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West Side Story (1961)

 

By Bob Pakes
 
 

kcElvis Presley was asked to play the lead role of Tony in West Side Story (1961). Apparently Tom Parker did not thought it wise for his milk cow to be associated with gangs and hoodlums at this stage of his career. Parker was probably thinking about his own career, and Elvis, as the story goes, kindly declined the offer even though many top stars of the day auditioned for the promising role, including Tab Hunter, Bobby Darin, Burt Reynolds, Anthony Perkins and Russ Tamblyn (who went on to star as Riff, the leader of the Jets and Tony’s best friend).

Ironically enough, and only a few years earlier (while West Side Story was already a hit musical on Broadway) Elvis had starred in King Creole, in which his character was involved in gangs and hoodlums, killing a crook by the name of Shark. The Sharks were of course the rivals of The Jets in West Side Story.

While Elvis’ career slowly sank into a deep coma, West Side Story won 10 Oscars, making history as one of the most succesful musicals of all time. What if … ?
 
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1961RivoliWestSideStory01 1961RivoliWestSideStory03

1961RivoliWestSideStory02October 18, 1961:
The world premiere at the Rivoli in NYC.

 

natElvis and Natalie Wood (who played Maria in West Side Story) dated for a while in ’56.
Click HERE for more on Elvis and the beautiful Mrs. Wood.
 
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r2c r1cPresley also briefly dated Rita Moreno in 1957. Rita played the second female lead in the movie in the role of Anita (Bernardo’s girlfriend).
 
In her memoir (published earlier this year as ‘Rita Moreno: A Memoir’) and in some of the TV-interviews that followed the publication, Rita described Elvis in a not too flattering way in the eyes of many Elvis-fans. According to Mrs. Moreno Elvis was “dull” and “boring”, and she only dated him “to make Marlon Brando jealous”.

 
 
 
 
 

Here we have some of the worldwide movieposter-art for West Side Story from the 60′s:
 
West Side Story - USA 1-sheet (1961) West Side Story - USA 3-sheet (1961)

USA

1961

West Side Story - USA 6-sheet (1961)

 

West Side Story - Japan B2 poster (1961) West Side Story - Japan insert (1961)

Japan

1961

 

West Side Story - Italy 4-sheet (1961)West Side Story - Italy insert (1961)

Italy

1962

West Side Story - Italy photobusta 1 West Side Story - Italy photobusta 2

 

West Side Story - Spain lobby card 1

Spain

1962

West Side Story - Spain lobby card 2 West Side Story - Spain lobby card 3

West Side Story - Spain lobby card 4 West Side Story - Spain lobby card 5

West Side Story - Spain lobby card 6 West Side Story - Spain lobby card 7

 

West Side Story - Germany lobby card 03 West Side Story - Germany lobby card 34

West-Germany

1962

West Side Story - Germany lobby card 23 West Side Story - Germany lobby card 07

 

West Side Story - UK quad

UK

1962

 

West Side Story - USA half-sheet (1962) Oscars West Side Story - USA insert (1962) Oscars

USA

1962

West Side Story lobby card 1 Oscar West Side Story lobby card 2 Oscar

West Side Story lobby card 3 Oscar West Side Story lobby card 4 Oscar

West Side Story lobby card 5 Oscar West Side Story lobby card 6 Oscar

West Side Story lobby card 7 Oscar West Side Story lobby card 8 Oscar

 

West Side Story - Poland 1-sheet (1961)

Poland

1962

 

West Side Story - Italy 2-sheet (1966)

Italy

1966

 

West Side Story - USA 1-sheet (1968) Oscars West Side Story - USA insert (1968) Oscars

USA

1968

West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 2 West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 1

West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 4 West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 3

West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 6 West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 5

West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 8 West Side Story (1968) Mini Lobby Card Set 7

 

West Side Story - Japan speed poster (1968) West Side Story - Japan speed poster 2 (1968)

Japan

1968

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

krupke - kopie

 

“Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re down on our knees,
‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke, what are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke …
KRUP YOU!!

 

jets2 - kopie

 
 
 
 

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. john #

    Elvis would have been a much better Tony than Beymer. And he would have sung his own songs, unlike Beymer.
    Nice site!

    September 26, 2013
  2. colonel snow #

    A favourite movie from my youth.

    September 27, 2013
  3. memphismemories #

    I was at the premiere of WSS, a magnificient movie, and Elvis could’ve played the part SO WELL.

    Excellent Site.

    June 16, 2015
  4. mplo #

    The idea of Elvis Presley playing the role of Tony in the film West Side Story is an interesting idea, but I seriously wonder if:

    A) Elvis Presley, as Tony, would’ve completely overshadowed the other characters in this film.

    B) If the film West Side Story would’ve been rendered into “just another” Elvis Presley movie.

    C) How well Elvis Presley’s heavy southern accent (He was originally from somewhere down in Tennessee.) would’ve gone over during that day in New York’s Hollywood, or Hollywood, generally.

    I realize that Elvis Presley, unlike Richard Beymer, definitely had the “tough-but-tender” look of an ex-gang member, plus he had the personality and the dancing/singing ability, but I still wonder about the above things I wrote, just the same.

    October 23, 2016
    • Michael Garfield #

      @mplo. Elvis was originally from Mississippi, not Tennessee. Yes, I agree, Elvis would have overshadowed the rest of the characters in the film because they were played by people who, even collectively, didn’t come anywhere near Elvis’ influence and iconic status. He changed everything, they changed nothing. He was a star not an ensemble player. As to Rita Moreno’s opinion of Elvis, well she was no doubt one of the Hollywood clique – the ones who like to give themselves pseudo sophisticated heirs and graces and look down their noses at who they thought of as an unsophisticated country yokel. Marlon Brando and Natalie Wood were also less than complimentary of Elvis, who himself at least had the good grace to keep negative opinion of others private, and not publicly announce them. The fact that his detractors couldn’t says more about them than it does him.

      November 5, 2016

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