Sunday, November 20, 2011

A CLASSIC PRODUCTION REMEMBERED

Riff: Now I know Tony like I know me and I guarentee you can count him in
Action: In, out, let's get crackin'
Gee-tar: Where you gonna find Bernardo?
Riff: He'll be at the dance tonight at the gym
A-Rab: But the gym's neutral territory
Riff: A-rab, I'm gonna make nice with him! I'm only gonna challenge him!
Ice: Great daddy-o.

Happy Sunday!,
It seems to me like I have been eating, breathing, sleeping, and especially blogging about West Side Story over the past few weeks. When I started writing this this afternoon, I was listening to Oscar winner George Chakiris (for Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Oscar nominated for Peyton Place) and Walter Mirisch with Julie James on The Broadway channel on Sirius Radio. West Side Story, the film, premiered in 1961, the year I was born. Julie James just said that West Side Story is her desert island film. I think it is one of mine as well. There is a brand new DVD and blueray edition fully restored, they've beefed up the sound and there are lots of extras for diehard fans. Check out my interview with George here to see how it came about that he ened up in the cast.
Russ Tamblyn played Riff in the film West Side Story
He received a telegram on a Friday telling him that he had the role of Bernardo in the film. He still has that telegram today. At the time, he was appearing as Riff in the West End production.

It was an enthusiastic and supportive crowd of family and close friends that gathered around George Chakiris, Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel (Just outside the ballroom where the first Academy Awards were held), as the three thespians contemplated the shoes they were about to embed in cement within the famous forecourt of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre across the street on Tuesday, Nov 15th.

George Chakiris practices his signature
 The purpose of the gathering was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film, West Side Story, which debuted at the Grauman's in 1961 and garnered both Chakiris and Moreno Oscars.  Ms. Moreno recalled making the film and working with such a remarkable cast and crew, including the late Natalie Wood, and how thrilled she was to see many of the dancers present to help celebrate.  Mr. Chakiris added, Well, this truly is an amazing day,” from the podium, as he remembered only thirty years ago, in 1951, how he took his first dance class just a couple of blocks from The Grauman's Theatre at The American School of Dance. How he paid for his classes working downtown as an errand boy at the May Co, 8 to 5, and took two ballet classes every night.  After the last class finished at 9 o'clock, he would then dream his way home, which was a room he rented just a couple of blocks in the other direction on Hollywood Boulevard.  He walked by Grauman's Chinese Theatre every night, to look at the beautiful marquee, and contemplate the foot and hand prints of the fantastic stars, whose movies he loved so much as a kid.  “In my wildest dreams I never imagined that ten years later in 1961 I'd be attending the premiere of Westside Story with our beautiful Natalie, Richard, Rita and Russ. And now, amazingly, to top it all off, here we are, fifty years later, joining company with the fantastic stars I loved to watch, putting our own hand prints next to theirs, to be in their auspicious company. It's so beautifully fantastic, for a Greek kid from Norwood, Ohio.” Chakiris, who also starred in the stage production of Westside Story as Riff (played by Tamblyn in the film), noted that occasion coincidently coincided with the American launch of his new jewelry collection (http://www.georgechakiris.com), making the day extra special.  Each of the tributee's spoke glowingly of Jerome Robbins who cast them in the film and how forever grateful they would be to him.  While the evening premiere of the newly released Blue Ray version of the film included a number of notable personalities, such as Lee Meriwether, Corbin Bleu, Grace Phipps, Joe Mantegna, Shirley Jones, Jason Ritter, Sharon Lawrence, Kenny Ortega, Catherine O'Hara, and many more, the evenings spotlights shined brightest on Ms. Moreno and daughter, Fernanda Gordon, Mr. Tamblyn with daughter Amanda Tamblyn and Mr. Chakiris, who was accompanied by the beautiful Morgan
Fairchild.
. 

The honorees speak
Walter Mirisch says he remembers seeing West Side Story on stage at The Winter Garden Theatre and the excitement of that production made him feel that this would make a great movie. It took a while to get that film made but it was well worth it. Think about the excitement of Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents. Throw in Lehman Engel and Robert Wise and WOW! Check out these great LIFE Magazine Photos.


Russ Tamblyn originally tested for the role of Tony. Russell Irving "Russ" Tamblyn (born December 30, 1934) is an American film and television actor, who is arguably best known for his performance as Riff, the leader of the Jets gang.
George Chakiris, Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn place their handprints outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011.

