�This is Our Turf!�: Puerto Rican youths in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1750-3159
  • E-ISSN: 1750-3167



In 1961 directors Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise as well as screenwriter Ernest Lehman adapted the 1957 stage musical West Side Story into a film, and in the process engaged with the complex racial and ethnic discourses of Broadway and Hollywood. Thus, I explore how the depiction of the Puerto Rican characters grows out of significant trends onstage and in film. Furthermore, this article foregrounds adaptation by examining how the film portrays the Puerto Rican gang in relation to the so-called American gang and the Puerto Rican female characters in ways that both intersect with and make changes from the original stage production. Characterization through the music, lyrics, book and visuals all distinguish the different ethnic groups, in part through well-worn stereotypes. In fact, a tension in the representation of the Puerto Rican gang members results from the combination of highly problematic stereotyping and an attempt to give them more agency than in the original Broadway production. My analysis centres on three exemplary musical numbers, the Prologue, the �Mambo� and �America� in order to tease out various aspects of the film�s portrayal of Puerto Rican youths.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): adaptation; Broadway; ethnicity; film musical; Latin Americans; stereotypes
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