The Challenge of Adapting the Plays of Shakespeare into West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate, and Problems Posed by the Hays Code

Subject: Literature
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Personally, I find that film adaptations of other literary works usually provide the current generation a glimpse of previously or lesser-known but nevertheless could have been important works of a given earlier period, era, or even another culture and society. These usually serve as bridges that link information between separate mediums otherwise could have been deprived of audiences, viewers or even readers.

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Relying on journal article arguments and personal view, this paper will try to balance how the films West Side Story (1961) and Kiss Me, Kate (1953) as layered adaptations of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Taming of the Shrew” earlier portrayed in the musicals of the same titles. Point of reference will be limited between the film and the adaptation plays and will analyze the script to plot, theme or themes, emphasis, as well as audience and critic perceptions, as well as Hays Code.


Film adaptation is the reuse of a written work to a feature film usually considered a derivative work. Novels usually serve as the basis of a film such as Erich von Stroheim’s Greed (1924) which was an adaptation of Frank Norris’s 1899 novel McTeague (Osborne, 2004). However, film adaptation also includes the non-fiction and journalism works, autobiography, comic book, scripture, plays, as well as other films. Adaptation has been since the early years of film-making, common. The use of plays such as that of William Shakespeare’s has been used in Hollywood. In fact, multiple versions from different periods have emerged (Osborne, 2004). Shakespeare’s plays are sometimes loosely adapted such as O, Ten Things I Hate About You, West Side Story and Kiss Me, Kate among others of which this essay shall focus on with reference to Hays Code.

Aside from stage plays, hit Broadway plays such as musicals or dramas are also adapted. Nevertheless, theatrical adaptation usually does not involve as many interpolations as compared to novel adaptation. Production scenery and possibilities of motion result to many changes from the original material to the adaptation. Critics usually notice and inform readers or audiences if an adapted play has a static camera or emulates a proscenium arch. The adaptive process also provides a continuing translation from a play to film to another revised play derived from both the original and the film adaptation. Such example is that of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” which was a film adapted into a Broadway musical and then adapted again into a film (Ebert, 2005).

Adaptation of previous literary or art works into film have certain limitation such as interpolation and elision. There is always the necessity to adjust to time constraints for film viewers as a sustained audience is much easier to achieve in musicals. While script writers may wish to remain as true as possible to original materials, a richer imagination and understanding as well as a colorful and effective re-writing is necessitated in order to provide justice and close interpretation to a previously accepted storyline. Criteria may include effective re-capturing of important and climactic scenes as well as an overall equality of impact and theme (Geiger, 2004).

Elision at the same time is almost impossible to avoid. There are certain aspects of a live production or stage shows that could not be as appealing and effective in films, as focus on stage may be highlighted through the lighting system, which could not be as easily adapted on screen. This paper proceeds to discuss the said film adaptations to support its argument.

Hays Code

Hays Code also known as the Production Code was a set of industry censorship guidelines governing the production of United States motion pictures. Its name was after the head of Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) Will Hays. The MPPDA later the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the code in 1930 (Lewis, 2000). Enforcement began in 1934 but abandoned in 1968 in favor of adopted MPAA film rating system. Heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, Hays Code provided what was morally acceptable and morally unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience. Publisher Martin J. Quigley of a Chicago-based motion picture trade newspaper, lobbied for an extensive code listing what was inappropriate for the movies and a moral system that the movies could promote. Quigley recruited Jesuit priest Daniel Lord, an instructor at the Catholic St. Louis University, to write the code. By March 31, 1930 the board of directors of MPPDA adopted the code (Lewis, 2000).

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Economic reasons and changing social mores, however, had the studios produce racier films and since the body did not have an aggressive enforcement, failed to censor the films then known as “pre-code era.”

