Robert Wise is one of the most renowned directors of all time. He has won several awards for his work as a director and producer in different genres. However, West Side Story is his crowning achievement to me. In this classic Romeo and Juliet tale we are introduced to two lovers on different gangs in New York City.
Tony is a former member of the street gang called the Jets. When he is called upon by his best friend Riff to go to a dance he is reluctant yet, he agrees. On the other side of town, the leader of the Sharks their rivals, Bernardo is preparing his sister Maria and girlfriend Anita for the same dance. Maria is excited to go, but Bernardo is overprotective of his sister and worried that she will be targeted. At the dance the Jets and the Sharks face off, but as a rumble is about to start they have a dance off. During this time, Tony and Maria fall in love on the dance floor. Bernardo threatens Tony with Riff intervening insisting on them having a meeting afterwards for turf. When the dance ends, Riff and Bernardo meet up with their gangs where they agree to have a rumble. But, Tony goes after Maria where the two profess their love for each other. The following day as the rumble is about to happen, Tony is convinced by Maria to stop the fight as she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. However, when Tony does his best things go horribly wrong with Bernardo accidentally killing Riff causing Tony in a fit of rage to kill Bernardo. Upset at what he has done, Tony goes to Maria to try and explain. Maria is informed of her brothers death by an angry Chico, who is in love with her. When Tony shows up she forgives Tony as she knows that this was an accident. In the meantime the Jets start to look for Tony when they hear that Chico is after him with a gun preparing to kill him. Unaware of this Tony heads off to Docs where he convinces him to help him leave town with Maria. When Maria hears of the news she sends down Anita to talk to Doc and give Tony the message. However, the Jets try to rape Anita causing her to tell them that Maria is dead by Chico’s hand. When Tony hears of this he angrily chases after Chico only to see Maria. As the two run towards each other Chico shoots and kills Tony. An angry Maria shouts at the gangs telling them that this is their fault. When Tony’s body is being carried away, the gangs make up as Maria walks silently with her head covered and down.
Robert Wise was able to bring the 1961 cinematic achievement West Side Story to life. On September 14, 2005, Robert Wise passed away with a legacy behind him. As movies like West Side Story would show he truly was one in a million.