I stand by it damn you. It’s worth checking out his dancing in Tom Thumb too if you get a chance. But more than that he just exudes the cocky charisma required to pull off such a part.
Everyone’s outstanding in it though: George Chakiris – wow what a dancer and such a mercurial adversary; Natalie Wood – I had such a crush on her when I saw this; Rita Moreno – outsanding performer, maybe the best in the movie; and Richard Beymer’s a hell of an engaging actor so it’s right he gets a lot of the key dialogue. But even the supporting cast seem perfect in this, right down to Officer Krupke!
I remember going to see a stage version of West Side Story here in about 1997. I took my then girlfriend and I secretly dreaded it being a let down compared to the film but boy was I ever wrong. They really did it justice and it was the best stage production of anything I’ve ever seen. Which is saying something cos I’ve seen quite a lot now.
And a big nod has to go to Leonard Bernstien who wrote the music, Stephen Sondheim who wrote the lyrics, and Jerome Robbins who injected the choreography. The film would be a pitiful shadow of itself without the music and dancing.
Anyway while it was knocking around my head, I just thought I’d fold a little West Side story paper boat and send it out onto the blogosphere lake on the off-chance anyone out there’s unaware of it. Cos you don’t know what you’re missing.
Here’s one of the more humorous numbers in it – still with outstanding dancing though.
Officer Krupke from West Side Story: