Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
West Side Story (1961)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The gymnasium dance sequence dissolves into view. [Most of the Jets' couples are dressed in light-colored party clothes, while the Sharks wear darker colors. The Jets dance with more bold movements, the Sharks with sinuous, sleek steps.] Glad Hand (John Astin), a 'square' social worker who has organized the dance, separates the warring factions in the middle of the gym floor, and naively announces to the "boys and girls" (or "kids") something special: a "get-together dance" to "make new friends" and "get closer to old ones."

I want you to form two circles...boys on the outside and girls on the inside...When the music stops, each boy dances with whichever girl is opposite.

After a brief stand-off, members of both gangs form two circles and play one round of the game - it fails miserably. Male gang members refuse to dance with members of the opposite sex from the camps of their hated enemies. In the volatile atmosphere, dozens of couples from both gangs display their rivalry and compete for center-stage dance-floor space. Their snappy, exuberant gyrations are shot from a floor-level camera.

From across the dance floor, Maria and Tony spot each other and become magically entranced - everything around them is blurred and in soft focus. As the lights around them go out, they are drawn to each other - it is instantaneous love at first sight. As a couple, they perform a light ballet to the tune of "Maria." The black sky behind them is dotted with multi-colored stars.

Tony: You're not thinkin' I'm someone else.
Maria: I know you are not.
Tony: Or that we met before?
Maria: I know we have not.
Tony: I felt - I knew something never before was gonna happen, had to happen, but this is so much more.
Maria: My hands are cold. (He touches and takes her hands) Yours too. (She gently caresses his cheek with her right hand) So warm.
Tony: (He is guided to touch her face) So beautiful.
Maria: Beautiful.
Tony: It's so much to believe. You're not makin' a joke.
Maria: I have not yet learned how to joke that way. I think now I never will.

When their romantic reverie ends and the lights come back up, Bernardo pushes the American away from improperly kissing his appealing sister:

Bernardo: Get your hands off, American...Stay away from my sister.
Tony: Sister?
Bernardo: Couldn't you see he's one of them?
Maria: No. I saw only him.
Bernardo: There's only one thing they want from a Puerto Rican girl.
Tony: That's a lie!
Riff: (restraining him) Later, Tony.
Chino: Get away.
Tony: Stay out of this, Chino. (To Maria) Don't listen.
Bernardo: She will listen to her brother before she listens to you.

Maria must abide by her familial obligations. Bernardo orders Chino to take Maria home. Riff uses the incident as an opportunity to call a "war-council" with the rival gang leader. Bernardo accepts the proposal to meet at midnight at Doc's candy-store. As Tony walks from the dance in a love-sick daze and the settings change behind and around him, he sings a lyrical love song about "Maria," his newly-found loved one:


The most beautiful sound I ever heard
All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word - Maria
I just met a girl named Maria, and suddenly that name
Will never be the same to me.
Maria - I just kissed a girl named Maria
And suddenly I found how wonderful a sound can be
Maria - say it loud and there's music playing
Say it soft and it's almost like praying - Maria
I'll never stop saying Maria, Maria, Maria...

Now that the lovers are in the midst of increasing conflict between the two gangs, Bernardo lectures at his sister for stepping over forbidden boundaries:

Bernardo: Now I will not say these things to spoil your evening or to hear myself talk. I am here longer than you, Maria...Someday, when you're an old married woman with five children, then you can tell me what to do. Right now, it's the other way around. Now go to bed.
Anita: (To Maria) He's the old married woman. (To Bernardo) You know, she has a mother. Also a father.
Bernardo: They do not know this country any better than she does.
Anita: And you do not know it at all. Girls here are free to have fun. She is in America now.
Bernardo: Puerto Rico is in America now.
Anita: Sometimes I don't know which is thicker. Your skull or your accent.

On the rooftop of their tenement building, Bernardo's wise and feisty girlfriend claims that the gang leader used Maria's love for someone of a different culture and race as an excuse for the winner-take-all rumble:

Anita: I mind your nose and your head broken...Sure. They used Maria as an excuse to start World War III.
Bernardo: It is more than that.
Anita: More than what? She was only dancing.
Bernardo: With an American. He was really a Pollack.
Anita: Says the Spic.
Bernardo: You are not so cute.
Rosalia (Suzie Kaye): That Tony is.
Female: And he works.
Chino: As a delivery boy.
Anita: (To Chino) And what are you?
Chino: An assistant.
Bernardo: Si. And Chino makes half of what the Pollack makes.
Anita: Oh, here comes the whole commercial. 'Your mother's a Pole. Your father's a Swede. But you were born here. That's all that you need. You are an American.'

