|Posted by Susan aka Jet Goddess on March 14, 2012 at 1:55 AM|
This is a must read not just for West Side Story fans, but also for anyone who appreciates the creative process that goes into film making. The passion for the dance is expressed through the eyes of each author, making the pages come to life.
I had no doubt that the writers would provide an up-close and personal view of the agony of auditions (multiples in many cases), the grueling hours of rehearsals, the sore muscles, and in the end, the deep satisfaction of contributing to one of the greatest film classic of all time. And the writers did not disappoint. If that was all there was, that would have been enough. The writers however, were young, gorgeous, talented and creative with a bit of a rebellious streak and a penchant for fun guaranteeing that the good memories created were not restricted to the screen.
Before even reaching Los Angeles, Tony Mordente had to deal with his dogs and along with Tommy Abbott, endure an “easy rider” type of experience in Texas. Bob Banas had a suspicion that some friends were playing a prank on him when he first got a call for auditions; Maria Jimenez Henley literally almost went from hospital to first rehearsal. Tucker Smith not only participated in the infamous rain dances, but also impulsively led a parade (told by at least three witnesses). Jerome Robbins wanted the two gangs to stay away from each other in order to create a sense of rivalry, but in the beginning the real rivalry was between the west coast dancers and the east coast dancers. Surprisingly enough, the long hours under their difficult taskmaster fueled their verve to fill their down time with some intense poker games that sometimes included a monkey and Mickey Rooney, play cowboys with horses and guns, conduct chariot races, and drive their poor assistant director Robert Relyea almost insane and even incur the wrath of Billy Wilder. Bonus trivia: There is a Star Trek connection.
The writers of course grew up and matured into seasoned professionals with amazing resumes, never losing their West Side Story siblings. The continuous crossing of paths both professionally and personally is one of the more touching element of the book.
To read this book is to learn about backstage anecdotes on the filming of West Side Story, the trials and tribulations of a dancer and the joy and beauty of longtime friendships.