Set-Up: It’s the final scene. Doc has erroneously (not to his knowledge) told Tony that Maria has died at the hands of her jealous lover Chino. A distraught Tony runs on to the streets looking for him.
I sort of didn’t know where to start the scene, it’s one continues movement but then I decided I’d begin it just after Doc’s final lines. So, we open on Tony.
Tony: “No. Maria”
(That’s Ned glass as Doc. He’s primary a television actor (and Emmy nominee). If there’s one thing I don’t appreciate about the way West Side Story has gone down in history, it’s the apparent lack of notice of the larger ensemble at work. Even though I’m generally meh on Chakiris’ work, the entire cast is turning in more than commendable performances.)
Tony: “Not Maria, Doc.”
Poor, Beymer. From what I’ve discerned, he seems to be the least celebrated of the main cast, which is a shame. Despite that newcomer prize from the Golden Globes he never really went on to bigger, brighter things. Well, he was on Twin Peaks, so there’s that. He’s still alive, too, but ever noticed how only old Oscar nominees are remembered? So, Beymer doesn’t even show up on notices of classic actors still alive. Incidentally, Russ Tamblyn (who maybe – maybe not gives my favourite performance of the film) – his brother from another mother – is also alive. Those two need to get together immediately for a project, no?
Tony: “Chino! Chino!”
That shot, immediately above, is my favourite (well, one of a number of the) – the film deserved its cinematography award.
Tony: “Come and get me, too, Chino! Chino! Chino! Come and get me, too, Chino!”
Even though I don’t think you should praise an actor for giving a “brave” performance even if it’s not a very good one, I think that the level of difficult placed on the two leads (no singing and all) is often ignored. Granted, I think they both manage to overcome, but moving from Tony’s general easiness to the highly played lilts of the final act must be something challenging – it’s where the film really seems to become something Shakespearean and Beymer succeeds, I think. This scene parallels with the “wedding scene” as my favourite scene for both Wood and Beymer.
Susan Oakes as Anybodys, there. This was her first, and last, film. Yes, this is an oversimplification of the tomboy issue, but we cannot have everything in depth, can we?
Tony: “Who’s that?”
Anybodys: “It’s me, Anybodys. Come on.”
Tony: “Get outta here. Chino, come and get me, damn you!”
Anybodys: “What are you doin’?”
Tony: “Get out of here! Chino!”
Anybodys: “Why don’t you come with me? We’ll find…”
Tony: “It ain’t playin’, anymore. Can’t any of you get that?”
I believe it’s Nathaniel who always mentions his appreciation of the paucity of close-up in older films. I love, for example, how this scene is shot with Tony appearing so big and Anybodys so little. Before, Tony was always marked by his benign nature and Anybodys by her believe in her grandiosity. But, with the change of events Tony seems to be almost menacingly towering over her, and Riff’s death seems to have made her lose all her puff.
Anybodys: “But the gang –!”
Tony: “You’re a girl! Be a girl and beat it!”
Tony: “Chino! Come on, Chino! Get me, too!”
Placing him in the centre of the screen, like an ant in a cruel world, or shooting him from behind the wire making him trapped – I love those little things that Wise does. I do like his next musical venture (The Sound of Music) but his direction on West Side Story is marvellous.
Tony: “Chino! Chino! Chino! I’m calling for you, Chino! There’s nobody here but me. Come on! Please, will you. I’m waitin’ for you. I want you to.”
All that is a build-up for the realisation that Maria is, in fact, alive.
Tony: “Maria.”That look of disbelief always kills me.
Tony: “I – I didn’t believe hard enough.”
Maria: “Loving is enough.”
Tony: “Not here. They won’t let us be.”
So, it’s rather obvious and I need to mention it – but I will regardless – this is an obvious throwback (and something of an alternate version) of the “Somewhere” scene where the lovers had their first true embrace. They’re embracing once again, and they realise, too, that they need to find “somewhere” that’s not here if they wish for their love to thrive.
Maria: “Then we’ll get away.”
Tony: “Yeah, we can! We will.”
(As a rule dying and crying scenes are the most difficult act, at least from experience. More than anything it involves the complete eschewing of vanity (neither is really “pretty” to look at – but as far as deaths go, this one manages to be realistic…ish while still managing to seem really stylish.)
Also, how depressing is it that hopeful (but inaccurate) utterance above is Tony’s last line? Of course, I suppose, you could imagine that they’d find each other in the afterlife “somewhere”, but it’s still depressing. Everything after becomes a long-ass monologue for Natalie. And, she kills it.
Maria: “♪Hold my hand and we’re halfway there. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there. Somehow. Someday. Some…♪”
I wonder if it was so directed, or if was Beymer’s decision, for Tony to attempt to mouth the words of “Somewhere” as Maria sings – but ultimately be unable to. His mouth is moving, as you’d see, but there are no sounds coming out. I swear, this scene wrecks. Even more than the actual death in Zeffrelli’s excellent Romeo and Juliet and that’s because, obviously, Romeo and Juliet don’t die whilst the other watches on. But, it’s so much more awful watching Maria as Tony dies in her arms.
Maria (OS): “Stay back!”
Maria: “How do you fire this gun, Chino? Just by pulling this little trigger?”And, this is the beginning of Maria’s real monologue. It’s a doozy.
Maria: “How many bullets are left, Chino? Enough for you? And you? All of you! You all killed him, and my brother, and Riff…not with bullets and guns. With hate! But, now, I can kill, too; because now I have hate! How many can I kill Chino? How many? And still have one more bullet left for me?”
This is sort of a great scene for an audition, right? I can’t even think of anything significant to comment on, this bit works on every level for me. Even Natalie’s palpable tenseness works in relation to Maria, so even the slight stiltedness of the exchange works for me.
Maria: “DON’T YOU TOUCH HIM!”
Maria: “Te adora, Anton.”
There’s a scene in the novel where Maria imagines going to Tony’s to tell her what happened. How would that scene go down? And, isn’t it nice how the film opens and closes on the playground – even though as Tony rightly said “It ain’t playin’ anymore.”
Yup, West Side Story still has the power to devastate me even upon multiple watches.
(previously this year: All About Eve / Howards End / Annie Hall / The King's Speech)
What do you think of this scene? A worthy close to the film? Are Beymer and Richard turn in good performances? Does the film still have the power to move you?