20 Insane Stories From The Set Of The Original West Side Story Movie


The transition from the stage to film isn’t an easy feat, but it’s even more complicated when the musical is West Side Story, a musical known for its innovative style. With Jerome Robbins, the stage director of the musical, and veteran director Robert Wise at the helm, The Mirisch Company set out to turn the popular musical into a film that the same critics would love.

It takes a lot of work to produce a film worthy of ten Academy Awards, but the cast and crew of West Side Story were able to create a film the Library of Congress would deem “culturally significant” to join the National Film Registry.

Like the musical, the film captures the hearts of viewers and the eyes of critics for its tense scene. However, the tension wasn’t just limited to on the stage. Here are a few stories about the real-life drama behind the West Side Story film.


The original Broadway cast was too old to be cast in the movie

West Side Story/ United Artists

The original Broadway cast was passed up for being too old to play teenage characters or for looking too old in test shots. Instead, the directors planned to cast Hollywood favorites in the roles and use ghost singers for the soundtrack.

Natalie Wood was forced to practice 16 hours a day

West Side Story/ United Artists

Jerome Robbins demanded perfection and forced Natalie Wood to practice for 16 hours a day to fill the role of Maria. He made her so miserable that at one point, she begged to be fired from the film.

Richard Beymer didn’t enjoy playing Tony

West Side Story/ United Artists

Despite it becoming his most famous role, Richard Beymer disliked his portrayal of Tony so much that he walked out of the film’s London premiere. He had intended to portray the character as a street kid but his director insisted that Tony should be nice.

Russ Tamblyn was almost Tony

West Side Story/ United Artists

Russ Tamblyn originally auditioned for Tony and received a callback. The selection was narrowed down to him and Richard Beymer, with Beymer being chosen. Tamblyn was later cast as Riff.

Wood kept a list of people she didn’t like in her dressing room

West Side Story/ United Artists

Natalie Wood kept a list of people that had gotten on her bad side in her dressing room. Richard Beymer was included on the list because Wood was upset that Beymer received the role and not her then-boyfriend.

“The Taunting Scene”

West Side Story/ United Artists

During the filming of “The Taunting Scene,” where Anita is taunted and sexually harassed by the Jets, Rita Moreno was reduced to tears. As a sexual assault survivor, the scene was difficult for her to film but her cast mates were very supportive. Whenever she started crying during filming, they would immediately stop and comfort her, reassuring her that the scene would make people hate the Jets.

Maria’s secret dub

West Side Story/ United Artists

Whenever Maria sings in the film, you’re actually hearing the voice of Marni Nixon. Although Natalie Wood plays Maria, the director didn’t enjoy her singing and used Nixon’s voice instead—without telling Wood. Afraid that she would walk out before filming was over, the director chose to keep Wood in the dark by telling her that they were only going to use Nixon’s voice on the high notes. She was also asked to dub the end of “Quintet” for Anita when both Rita Moreno and her ghost singer were both ill.

The unlisted star

West Side Story/ United Artists

As the singing voice of both Maria and Anita, Marni Nixon requested to receive a part of the royalties from the movie’s soundtrack. When both the movie and record producers denied her request, Leonard Bernstein offered her one-quarter of one percent of his royalties, setting a precedent for future ghost singers. Bernstein and Nixon had previously performed together with the New York Philharmonic.

Maria’s bracelet

West Side Story/ United Artists

Natalia Wood wears a bracelet on her left wrist while performing as Rita. The bracelet was used to hide a bone protrusion injury sustained during the filming of another film. 

The Sharks’ leather wristbands

West Side Story/ United Artists

After one of the actors playing a Shark purchased a leather archer wristband at a sporting goods store, the rest of the Sharks ended up purchasing one. The costume designer liked their bracelets and allowed them to wear them during filming. 

Brownwashing the Sharks

West Side Story/ United Artists

To make the characters “look Puerto Rican,” they used brown makeup on Natalie Wood and George Takiris. Rita Moreno was also forced to wear the same makeup so the characters would be the same skin tone.

Whitewashing the Jets

West Side Story/ United Artists

Like the Sharks, the Jets were expected to “look white.” Several of the Jets actors were expected to bleach their hair and wear lighter makeup to create a visual contrast between the two gangs.

Moreno helped her cast mates with pronunciation

West Side Story/ United Artists

Rita Moreno was the only Puerto Rican cast in “West Side Story,” which meant her cast mates had to develop their accents. If they had issues with how to pronounce a word or say something, they turned to Moreno.

Filming “Cool”

West Side Story/ United Artists

The filming of “Cool” was very demanding and strenuous for the actors. During filming, Eliot Feld, who played Baby John, ended up collapsing and being hospitalized for pneumonia. After the scene was finished, the cast burned the knee pads used in the scene.

Real gang members were hired to protect the cast and crew

West Side Story/ United Artists

Jerome Robbins wanted to utilize the streets on New York City during filming, but he wasn’t prepared for the crowd of fans that would gather to watch them. At one point, people began to throw rocks at the cast members from the nearby abandoned buildings and the police were called to control the situation. When this proved to be unsuccessful, co-director Robert Wise hired local gang members to protect the cast and crew.

Robbins’ directorial debut

West Side Story/ United Artists

Jerome Robbins originally refused to work on the project unless he was directing, but the producer was nervous about hiring him to direct the entire film. Instead, he was hired to direct choreography and singing and Robert Wise was hired to direct the acting.

Reshoots led to being behind schedule and over budget

West Side Story/ United Artists

The film was shot in 65mm, which made it a very expensive project. It ended up falling behind schedule and over budget due to Jerome Robbin’s extensive reshoots of the choreography.