After the success of Warner Brothers’ movie “Baby Face” and Paramount Pictures’ “I’m No Angel” starring and written by Mae West, Quigley and Hay’s Los Angeles assistant Joseph I. Breen, conspired to use the Catholic Church to pressure Hollywood studios. They led the Catholic Legion of Decency to boycotts and blacklists of the movies they did not approved throughout the US. The amended Code was adopted on June 13, 1934. With the Production Code Administration, it required all films released after July 1, 1934 to obtain approval prior to release. All motion pictures in the US adhered to the code for more than thirty years (Miller, 1994). While the Production Code was beyond federal, state, or city government, Hollywood adopted the code to avoid government censorship as self-regulation was much preferred. Many local censorship boards were also dissolved. Breen became head of the new Production Code Administration (PCA) in 1934 until his retirement in 1954. Enforcement became strict to the point of being notorious which empowered Breen to change scripts and scenes that had many writers, directors, and Hollywood moguls angry (Miller, 1994).

The 1934 film Tarzan and His Mate was the first controversial case, in which short nude scenes involving a body double for actress Maureen O’Sullivan were cut out of the master negative. A production The Outlaw of mogul Howard Hughes is another famous case which was denied certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years only because of advertising focus on Jane Russell’s breasts (Lewis, 2000).

“Particular Applications” of the code includes prohibition of:

  • Nudity and suggestive dances.
  • Ridicule of religion and ministers of religion.
  • Depiction of illegal drug use and the use of liquor, “when not required by the plot or for proper characterization.”
  • Explicit portrayal of the methods of crime such as arson or smuggling.
  • Sex perversion such as homosexuality, venereal disease, and depictions of childbirth.
  • Various vulgar words, curses, and offensive phrases.
  • Murder scenes that could be imitated in real life, and brutal killings shown in detail.
  • Ridicule of marriage and the home. “Pictures shall not imply that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.”
  • Explicit depiction of adultery and illicit sex, although may sometimes be considered as necessary to the plot, must be avoided to attract interest of audience.
  • Portrayals of miscegenation.
  • “Scenes of Passion” such as “excessive and lustful kissing” and acts that “stimulate the lower and baser element.”
  • Unfair treatment of the flag of the United States, the people and history of other nations.
  • “Vulgarity” defined as “low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects.” Capital punishment, torture, cruelty to children and animals, prostitution and surgical operations must be handled with sensitivity (Lewis, 2000).

There had been films produced outside the mainstream studio system that defied the conventions of the code, such as Child Bride (1938), and cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop. However, Betty had to change from being a flapper to wearing old-fashioned housewife skirt as an effect of the code (Miller, 1994).

West Side Story

West Side Story was originally Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which was also based on Tristan and Isolde. It was adapted into the Broadway musical “West Side Story” prior to the 1961 film adaptation. It starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris. It was filmed largely in Los Angeles on sets designed by Boris Leven. The film’s opening sequence was shot on the streets of New York City, mainly in the area where the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University. Jerome Robbins, who directed the stage version, was also responsible for planning and directing all music and dance sequences, as well as all the fight scenes in the film (Vail, 2006).

The film was released on October 18, 1961 and reaped praises from critics and the public. It was the second highest grossing domestic film of the year and won ten Academy Awards including a special award for Robbins and Best Picture (I have included this bit of information to show audience impact & acceptance).

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The show opens with a fight set to music between an American gang, the Jets, and a rival gang, the Sharks, who have moved into the Jets’ territory from Puerto Rico where the leader of the Jets, Riff, and the leader of the Sharks, Bernardo were introduced. The police led by Lieutenant Scrank arrive to disperse the gangs.

Jets member Tony was perceived by the gang to be drifting away and Riff tells them that once a Jet will stay a Jet. Tony has a job at a local store and Riff invites him to join them to a dance at the neutral territory gym that night.

Bernardo’s sister, Maria also goes to the dance with her brother, where she meets some friends including Tony, and they fall in love. When they dances, they were interrupted by Bernardo, who ordered Maria to go home warning Tony to stay away from his sister.

When Tony visits Maria at her tenement block, this is perceived as the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here, they confirm their love and agreed to meet the next day at Madame Lucia’s bridal shop. In an arranged rumble, Tony arrived while the Jets and Sharks are in conference, and suggests a fair fight instead of a rumble. Both leaders agreed.

