The film's heartbreaking final scene. Maria holds Tony as he lay dying, struck down by the bullet of a gang member. When the racist police detective arrives at the crime scene and walks over to Tony's body, Maria screams "Don't you touch him!" She proceeds to call out both gangs on their racial hate, the white gang that killed her brother and the Puerto Rico gang that killed Tony with their rivalry. She calls out the anger in herself too because she now has hate formed suddenly because the man she loved is dead.
At that scene, you could hear practically the entire movie audience sobbing. We sobbed at the untimely death of Tony. We sobbed at the untimely death of actress Natalie Wood.
WEST SIDE STORY does not open with credits. The credits came at the end with an imaginative Saul Bass presentation befitting the Manhattan city street story. There's a beautifully arranged and orchestrated closing instrumental medley.
During those closing credits, no one got up and filed out. People stayed in their theatre seats and treated the closing credits with a reverence, as if we were all in church. I believe that Milwaukee audience was paying respects to the memory of Natalie Wood.
WEST SIDE STORY was on cable TV a couple of months ago, uncut and commercial free. Yes. I lost myself in it once more. You have it admit. That dance open with the Jets and the Sharks is one of the best opening sequences ever seen in a classic American movie musical.
WEST SIDE STORY. I could watch it again and again. I'll never forget the reverence and affection of the Milwaukee that December afternoon in 1981.