Tamblyn was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of actors Sally Triplett and Eddie Tamblyn. He is the older brother of Larry Tamblyn, organist for the 1960s band The Standells.
 Discovered at the age of ten by actor lloyd Bridges after acting in a play, Tamblyn's first film appearance was a small non-speaking role in 1948's The Boy with Green Hair. He also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show as a child. He portrayed the young Saul in Cecil B DeMille's 1949 version of Samson and Delilah
He played the younger version of John Dall's character in the 1950 film noir Gun Crazy
Later the same year, he had a minor role as Spencer Tracy's son Elizabeth Taylor's younger brother in Father of the Bride, as well as in the following year's sequel, Father's Little Dividend, both directed by Vimcente Minnelli.
He was also a young soldier in boot camp in 1953's Take the High Ground
His training as a gymnast in high school and abilities as an acrobat prepared him for his breakout role as Gideon, the youngest brother, in 1954's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  

He appeared with Glen Ford and Broderick Crawford in The Fastest Gun Alive (1956), where he performed an extraordinary "shovel" dance at a hoe-down early in the film. 
Though uncredited, he served as a choreographer for Elvis Presley in 1957's Jailhouse Rock
He portrayed the role of Norman Page in the 1957 film adaptation of Peyton Place, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
He then played Tony Baker, a cocky, slang-slinging, switch-blading, drag-racing, dope-dealing tough teen in 1958's High School Confidential. Performances in film musicals included the title role in 1958's tom thumb and Danny, one of the sailors in the 1955 film version of Hit the Deck


Riff: [singing] When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way! from you first cigarette your last dyin' days.
In 1960, he portrayed The Cherokee Kid alongside Glenn Ford in Cimarron. He appeared in two 1962 MGM-Cinerama movies, The Wonderful World of The Brothers Grimm with a cast that included Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Boehm, Barbara Eden, Jim Backus, and Buddy Hackett, and How the West Was Won with a cast that included Henry Fonda, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart and John Wayne

He was seen the next year as Orm in The Long Ships, as Luke Sanderson in The Haunting, and as Lt. "Smitty" Smith in Follow the Boys


Tamblyn starred in the 1966 Japanese kaiju film War of the Gargantuas. I went to see this film when it opened!
He appeared in the horror film Necromancer in 1988.
Tamblyn played the supporting role in Neil Young's 1982 Human Highway while also credited for screenplay and choreography.

Tamblyn is self-credited as director, choreographer and actor for Neil Young's Greendale concert tour.

[singing]
Bernardo: I'd like to go back to San Juan.
Anita: I know a boat you can get on!

 The Girls: [singing] I like to be in America, OK by me in America, everything free in America...
Bernardo: [singing] For a small fee in America!


 Anita: You have your big important council. The council,
[kiss]
Anita: or me.
[kiss]
Bernardo: First one,
[kiss]
Bernardo: then the other.
[Tries to kiss her, she pulls away]
Anita: Ah, I'm an American girl now, I don't wait.
Bernardo: Ah, back home women know their place.
Anita: Back home little boys don't have war councils.
Bernardo: Ah, but they do here. You want me to be an American, don't you? 

 Riff: Boy, am I a victim of disappointment in you.
 

[first lines] [the Jets dance across the streets of New York, eventually coming to a playground where they toss around a basketball. The ball is intercepted by Bernardo, leader of the Sharks]
Riff: [snaps fingers at Bernardo] Come on.
[Bernardo drops the ball, Riff picks it up]
Riff: Beat it. 
  
Rita Moreno (born December 11, 1931) is a Puerto Rican singer, dancer and actress.
  
Tony: You heard - it's gonna be a fair fight!
Doc: And that's going to cure something?
Tony: From here on in, everythin's gonna be all right! I got a feelin'!
Doc: What have you been taking tonight?
Tony: A trip to the moon! And I'll tell ya a secret. It ain't a man that's up there, Doc. It's a girl, lady. Buenas noches, Senor.
Doc: Buenas noches? So that's why you made it a fair fight...
Tony: I'm gonna see her tomorrow an' I can't wait!
Doc: Tony... things aren't tough enough?
Tony: Tough? Doc, I'm in love!
Doc: And you're not frightened?
Tony: Should I be? 
Doc: [after a pause] No. I'm frightened enough for the both of us

Rita Moreno is the only Hispanic and one of the few performers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar (for West Side Story...beating out Judy Garland for her riveting performance in Judgement at Nuremberg),and a Tony, and was the second Puerto Rican to win an Academy Award.

Maria: My brother is a silly watchdog!
Bernardo: Ah, my sister is a precious jewel!
Anita: What am I, cut glass?

Moreno was born Rosa Dolores Alverío in Humacao, Peurto Rico, to Rosa María, a seamstress, and Paco Alverío, a farmer.

She moved with her mother to New York City at the age of five, and took the surname of her stepfather, Edward Moreno. She began her first dancing lessons soon after arriving in New York from a friend of her mother, a Spanish dancer called Paco Cansino, who was the uncle of Rita Hayworth.



When she was 11 years old, she lent her voice to Spanish language versions of American films.

She had her first Broadway role — as "Angelina" in Skydrift — by the time she was 13, which caught the attention of Hollywood talent scouts.

 





Rita Moreno appeared in small roles in The Toast of New Orleans and Singin' in the Rain, in which she played Zelda Zanners.