In contrast to other second generation immigrants, their entry into America as Puerto Ricans was met with disillusionment, prejudice and lies: "When I think of how I thought it would be for us here, we came like children, believing, trusting." The rewards of being an American are materialistic: driving a fancy Cadillac, "air-conditioned," "built-in bar," "telephone" "and television," "compartment of Cola."

With the entire Puerto Rican cast on the rooftop, hot-blooded Anita sings and dances, with biting wit and humor, about her love for her new homeland in the rousing, lively and aggressive "America." The land of the free is both a land of opportunity and enmity for new immigrants:


(Anita) Puerto Rico, My heart's devotion, let it sink back in the ocean
Always the hurricanes blowing, always the population growing
And the money owing, and the sunlight streaming and the natives steaming
I like the island of Manhattan, smoke on your pipe and put that in!
(Girls) I like to be in America, OK by me in America, Everything free in America
(Bernardo) For a small fee in America
(Anita) Buying on credit is so nice
(Bernardo) One look at us and they charge twice
(Rosalia) I'll have my own washing machine.
(Indio) (Gus Trikonis) What will you have, though, to keep clean?
(Anita) Skyscrapers bloom in America
(Rosalia) Cadillacs zoom in America
(Girl) Industry boom in America
(Boys) Twelve in a room in America.
(Anita) Lots of new housing with more space
(Bernardo) Lots of doors slamming in our face
(Anita) I'll get the terrace apartment
(Bernardo) Better get rid of your accent
(Anita) Life can be bright in America
(Boys) If you can fight in America
(Girls) Life is all right in America
(Boys) If you're all white in America
(Girls) Here you are free and you have pride
(Boys) Long as you stay on your own side
(Girls) Free to be anything you choose
(Boys) Free to wait tables and shine shoes
(Bernardo) Everywhere grime in America, organized crime in America, terrible time in America
(Anita) You forget I'm in America
(Bernardo) I think I'll go back to San Juan
(Anita) I know what boat you can get on
(Bernardo) Everyone there will give big cheers
(Anita) Everyone there will have moved here.

As "an American girl now," the lusty, Puerto Rican spitfire insists that Bernardo choose between his "big important war-council" and her. He selects the war-council, claiming that "back home, women know their place," and that war-councils are held by Americans.

That evening, Tony visits with Maria on the tenement fire escape outside her bedroom - the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene - although she knows the danger and cautions him. Despite the hatred and fear of the rival gangs they are connected to, Tony is oblivious to all the potential, obvious, and long-standing difficulties that their inter-racial relationship could cause:

Maria: If Bernardo knew.
Tony: We'll let him know. I'm not one of 'em, Maria.
Maria: But you are not one of us. And I am not one of you.

They embrace, sing to each other, and join in unison to express their love to each other with the love duet "Tonight," one of the film's most favorite, timeless songs:


(Maria) Only you, you're the only thing I'll see forever in my eyes, in my words and in everything I do, nothing else but you, ever
(Tony) And there's nothing for me but Maria, every sight that I see is Maria
(Maria) Tony, Tony
(Tony) Always you, every thought I'll ever know, everywhere I go you'll be
(Tony and Maria) All the world is only you and me
(Maria) Tonight, tonight, it all began tonight, I saw you and the world went away
Tonight, tonight, there's only you tonight, what you are, what you do, what you say
(Tony) Today, all day I had the feeling a miracle would happen, I know now I was right
(Tony and Maria) For here you are and what was just a world is a star tonight
Tonight, tonight, the world is full of light with suns and moons all over the place
Tonight, tonight, the world is wild and bright, going mad shooting sparks into space
Today, the world was just an address, a place for me to live in, no better than all right
But here you are and what was just a world is a star tonight
Good night, good night, sleep well and when you dream, dream of me tonight.