In a twist of events, the leaders of the gang were left dead after the rumble, with Tony accused of killing the enemy gang’s leader. This made the Sharks aim revenge as other events complicated communication between Tony and Maria. The culminating scene was when Tony was told Maria is already dead. Tony openly sought the Shark’s new gang leader Chino and summoned that he be killed, too. When he finally saw the live Maria, it was too late as Chino has taken fire on him. Maria and Tony reaffirmed their love but Tony dies in her arms. So much like Romeo and Juliet, tragedy brought the feud between the gangs to an end.

Spectacular due to their cinematic effect that opens to a breathtaking aerial shot of Manhattan, the film captured the city with its bridge traffic and highway ramps, its waterfront docks, parks and skyscrapers and other recognizable landmarks. It then moves steadily to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and zooms at speed down to a concrete playground.

The most notable differences from the stage production were mostly sung lyrics of the previously strong and quite vulgar words in the play. These changes might have something to do with censorship or the Hays Code as exemplified in the following:

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  • Onstage, Anita sings about her lover Bernardo: “He’ll walk in hot and tired. / So what? / No matter if he’s tired / as long as he’s hot.” In the film version, “So what?” was changed to “Poor dear” and the second instance of “hot” was changed to “here.”
  • Onstage, the line in the “Jet Song” originally “When you’re a Jet/When the spit hits the fan…” is changed in the film to, “When you’re a Jet/Let ‘em do what they can…”. In the addition, the song in the stage production ends with, “…we’re gonna beat/Every last buggin’ gang/On the whole buggin’ street/On the whole ever mother-lovin’ street’ while the film went “…On the whole buggin’ ever-lovin’ street”.
  • The stage version has Anita sing “America” with Rosalia singing positively of Puerto Rico. In the movie, Bernardo replaces Rosalia in speaking negatively of America, and the Shark boys also joined. The lyrics of were changed because the original lines were considered too derogatory to Puerto Rico and Latin American people in general.

In the movie script, the dialogues went:

Riff: Now we fought hard for this turf and we ain’t just gonna give it up…The Emeralds claimed it. We shut ’em out. The Hawks, remember, they tried to take it away, and we knocked ’em down to the cellar.

Members: Yeah, but these PRs are different. They multiply. They keep comin’. Like cockroaches. Close the windows. Shut the doors. They’re eatin’ our food. They’re breathin’ all the air. The end to free enterprise…

Riff: Hey, you heard what that Lieutenant Schrank said, eh? We gotta make nice with ’em Puerto Ricans or else. We gotta let ’em move in right under our noses and take it all away from us, or else.

Gang: No!

Riff: You’re damned right NO. So what are we gonna do buddy-boys? I’ll tell ya what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna speed fast. We’re gonna move like lightnin’. And we’re gonna clean them Sharks up once and for all so they ain’t never gonna set foot on our turf again. And we’re gonna do it in one, all-out fight…The Sharks want a piece of this world too. And they’re real down boys. They might ask for blades, zip guns…I say this turf is small, but it’s all we got, huh? Now I want to hold it like we always held it, with skin. But if they say blades, I say blades. If they say guns, I say guns. I say I want that just to be the number one – to sail, to hold the sky…OK cats, we rumble. Now, protocality calls for a war council between us and the Sharks, to set the whole thing up. So I would personally give the bad news to Bernardo.

  • In the movie Riff says “Womb to tomb” which Tony responds “Birth to earth” but in the stage production, Tony had “Sperm to worm”. The changed was due to the fact that it went beyond censorship standards for the time.
  • In the song “Gee, Officer Krupke,” some of the lyrics have been altered so that in the play. “My father is a bastard, My mom’s an S.O.B.” was changed in the movie to “My father beats my mommy, my mother clobbers me”.
  • In the movie, Pepe responds to Consuelo’s taunt against Bernardo “we came with our arms open” with “you came with your mouth open”. In the stage production, “pants” was used instead of “mouth”.

