West Side Story Composer Leonard Bernstein ‘Didn’t Love the Movie’, His Daughter Reveals

The legendary composer behind West Side Story hated its success — and wasn’t too keen on the Oscar-winning film adaptation, his daughter has revealed.

Jamie Bernstein, the eldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the iconic musical in the 1950s, said he became frustrated with the phenomenon and had to work harder for his other works to get noticed.

It comes as Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet-inspired classic, set in New York, is due out next month.

“It became like an albatross around his neck,” Bernstein said Radio Times.

“He had to work all the harder to get people to focus on his other works, especially his symphonic works.

‘He sometimes mentioned it, it was a frustration.’

“But you can’t really complain about a huge success,” she added.

Jamie Bernstein, the eldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein (pictured), who created West Side Story in the 1950s, said he became frustrated with the phenomenon and had to work harder for his other works to get noticed.

The musical follows star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, who fall in love on the streets of New York despite belonging to rival gangs (Pictured: Tony and Maria played by Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the Oscar-winning 1961 film adaptation)

The musical follows star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, who fall in love on the streets of New York despite belonging to rival gangs (Pictured: Tony and Maria played by Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the Oscar-winning 1961 film adaptation)

The musical follows star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, who fall in love on the streets of New York despite belonging to rival gangs the Jets, made up of whites, and the Sharks, whose members hail from Puerto Rico.

While the first Broadway production was a hit in its own right, the 1961 film adaptation starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer sent it into the stratosphere, winning a total of 10 Oscars.

But Bernstein wasn’t much of a fan, his daughter Jamie revealed.

“My father didn’t like the movie,” Bernstein said.

“He thought it had flaws, and he wasn’t quite happy with the music. Johnny Green [the musical director] wrote the entire prologue, my father didn’t write it.

“He wasn’t excited, but he didn’t say anything because he didn’t think he had the right to complain.

“He relinquished total control and onstage while they were making the movie. He was busy for the rest of his life.’

Bernstein said the Spielberg version of the film, starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as Tony and Maria, is “absolutely fantastic.”

It has been approved by herself and her two siblings Alexander and Nina, among other “living representatives.”

The film has suffered several delays, but will finally be released on December 10.

The Jets gang as depicted in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story - which won a total of 10 Oscars

The Jets gang as depicted in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story – which won a total of 10 Oscars

A stand-off scene between the Sharks (left) and the Jets (right) in the 1961 film adaptation

A stand-off scene between the Sharks (left) and the Jets (right) in the 1961 film adaptation

And this time, Puerto Rican actors have been used to play members of the Sharks, making the film less “problematic.”

Bernstein said, “They’ve come up with all these little narrative ways to make it deeper, to give each character more resonance and connection to the story.

‘Another huge improvement is that the sharks and all their relatives are actually [played by Latinos].

“That wasn’t the case in the first film, and the peculiar orange make-up everyone had to wear was very problematic. Now that all that is gone, it has a much more raw authenticity to it.’

She added: “You couldn’t hope the music would sound better, since it’s the New York Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.”

Leonard Bernstein died in 1990 at the age of 72.

To this day, the former New York Philharmonic leader, who was also an accomplished pianist, is one of the most successful American musicians ever.

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