The legendary composer behind West Side Story ended up resenting its success – and he wasn’t too keen on the Oscar-winning film adaptation either, his daughter has revealed.
Jamie Bernstein, the eldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the iconic musical in the 1950s, said he became frustrated by the phenomenon and how he 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 set to be released next month.
‘It became a sort of albatross around his neck,’ Bernstein told Radio Times.
‘He had to work all the harder to get people to focus on his other works, especially his symphonic works.
‘He did mention it from time to time, it was a frustration.’
‘But you can’t really get to complain about having a gigantic success,’ she added.
Jamie Bernstein, the eldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein (pictured), who created West Side Story in the 1950s, said he became frustrated by the phenomenon and how he 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 the Jets, made up of white people, and the Sharks, whose members hail from Puerto Rico.
While the initial Broadway production was a hit in its own right, the 1961 film adaptation starring Natalie Wood and RIchard Beymer sent it into the stratosphere, claiming a total of 10 Oscars.
But Mr Bernstein wasn’t much of a fan, his daughter Jamie revealed.
‘My father wasn’t crazy about the film,’ Bernstein said.
‘He thought it had deficits, and he wasn’t entirely happy with the music. Johnny Green [the musical director] created the whole prologue, my father didn’t write that.
‘He wasn’t thrilled but he didn’t say anything because he felt he didn’t have the right to complain.
‘He abdicated from being in total control and on the scene while they were making the film. He was busy doing the rest of his life.’
Bernstein said the Spielberg take on the film, starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as Tony and Maria is ‘completely fabulous.’
It has been sanctioned by herself and her two siblings Alexander and Nina, among other ‘living representatives’.
The movie has faced several delays but is finally penned for release on December 10.
The Jets gang as portrayed 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
And this time around, 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 telling ways to make it deeper, to give each character more resonance and connection with the story.
‘Another huge improvement is that the Sharks and all their relatives are actually [played by Latinos].
‘That was not the case in the first film, and the peculiar orange make-up that everyone had to wear was very problematic. With all of that gone, it has much more gritty authenticity.’
She added: ‘You couldn’t hope for the music to sound better, given it’s the New York Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.’
Leonard Bernstein died at the age of 72 in 1990.
To this day, the former leader of the New York Philharmonic, who was also a skilled pianist, remains one of the most successful American musicians ever.