Johnson (1962) expressed disappointment with the film adaptation claiming, “…if that film had adhered to the original [the musical], then some of the impact of the West Side Story would be somewhat less jolting to the critics who have been beside themselves with praise,” (p 58). The Robbins choreography was much appreciated, by audience and critics alike, with Johnson (1962) expressing hope to a rather deplorable state of the renaissance of film adaptations during the period, “…with every technical and artistic energy in Hollywood behind it, has re-established the possibility of such a renaissance by providing the screen world with authentic Robbins choreography…” (p 58). The film adaptation, after all, promised the musical mixture of New York hoodlums to that of Shakespeare’s Veronese lovers.

Johnson (1962) who may have represented many of the audiences at that time found the dancing scenes in the film spectacular and made him wonder how it had not been conceived before on screen. He compared its impact on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing “with every turn aroused,” (p 58) and proceeded to describe the opening scene where the jets pronounced their smug superiority through masterful choreography. In this instance, Johnson (1962) claimed, “In each image, Robbins’ genius is present and Daniel Fapp’s photography, Thomas Stanford’s editing and the Bernstein score merge here to create a totally stunning cinema art,” (p 59).

He also found the visuals beautiful but rather confused on the role of visual consultant Saul Bass. However, Johnson acknowledged the incredible grasp of color and lighting that added to the emotional impact to the film’s audience crediting Boris Leven the production designer and Maurice Zuberano the production artist for the effective sequencing and touch of the visual imagination putting an almost seamless progression of the film (Johnson, 1962).

In addition, Johnson (1962) suggested the close loyalty of Ernest Lehman’s script to the original Arthur Laurents’ story. The characterization, nevertheless, were much more emphasized, from the Jets and Sharks gang members to the lead women characters of Maria and Anita. Their overall dancing displayed undeniable abilities in acting and dancing and the couples showed mastery on both. However, Lehman failed to subjugate the theatricalism when the gang members were not dancing as they become delinquent and lacked substance on their role as deviants. “…the dramatic side of the West Side Story tends to fade after the realistic promise of the dance-prologue, done without dialogue,” (p 59).

In a scene of plainclothes policeman Lieutenant Schrank played by Simon Oakland, the exchange of dialogue went:

Schrank: You hoodlums don’t own these streets. And I’ve had all the rough-house I can put up with around here. You want to kill each other? Kill each other, but you ain’t gonna do it on my beat. Are there any questions?

Bernardo: Yes, sir. Would you mind translating that into Spanish?

Schrank: Get your friends out of here, Bernardo – and stay out – please.

Bernardo: (to his gang) OK Sharks, vaminos.

Schrank: Boy, as if this neighborhood wasn’t crummy enough. (to the Jets) Now look, fellas. Fellas? Look, let’s be reasonable, huh? If I don’t get a little law and order around here, I get busted down to a traffic corner. And your friend don’t like traffic corners. So that means you’re gonna start makin’ nice with the PRs [Puerto Ricans] from now on. I said nice – GET IT! ‘Cause if you don’t, and I catch any of ya doing any more brawlin’ in my territory, I’m gonna personally beat the living crud out of each and every one of yas and see that you go to the can and rot there. Say goodbye to the nice boys, Krupke.

Krupke: Goodbye boys.

While a closed stage scenario may have brought a more effective impact, in the film, where everybody can be seen, could not hide whichever imperfection one character may bring.

But actors George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn as gang leaders of Sharks and Jets respectively were highly regarded as actor, dancers and with Tamblyn as “lyric hero without a place,” (Johnson, 1962, p 59).

The character “Ice” of Tucker Smith created for the film had him rendered an unforgettable “Cool” dance number considered as one of the best. While Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as the lead couple provided sincere performances, but the dubbed singing voices lessened their impact and contribution limiting their character emotions. Wood was seen as convincing acting her age of delicate beauty with simulated Hispanic accents. On the other end, Beymer as Tony had the “nice kid” aura too much for “Groton manners on Amsterdam Avenue” (p 60) as Johnson (1962) put it. He is convinced, however, of Beymer as an excellent juvenile with certain persuasive charm that lip-synched the singing portions with Wood effectively.

