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A place for West Side Story (1961): Gender, race, and tragedy in Hollywood's adaptation

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Title: A place for West Side Story (1961): Gender, race, and tragedy in Hollywood's adaptation
Author(s): Woller, Megan B.
Advisor(s): Magee, Gayle S.
Department / Program: Music
Discipline: Musicology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.Mus.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): Music Musicology Leonard Bernstein Film Musical Theater
Abstract: In 1961, three years after West Side Story premiered on Broadway, Hollywood created a highly successful film version. Although directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins strove to remain faithful to the original production in many ways, the change in medium necessitated a number of alterations, including those that conformed to the particular conventions of the Hollywood studio system. In this paper, I explore the film West Side Story as an adaptation in order to demonstrate how Hollywood’s conventions impact the show. The effects of the Production Code, the star system, and the practice of dubbing the actors all had a significant impact on the film. More than that, alterations made to Leonard Bernstein’s music coupled with cinematic techniques modify the musical’s dramatic arc while simultaneously affecting both the gendered and ethnic representations within the show. My approach within this paper takes into account how the music, lyrics, dialogue, and cinematography all work together to form a creative adaptation of West Side Story. Therefore, I combine cinematic and musical analysis in ways that have yet to be applied to this film. I take this approach in order to better understand how West Side Story reflects and even challenges the conventions and stereotypes present during the Hollywood studio era. Furthermore, this provides insight into the ways in which West Side Story fits into film history, particularly that of the movie musical.
Issue Date: 2011-01-14
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Megan B. Woller
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-01-14
Date Deposited: December 2

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