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They Did Good Buddy Boy: Review of Our Story

Posted by webmaster on March 14, 2012 at 2:05 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.

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14 Comments

Reply mplo
9:20 PM on September 17, 2012 
I've been reading the new book so far, and I love it! It's so cool to read about what motivated the various cast members of our beloved movie/musical classic to become involved in West Side Story, both on screen and on stage, as well as what went on behind the scenes. It hasn't taken the magic out of West Side Story for me, either.
Reply kat
2:45 AM on September 29, 2012 
I loved reading the book. It was fascinating to see how different people experienced the same situation. I have really enjoyed seeing the recent photos posted on this site, the broadway ones as well as the ones of the film. What is it about West Side Story that just makes it live on and on? Kat
Reply kat
3:30 AM on September 29, 2012 
Why was Chita not placed in the film version? And was it hard to adapt to being a different character, changing from the jokey Arab to the more serious, angry Action? As well as dealing with the change from live audience to the repeated takes required to make a film? Do you feel there was some resentment, even jealousy, from other cast members due to the extra responsibility given to you with helping Natalie Wood with her dancing as well as finishing the filming of the Dance Scene? Kat
Reply kat
2:56 AM on October 5, 2012 
al says...
Why was Chita not placed in the film version? And was it hard to adapt to being a different character, changing from the jokey Arab to the more serious, angry Action? As well as dealing with the change from live audience to the repeated takes required to make a film? Do you feel there was some resentment, even jealousy, from other cast members due to the extra responsibility given to you with helping Natalie Wood with her dancing as well as finishing the filming of the Dance Scene? Kat
Reply kat
1:09 AM on October 8, 2012 
I was surprised to see that Tony (Action) thought he could have done a better job of acting as Action in WSS - we always tend be our own worst critic! Personally I think Action was one of the most believable characters in the movie! Kat (an ardent fan!!)
Reply mplo
10:29 AM on October 19, 2012 
al says...
Why was Chita not placed in the film version? And was it hard to adapt to being a different character, changing from the jokey Arab to the more serious, angry Action? As well as dealing with the change from live audience to the repeated takes required to make a film? Do you feel there was some resentment, even jealousy, from other cast members due to the extra responsibility given to you with helping Natalie Wood with her dancing as well as finishing the filming of the Dance Scene? Kat


Hi, Kat:

I think that Chita Rivera had already signed on and commissioned herself to be on "Bye Bye Birdie".
Reply mplo
11:38 AM on October 19, 2012 
kat says...
I was surprised to see that Tony (Action) thought he could have done a better job of acting as Action in WSS - we always tend be our own worst critic! Personally I think Action was one of the most believable characters in the movie! Kat (an ardent fan!!)


I agree with you wholeheartedly, Kat. All of the characters in West Side Story were believable, but Action was one of the characters that really stood out for me.
Reply adam white
1:20 AM on April 24, 2013 
great reading on the behind the scenes of what i think is the best musical if not the best movie of all time...read it !
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