Robbins, as earlier mentioned, provided the dancing, singing and action scenes choreography, but co-director Robert Wise showed his astute eye for the camera action as well as clean and artistic editing. With a twist, Johnson (1962) saw that “The brutality of the West Side Story (especially in the rumble-sequence and when the jets attack Anita in the candy store) comes across best when the dances do not interfere with the dancers; the rumble stands by itself as the perfect mixture of dance and drama…” (p 60).

While Hollywood may be blamed for commercial scouting of stage hits exploiting these even more on film, West Side Story with the film retaining the beautiful and electrifying musical score, songs and lyrics of Bernstein and Sondheim. The box-office blockbuster for United Artists received eleven Academy Award nominations that include Best Picture, Best Director (Wise and Robbins – the first time that awards went to co-directors), Best Supporting Actor and Actress (George Chakiris in his first major film role and Rita Moreno), Best Color Cinematography, Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Film Editing, and Best Color Costume Design. At this point, parallels of the play and the film adaptations’ successes may be pointed out.

Kiss Me, Kate

Kiss Me, Kate is inspired by “The Taming of the Shrew” and the 1953 MGM film adaptation of the 1953 Broadway musical of the same name. It was a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter structured as a play within a play, the tale of two once-married, now-divorced musical theater actors, Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi. They are both performing opposite each other in the roles of Petruchio and Katherine in a Broadway-bound musical version of William Shakespeare’s play. They started on poor terms and proceeded working on the play with an all-out emotional war. During the performances, their conflict threatened the production’s success but threats from a pair of gangsters collecting gambling debt from the show’s Lucentio has kept the production going. Slapstick madness filled the show before conflicts are resolved.

The screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award. It was adapted from the musical’s book by Samuel and Bella Spewack. Directed by George Sidney, the film’s cast include Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Keenan Wynn, James Whitmore, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney, Bobby Van, and Jeanne Coyne.

The film opened with Fred Graham (Howard Keel) and Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson), meeting at Fred’s apartment to hear the score for Cole Porter’s (Ron Randall), musical version of “The Taming of The Shrew”. Fred and Lilli sing “So In Love” as a duet which was not in the musical. Bianca (Lois Lane played by Ann Miller), arrives, and sings “Too Darn Hot” and impresses Cole. Lilli almost did not want to perform in the show, as it might interfere with her getting married and honeymoon. But against Lois performing the character, she decided to play Katherine.

Lois’ boyfriend Bill Calhoun, was Lucentio in the musical who has a gambling lifestyle resulting in debt of $2,000. Lois laments Bill’s bad-boy lifestyle but Bill’s charm wins her over. Meanwhile, after a fiery confrontation during rehearsals, Fred who was also directing the show, and Lilli, got together in her dressing-room and recall happier times, singing a number from a show they did together. Nevertheless, Fred is already smitten with Lois Lane and sends some flowers to her dressing room. His Butler Paul, was confused and sends them to Lilli, making her fall back in love with Fred.

Fred, Lilli, Lois and Bill become actors of a group of travelling entertainers performing “The Taming of The Shrew”. In Shakespeare’s play, Bianca, the younger daughter of merchant Baptista, wished to marry. However, Baptista wants his elder daughter, Katherine married first. Bianca has three suitors–Gremio, Hortensio and Lucentio, and she is willing to marry anyone. Lucentio’s friend Petruchio arrives and seeking a wife. Upon hearing about Katherine, he resolved to win her over but Kate hates the idea of getting married. Petruchio serenades Katherine in the play within the play, but the second layer reality of Lilli was moved by Fred’s emotive delivery of the song. And since she was so attracted, she read the card that came with the flowers and found that it was for Lois. She attacked Fred mercilessly on stage, ad-libbing verbal abuse but when the curtain went down, Fred spanked Lilli.