 
Riff: Look, Tony, I've never asked the time of day from a clock but I'm asking you, come to the dance tonight. I already told the gang you'd be there.
If you don't show I'll be marked lousy.
Tony: What time?
Riff: Ten.
Tony: Ten it is.
Riff: Womb to tomb!
Tony: Birth to Earth. And I'll live to regret this.
Riff: Who knows? Maybe what you've been waitin' on will be twitchin at the dance tonight.
Tony: Who knows? Could be... Who knows?
In March 1954, Moreno was featured on the cover of Life Magazine with a caption “Rita Moreno: An Actresses' Catalog of Sex and Innocence.”(See above)
 In 1956, she had a supporting role in the film version of The King and I as Tuptim, but disliked most of her other work during this period.
Did you see George Chakirison The Talk? He is 77 years old! 

He looks amazing!!

 In 1961, Moreno landed the role of Anita, which was played by Chita Rivera on Broadway. Moreno won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for that role.
 After winning the Oscar, Moreno thought she would be able to continue to perform less stereotypical film roles, but was disappointed.
 "Ha, ha. I showed them. I didn't make another movie for seven years after winning the Oscar.... Before West Side Story I was always offered the stereotypical Latina roles. The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns. I was always barefoot. It was humiliating, embarrassing stuff. But I did it because there was nothing else. After West Side Story, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of gang stories."

 West Side Story is a 1961musical film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was adapted from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It also starred Natalie Wood (check out my blog yesterday0, Richard Beymer, and David Winters, and it was photographed by Daniel L. Fapp, A.S.C., in Super Panovision 70.
After about one-third of the movie had been shot, the Mirisch Company, which had become increasingly concerned that the production was over-budget, fired Robbins, who, according to Saul Chaplin in his autobiography, nearly suffered a nervous breakdown during the time he worked on the film. The remaining dance numbers were handled by Robbins' assistants. However, because of his great creative contribution to the film, Wise agreed Robbins be given co-directing credit, even though Wise directed the majority of the film himself. But as Georhe Chakiris said to me, Robbins contributions are immense even in the scenes he did not directly fimed and should never be negated.

Tony: Well end your suffering little man. Why don't you pack up your gear and clear out of here? 



 Riff: Four-and-a-half years I live wit' a buddy an' his family. I think I'm diggin' a guy's character... Boy, I'm a victim of disappointment in you.
Tony: End ya sufferin', little man. Why dontcha just pack up ya gear an' move out?
Riff: 'Cause ya ma's hot fa me... 

 The film's opening sequence was shot on the streets of New York City, mainly in the area where the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts campus of Fordham University now stands. Veteran director Robert Wise was chosen as the director and producer because of his familiarity with urban New York dramas, such as Odds Against Tomorrow. Wise had never directed a musical before and when it was suggested that Jerome Robbins, who had directed the stage version, be brought in to handle all the music and dance sequences in the film, Wise agreed.

 Maria: All of you! You all killed him! And my brother, and Riff. Not with bullets, or guns, with hate. Well now I can kill, too, because now I have hate!


Thank you to all who contributed to West Side Story and to this blog!


 Harlan Boll and WIKIPEDIA IS THE MAIN SOURCE OF THIS BLOG TODAY.
( Photos Credit:  ATHENA HOUGE for Grauman's Chinese Theatre Event)

NO COPY WRITE INFRINGEMENT INTENDED



GREAT NEWS!!!!!--- JOHN O'HURLEY (Seinfeld, Dancing With the Stars and others.
O'Hurley has also been the host of Purina's annual National Dog Show every Thanksgiving since 2002) has joined the performers roster for the Zani's Furry Friends Benefit on November 26 and the Laurie Beechman. GET YOUR TICKETS!
With Emily Buttner, Sean Harkness, Amy Ralske, Len Cariou, Phil Geoffrey Bond, Mark Janus, Eve Weiss, Tanya Moberly, Bill Zeffiro, Elena Bennett, Jonathan Russell, Peter Napolitano, David Vernon, and Deb Berman! 
See The Variety Show does exist!



Nov 28
8pm
THE TRIAD, 158 West 72nd Street
RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES...JERRY HERMAN
This is the launch of a new series. Once a month, Richard will be celebrating a different theme. A Benefit for Carol Channing's Foundation for the Arts. (www.ChanningArts.org) Anna Bergman,Diane J. Findlay, Peggy Herman, Sue Matsuki, Miles Phillips, Jana Robbins, Richard Skipper, Lee Roy Reams, Walter Willison, Bob Mattern, John Patrick Schutz, Sarah Rice. RESERVATIONS A MUST! $25 show plus two drink minimum, $50 PREMIUM SEATS plus two drink minimum (includes complementary glass of champagne).

Have your voice heard – You can make a difference!







I have been fortunate enough to call among my friends several celebrities.
The one thing that I've gleaned from them beyond their bodies of work is their humanness.

Thank you to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you ALL have given to the world!


REMINDER:
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