They decide to see each other the next day after Maria's work in Madame Lucia's Bridal Shop across the street from her home.

While waiting for the "war-council" in front of Doc's store, Officer Krupke's squad car drives up, and Krupke wants them to move on instead of blocking the sidewalks.

Action: If you don't leave us stay out on the streets all night, we're liable to turn into a bunch of juvenile delinquents.
Krupke: Listen, I know yus guys was cookin' up somethin' at the dance tonight. So don't think yus are gonna put nothin' over on me...Now go on, get a move on, all of yus. And don't let me catch none of yus around here when I get back.

The next bowdlerized song, "Gee, Officer Krupke," mocks the police and blames multiple sources for the causes of juvenile delinquency among youth: poor parenting and role modeling, abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, and the propagation of unwanted children. The poor victim is shunted from one social institution to another: the police department, a judge in the court system, a therapist and headshrinker, and a social worker. The "punk" is labeled as "no good," "psychologically disturbed," "depraved," and "sociologically sick."

Gee, Officer Krupke:

(Tiger, imitating Krupke) Hey you!
(Riff) Who me, Officer Krupke?
(Tiger imitating Krupke) Yeah you. Gimme one good reason for not draggin' ya down to the station house, ya punk!
(Riff) Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, you gotta understand
It's just our bringin' upke, that gets us out of hand
Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks
Golly Moses, naturally we're punks
(Jets) Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset
We never had the love that every child oughta get
We ain't no delinquents, we're misunderstood
Deep down inside us there is good
(Riff) There is good!
(Jets) There is good, there is good, there is untapped good
Like inside, the worst of us is good
(Tiger) That's a touching good story
(Riff) Let me tell it to the world
(Tiger imitating Krupke) Just tell it to the Judge
(Riff) Dear kindly Judge, your Honor, my parents treat me rough
With all their marijuana they won't give me a puff
They didn't wanna have me but somehow I was had
Leapin' lizards, that's why I'm so bad
(Snowboy imitating Judge) Right! Officer Krupke, you're really a square
This boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care
It's just his neurosis, that oughta be curbed
He's psychologically disturbed
(Riff) I'm disturbed
(Jets) We're disturbed, we're disturbed, we're the most disturbed
Like we're psychologically disturbed
(Snowboy imitating Judge) Hear ye, hear ye, in the opinion of this court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had a normal home.
(Riff) Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived.
(Snowboy imitating Judge) So take him to a Headshrinker. You!
(Action) Who me?
(Riff) My daddy beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me
['My mother is a bastard, my pa's an S.O.B.' in the stage play]
My grandpa is a commie, my grandma pushes tea
My sister wears a mustache, my brother wears a dress
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess
(Action imitating Headshrinker) Yes, Officer Krupke, he shouldn't be here
This boy don't need a couch, he needs a useful career
Society's played him a terrible trick, and sociologically he's sick
(Riff) I am sick!
(Jets) We are sick, we are sick, we are sick, sick, sick
Like we're sociologically sick
(Action imitating Headshrinker) In my opinion, this child does not need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease.
(Riff) Hey, I got a social disease!
(Action imitating Headshrinker) So take him to a Social Worker
(Riff) Dear kindly Social Worker, they tell me get a job
Like be a soda jerker which means I'd be a slob
It's not I'm antisocial, I'm only anti-work
Glory Osky, that's why I'm a jerk
(A-Rab) Eek, Officer Krupke, you've done it again
This boy don't need a job, he needs a year in the pen
It ain't just a question of misunderstood, deep down inside him he's no good
(Riff) I'm no good
(Jets) We're no good, we're no good, we're no earthly good
Like the best of us is no damn good
The trouble is he's lazy, the trouble is he drinks
The trouble is he's crazy, the trouble is he stinks
The trouble is he's growing, the trouble is he's grown
Krupke, we've got troubles of our own
Officer Krupke, we're down on our knees
(Riff) 'Cause no one wants a fella with a social disease
(Jets) Dear Officer Krupke, what are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup you! [a euphemism for a more familiar 'f' word]

Doc (Ned Glass), who returns to his shop, calls the Jets "hoodlums," and thinks that their plans to "rumble" with the PRs over territory is senseless: "Fightin' over a little piece of street is so important?"

Previous Page Next Page