After that, Lilli resolved to leave the theatre with her fiancée, Tex Calloway (Willard Parker). But Fred persuaded her to finish the show because Fred took credit of Bill’s gambling debt to impress Lois. He succeeded and Lois thanked him with a passionate kiss, much to the chagrin of Bill and Lilli. Slug and Lippy appear on stage, disguised as Petruchio’s servants, in order to keep an eye on Lilli. The play resumed and Fred as Petruchio was set to “taming the shrew”, by not allowing Katherine to eat, or sleep in a comfortable bed. But here, he is showed unhappy with his new married life and instead treasure his days of philandering.

Tex arrives with Lilli escaping her tormentors. However, Fred befriended Tex whom Lois claimed to have dated. Bill was disappointed with Lois, but she assured him that she will always love him.

Fred’s gambling debt was resolved by the untimely death of Bill’s creditors. While Lilli left the theatre, she left with a civil farewell to Fred. Fred, however thought it best that Lilli belongs in the theatre. After Lilli left, Fred was dejected.

The play’s last part had Bianca getting married to Lucentio. At the finale, the show is halted when Lilli’s understudy was missing. Then, Lilli appeared on stage and recited Katherine’s speech about how women should surrender to their husbands. Fred was finally shaken and sees Lilli in another light, singing, “Kiss Me Kate”.

The play showed an adaptation within an adaptation as The Taming of the Shrew, a dream of a drunk, was adopted into a musical, and later, as a film. As an amazingly successful musical comeback of Porter with more than a thousand run and an endless list of awards reaped, the stage production was itself a feat to address in the film making (Lubbock, 1962). Already, it was described as “…the greatest box-office attraction in the sixty-odd-year history of that theatre. The strongest suit of this production is, of course, Cole Porter’s music. Never before, or since, has he been so rich and varied in his invention. At turns he is satiric, witty, nostalgic, sensual,” (Lubbock, 1962, p 859).

In the film, all of Porter’s risqué lyrics were “cleaned up” to avoid the wrath of the censors, specifically the Hays Code. This has been viewed to have dulled much of the comedy and with a rather bland result. The song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” considered aggressive was cut in half to lessen its racist lyrics. Likewise, it was also noted that “Too Darn Hot” was sanitized: The original lyrics on the play went “I’d like to stop for my baby tonight

and blow my top with my baby tonight / I’d like to stop with my baby tonight

and blow my top with my baby tonight / but I’d be a flop with my baby tonight

cause it’s too darn hot,” while the film version went, “I’d like to fool with my baby tonight

Break every rule with my baby tonight / But pillow you’ll be my baby tonight

Cause it’s too darn hot.”

An advantage of the film, however, is the unlimited space, artistry and time for all participants: the scriptwriter, director, choreographer, and even porter as well as the actors to maximize and minimize whichever or whatever may be needed. Since the film immortalized a classic musical in its time, audiences may find the film at its best a tribute and handy presence. The effective actors and actresses of the film, however, was out-cast by second lead Ann Miller (as Lois and Bianca) exemplifying her prowess as tap dancer most specifically in “Too Darn Hot” number. This however, as already mentioned, quite ill-placed in the film as a whole.

While the Hays Code may have provided self-editing on the songs, or specifically the song “Brush Up your Shakespeare”, the entire production from the stage to the film is quite acceptable for the general audience and the censor in particular. Its problem lies on the “play within a play” concept which is more effective for stage than a film as there is the actual presentation of the stage and its actors making it easier and more acceptable to the audience.

On both films, the impact of the Hays Code was the lesser, racy appeal of the numbers in general. On stage, as the restrictions were not applicable, audience had more fun and excitement watching and listening to the brash songs as were originally written. The lyrics or words of the songs add up character and strength on both West Side Story and Kiss Me, Kate with less impact on the film version, “sanitized” to conform to industry regulation.


While film adaptation may give credit and value to lesser-known or less circulated plays which did not reach wide audience or even critic acclaim, more popular ones could proved to be real challenge such as the West Side Story and Kiss Me, Kate. As stage productions, the appeal to the audience would rely much on the seamless presentation of music, acting, stage presence and persona of the cast.

