‘West Side Story’ is initially inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but before it became a sensation on the big screen, it made waves as a Broadway play. The premise follows two warring gangs in New York City. The white Jets led by Riff and Bernardo’s Puerto Rican Sharks have a shared animosity that makes co-existence impossible. However, when Riff’s best friend, and former Jet, Tony, meets Maria, Bernardo’s younger sister, the chemistry is undeniable.
Their love is the only hope of reconciliation between the two gangs, who move towards complete domination of the streets. Before it can be stopped, tragedy strikes as ‘West Side Story’ moves to a heartbreaking climax. The film’s setting accentuates the plot, making it iconic throughout the ages. Naturally, you might be curious about where ‘West Side Story’ has been filmed. We have the details right here.
West Side Story Filming Locations:
Parts of the movie have been filmed in New York while most of the scenes have been shot at the studios in West Hollywood. Without much ado, let us dive into the particulars of filming. However, before that, check out this beautiful picture of filming taking place on the streets of New York City.
Filming of a street dance scene in NYC from West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. (1961) pic.twitter.com/J8nbhGihAW
— Movies in the Making (@moviesinmaking) March 3, 2017
The scenes between the Jets and the Sharks concerning the ‘turf’ is supposed to include one block surrounding the school’s playground. However, it is filmed in two locations edited together. These include 110th Street on the east side of Manhattan, situated between 1st and 2nd Avenues, and 68th street on the west side of Manhattan. The latter is located between West End Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue. You can check out old footage of the film being shot there.
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Notably, filming took place just before the buildings in the area were demolished. The area was redeveloped as the Lincoln Center Urban Renewal Project, located to the northwest of what is now the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Since the buildings were slated to be demolished, the filming crew got the greenlight to alter the paint or spray them with graffiti, capturing an authentic essence. Check out the official tweet from the Lincoln Center’s handle confirming that the film has been shot in the surrounding areas.
#DYK that the 1961 West Side Story film was shot in the neighborhood surrounding Lincoln Center? This Friday #LCOutofDoors celebrates Leonard Bernstein's iconic score at West Side Story Reimagined. #Bernsteinat100 >> https://t.co/faVPvLlBrH pic.twitter.com/b40vOKB39s
— Lincoln Center (@LincolnCenter) August 7, 2018
Other New York locations include Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, Columbus Avenue & West 60th Street where the dance scene takes place, and an aerial shot of Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan. Check out the aerial shot being filmed.
"Here come the Jets
Like a bat out of hell—
Someone gets in our way
Someone don't feel so well!"
Filming “West Side Story” (1961) pic.twitter.com/5miCkx7cbN
— James William ஜ (@veniveci) January 6, 2019
Most older movies relied more heavily on studios, and ‘West Side Story’ is no exception. Significant chunks of the film have been shot on sound stages at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio, which is now known as The Lot. It is located at 1041 North Formosa Avenue at Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood.
The Lot has a rich history tied to Hollywood and continues to host independent film studios. You can check out a tweet about the final scene of ‘West Side Story’ being filmed. It appears to take place on a sound stage.
Filming the final scene of WEST SIDE STORY (1961) pic.twitter.com/mnF6BIti7X
— Every Musical Ever (@everymusicalpod) November 7, 2017
In conclusion, it is clear that ‘West Side Story’ has made excellent use of the locations. Time and luck favored the production since they managed to film the scenes in New York’s West Side right before buildings were demolished. Similarly, the playground used happened to be the city’s hotspot for Puerto Rican immigrants. Therefore, despite technically being on the East Side, the playground on 110th Street fits right into the film’s narrative imagery. Overall, the factors combine to give us a movie that remains an indelible part of Hollywood’s history. Perhaps this is why ‘West Side Story’ is still talked about and has a cult following.
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