Episode 12 Movie - West Side Story - 1961 and 2021 Versions

We explore both movie versions of West Side Story with discussion of the influence of American attitudes toward suburbia, the history of the neighborhood and of the playground movement, as well as how public space and transit appear - or don't - in each version.
Episode 12
Movies - West Side Story – Original movie made in 1961 & remake made in 2021

These two movie versions of West Side Story offer poverty, gangs, and a disappearing neighborhood as a backdrop for beautiful retellings of Romeo and Juliet. But these films are also excellent prisms through which to view attitudes about city neighborhoods and urban spaces from two different periods of time. 1961 was the heyday of suburbia in the US, while the bloom had long disappeared from that rose by the remake of West Side Story in 2021. The first version gives us a dingier and lonelier urban landscape, while the second version emphasizes the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the injustice that is being done to the people who live there with its destruction. In the neighborhood's place will be Robert Moses' "urban renewal" project of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the adjacent development of Lincoln Towers. 

We talk about Lincoln Towers, both as its future is portrayed in the movies and as it was actually planned and transformed over the decades. With so much of the films, especially the first, taking place in playgrounds, we talk about the history of the playground movement. We also visit the 72nd St. subway station, which appears in the second version of the movie, and talk about its history.

Our moment in equity talks about the history of Lincoln Towers, who appears in each movie, and the career of Rita Moreno.
Megan Margino, Play Strike! Exploring NYC Playgrounds Through Historical Newspapers, New York Public Library (Aug. 26, 2014) – https://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/08/26/play-strike-nyc-playground-history  
Ariel Aberg-Riger, The Surprising History of Politics and Design in Playgrounds, CityLab Design (May 16, 2019) (an illustrated graphic history) – https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-16/the-politics-behind-every-new-york-city-playground 
72nd Street Subway Station, Michael Minn (blog undated) – https://michaelminn.net/newyork/areas/upper-west-side/72nd-street-subway-station/index.html 
The Cloisters Museum & Gardens, New York Landmark’s Conservancy (Undated) – https://nylandmarks.org/explore-ny/the-cloisters-museum-gardens/ 
Moment in Equity 
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, American Masters (Season 5, Episode 10), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Oct. 5, 2021) – https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/stream-rita-moreno-documentary/11654/# 
Adam Kapner, History of Lincoln Towers in New York City, Neighborhood: Upper West Side (Sept. 13, 2020) – https://lincolntowersnewyork.com/history-of-lincoln-towers-nyc/ 
Episode 12 Movie - West Side Story - 1961 and 2021 Versions
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