Wise takes over Robbin’s directorial duties

West Side Story/ United Artists

The producers were not happy with the delays and expense of Jerome Robbin’s numerous reshoots. He was pulled off the project, leaving Robert Wise to finish filming and editing the film according to the schedule.

“America” took multiple takes to film

West Side Story/ United Artists

According to Rita Moreno, “America” took 25 takes to film due to issues with the costume. At the end of the scene, all the girls are pushed up onto a guy’s shoulder. Rita’s dress, which was made of silk, made her slide off the shoulders of George Chakiris, who was wearing a suit made of silk.

Riff inspired a Michael Jackson hit

West Side Story/ United Artists

According to Russ Tamblyn, Riff is the inspiration behind “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. At the end of “When You’re A Jet,” Riff tells Bernardo to “beat it.” The energy and venom behind the line are similar to Jackson’s hit

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You


These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

With young Latinxs reclaiming the bruja identity, the demand for access to novenas, herbs and other specially crafted ritual tools has grown tremendously. Luckily, these Latinx-owned online botanicas have made it easy for brujas, or anyone who wants to dive deeper into the practice, to get their hands on the goods. Whether you’re looking to conjure up more cash flow or secure some extra protection from those pesky mal de ojos, these shops have the magia you need.

1. The Flowerchild Bruja

You know you’ve received some real tesoro when you open your delivery and see the holographic cellophane. Unmistakable and unique products are what make The Flowerchild Bruja’s shop un cielo de flores. Garden Smudge Sticks adorned with colorful flowers and loose herbs packaged in clear hearts make this online botanica a must-visit if you’re looking to manifest more love and beauty into your life.

2. Brooklyn Brujeria

No forlorn-looking saints and pale stricken Marys here! Brookyn Brujeria offers a fresh and modern take on the classic bruja necessity of novena candles. At $10 a candle, you can enhance the vibrations and style of your space without blowing all your chavo. With intentions like Boss Bitch and F*ck Outta Here, these ain’t your abuelitas’ novenas.

3. The Hoodwitch Store

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Thank you for all of your love & support to those who have been readers and customers of @thehoodwitch over the years. ♥️You know truly how hard I work and that this is my livelihood and culture. Visual art and magic ARE my life and practice. Not a peach flavored “turquoise” glitter drink. My magic is in my blood, my magic is in my ability to bring life to my visions, it is creation & destruction. Over the last 6 years, I have been so honored and lucky to be featured in some of the largest media publications internationally not limited to Instagram. This is bigger than that and the creative team for Starbucks knew that. I have personally worked on consulting large companies in their design concepts this work comes naturally to me. “So what’s the big fuss?” My personal style has become synonymous with the visual aesthetic of my brand. No, I absolutely did not “invent” the crystal balls nor acrylic nails but What I created was a space for myself along with other POC to feel represented and have visual imagery that was representative of us. The colorful candles of my local botanicas, my gold jewelry, and my long nails clutching my crystals are certainly not “new” but to see them presented in a manner that I shared visually in this space was. Katherine de Vos Devine @devosdevine is a lawyer and art historian who wrote a powerful and insightful look as to what exactly is happening with this situation and we are sharing it in our story today because more than anything she truly gives the full tea of the situation. I can strip away the crystal balls, the nail art, and delete all of my beautifully curated photos but I will always be me, I will always be my grandmother’s voices and wisdom. I will create, and I will always know my value and my worth. I trust and believe that my ancestors and my guides are looking after me. These giants may have the money to bully artists, creatives, and small business but we know the truth and absolutely must not allow it. As a small business owner, I appreciate you standing with us in this uphill journey and even if it goes nowhere, at the end of the day I can laugh to myself knowing that Starbucks made a drink inspired by HW 🔮

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If you’re in the market for an obsidian scrying mirror, unique tarot decks or nail polish for your mystic manos, then The Hoodwitch Store is your one-stop bruja shop. Be sure to also check out the Bruja Bookshop tab, where you’ll find vintage, one-of-a-kind libros to up your witchy wisdom. The shop offers some rare finds en español as well. However, make sure you stay up to date on the latest inventory. These goods sell out fast!

4. House of Intuition

If you live in LA, you’ve most likely heard of House of Intuition. With four brick and mortar stores throughout the area, plus an online shop, it’s probably a wise investment to grab one of their “Success” intention candles. Their beautifully colored novenas aren’t the only reason to check out the shop, though. Seriously, this casa is staked with everything from crystals skulls, cauldrons and wands to a line called “Hair Mystics” featuring crystal-infused hair mists. You’ll be glad your intuition led you here.  

5. Lunar Magic Shop

Lunar Magic Shop is the super affordable and super thoughtful shop with some of our favorite bruja apparel. You will for sure want to grab the “My Mom Will Hex You” tee for the little one in your life or the “I Am My Own Sacred Place” one for yourself. While you’re at it, you might as well secure the “Motherhood”and “Student” crystal kit bags. This small shop definitely has the whole family’s brujeria needs in mind.

6. Curandera Press

While this shop is currently taking a small hiatus, they will re-launch on August 1. This gives us time to save up for a big vela haul. We could all use some divine intervention with lazy lovers and bad hair days, right? With Curandera Press’ “No Mas Amante Perezoso” and “Good Hair Day” velas, your prayers are answered. We’re excited to see what intentions they roll out next.

Read: In These Trying Times, Boricua Bruja Emilia Ortiz Provides A Digital Space For Healing

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