West Side Story with its dazzling opening sequence, that gradually broke into a highly-stylized dance and burst into a daring, high-stepping sequence at most exhilarating, inventive, visual ballet of pirouettes, vigorous athletic moves, and running jumps that symbolizes their dominance and energy equal to a gang brawl extended its appeal to the film through its original choreographer Robbins. He was said to be fired when production cost surpassed the original budget. However, his contribution was not overlooked and critics, as well as award-giving bodies recognized his hand on the film, as much as his on stage. The casting added value to the film production that somehow went with Robbins’ demand. However, script writing as well as the characterization of the individual as well as group casts (as gang members and actors) provided a gap in the film that was not important in the stage.

Kiss Me, Kate on the other hand is a simple extension on the success and talent of Porter. The choice of actors and actresses, however, added an impact that crowned the already very successful production. All the film needed was the bigger freedom to play around with what is already a much-accepted work of art among audiences that conquered half the globe. The film freed Kiss Me, Kate from touring limitation of the stage musical, making it more accessible and viewed wherever else that it was not able to reach before.

The Hays Code, however, provided the films less racy appeal that could have rendered a closer rendition of the films’ original stage versions. The cleaning up of the songs, nevertheless, may have mattered to some, but only had a minimal impact on the visual appeal of the film, which was most important during the period as worded and color films were evolving.

In all, the challenge posted on both films was on the interpolation and elision of the original scripts to fit the requirement in cinema. Cinema, even at that time when musical and dance were the trend as much as stage play adaptation, is much more powerful to contain and found ways to address these problems. The films served as studies that paved way for better and more versatile actors who can sing and dance and at the same time act convincingly even in silver screen, while honing writers, directors and editors to adapt much fit scenes and dialogues within a given time frame and restrictions of cinema, whichever they are.


Kiss Me Kate (1953).

Director: George Sidney.

Writers: Dorothy Kingsley (screenplay).

Sam Spewack (play)…

Release Date: 26 November 1953 (USA) more.

Genre: Comedy | Musical | Romance


Kathryn Grayson… Lilli Vanessi ‘Katherine’

Howard Keel… Fred Graham ‘Petruchio’

Ann Miller… Lois Lane ‘Bianca’

Keenan Wynn… Lippy

Bobby Van… ‘Gremio’

Tommy Rall… Bill Calhoun ‘Lucentio’

James Whitmore… Slug

Kurt Kasznar… ‘Baptista’

Bob Fosse… ‘Hortensio’

Ron Randell… Cole Porter

Willard Parker… Tex Callaway

Dave O’Brien… Ralph

Claud Allister… Paul

Ann Codee… Suzanne

Carol Haney… Specialty Dancer

West Side Story (1961)

Directors: Jerome Robbins

Robert Wise

Writers: Jerome Robbins (conception) and

Arthur Laurents (play)…

Release Date: 23 December 1961

Genre: Musical | Romance | Drama


Natalie Wood… Maria

Richard Beymer… Tony

Russ Tamblyn… Riff

Rita Moreno… Anita

George Chakiris… Bernardo

Simon Oakland… Lieutenant Schrank

Ned Glass… Doc

William Bramley… Officer Krupke

Tucker Smith… Ice

Tony Mordente… Action

David Winters… A-rab

Eliot Feld… Baby John

Bert Michaels… Snowboy

David Bean… Tiger

Robert Banas… Joyboy


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Geiger, Jeffrey (2004). “Some guidelines for analysis of film sequences.” University of Essex Film Studies, Web.

Griffin, Sean. (2002) “The Gang’s All Here: Generic versus Racial Integration in the 1940s Musical.” Cinema Journal – 42, Number 1, Fall 2002, pp. 21-45 – Article.

Johnson, Albert (1962). “Review: West Side Story by Robert Wise; Jerome Robbins; Mirisch.” Film Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 4, Films from New York, pp. 58-60.

Lewis, Jon (2000). Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle Over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry. New York University Press.

Lubbock, Mark (1962). The Complete Book of Light Opera.. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

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Notaro, Gerald A. (200^) “The Making of West Side Story (review).” Notes – Volume 63, Number 1, 2006, pp. 180-181.

Osborne, Toby (2004). “Art of Adaptation.” Hollywood Lit Sales. Web.