No Thanks, Mr Spielberg

I have just been watching a feature on the BBC News, promoting the remake of the film musical ‘West Side Story’, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Being old enough to have seen the 1961 film on release in the cinema, it remained a musical I really liked, in a genre that I don’t generally gravitate to. When I heard the film was being remade for release in 2021, I really couldn’t see the point. After all, the songs and music are the same, and the story virtually unchanged. The original film is still amazing to watch, even sixty years after it was released.

So why do it? Why not just show the original in cinemas again, for a ‘new audience’?

Watching Spielberg being interviewed this morning, I got my answer.

The original film is no longer considered to be ‘representative’. In the new age of political correctness, where history has to be reworked and authenticated to satisfy the media and some minorities, it seems that Mr Spielberg did not think there were enough ‘real Puerto Ricans’ in the original version.

Of course, Natalie Wood was the lead female character, Maria, and she was a ‘white American’ actress. Rita Moreno co-starred and she was Puerto Rican. But there were not enough minority actors in the film to satisfy Mr Spielberg, so he sought to remake it to ‘rectify that fault’.

If we follow this through, then I suspect many old musicals will have to be remade, and very soon.

‘The King and I’ starred Yul Brynner, playing the King of Thailand.
How dare they not cast a Thai actor in the role?

‘Cabaret’ stars Joel Grey as the master of ceremonies in the Kit Kat club.
Come on, we know he’s not German. Get that film remade tout suite!

‘The Sound Of Music’ tried to fool us into believing that Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were Austrians.
Why didn’t they use Austrian actors? I want to know!

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ starred Dick Van Dyke as an English professor.
We all know he is American, and there were plenty of suitable actors available in England. Get that remake made!

I could go on, but will spare you more of my sarcasm.

It is just complete nonsense.

No thanks, Mr Spielberg. If I want to watch West Side Story again, it will be the 1961 version for me.

65 thoughts on “No Thanks, Mr Spielberg

  1. On a different perspective, there are many younger people who have not seen the original movie and have little interest in old(er) movies. They will watch a new movie, though. So, by seeing the current one they’ll get to hear all that wonderful music and understand the story. You can’t beat the original, but this can pull in a new generation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They usually make that argument for remakes, I know. But the film is so similar to the original, and I doubt young people will bother to watch the 1961 film to compare it. I just wish they would stop all this, it makes me very annoyed, Jennie.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand and agree. Not to change the subject, but I have to share,…I love “I Love Lucy”,…I tried to watch a new movie called “Being the Ricardo’s” and was completely disgusted by what Hollywood tried to do. Not only was it miscast, in my opinion, it just made me almost angry for so many reasons (had to shut it off within the first 25 minutes). If they try to change “The Sound of Music” I would definitely not watch new version. “Politically and socially correct” only creates assumptions that everything before us is wrong~people wrong~attitudes wrong~history wrong ~Pete, it’s all wrong now. Just my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Pete. I didn’t want to type as though I was offended by Hollywood, lol, as I strive to never be offended! Generation after generation has its learning curves indeed. And as you said, “of its time”. Take care too!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been to see it and on balance I thought it was well done. The cinematography probably just shaded the original, given that the 1961 version had no CGI it shows how good it was. The pace in the new one is a little faster and I didn’t get a whiff of any PC. The Transgender character was sympathetically handled and on the whole I think I enjoyed it a little more than the original. I usually hate remakes and wouldn’t normally have gone, but circumstances threw up a spare ticket and I came out feeling as if I’d had a good afternoon. Will it be hailed as a classic? Probably not, just a decent film that in a year or so when it’s on the TV may interest some new viewers. Pete, hope you and yours have a really good Christmas and New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post 🙂 Considering that I was not a fan of the 1961 original (though not for reasons relating to your problems with Spielberg’s new version), I am probably just going to skip this one. While I do applaud Spielberg for wanting to cast people of the actual heritage of the characters, it can’t overcome the problem I had with the original in that it never really delved deeper into the themes concerning it’s racial drama. I mean it did dig into it, but not enough. The original only worked as a modern day Romeo and Juliet and nothing else. Though it is unfair to judge, I have the feeling that Spielberg’s version is bound to do the same and it would be waste of my money to go see it in a theater. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. I totally agree with your point that to nitpick about casting decisions made in the past is ridiculous and that we should judge their talents in portraying the characters 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. The intention was always to make a version of Romeo and Juliet, and in 1961, PC considerations were unknown. We have to take it in historical context, and just appreciate the talent, as you say.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah I know 🙂 Personally, I would have loved to have seen what Vincente Minnelli would have done with West Side Story – I imagine it would have all the energy of his musicals (The Band Wagon) and all the power of his melodramas (Some Came Running) 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you, Pete.
    Does a new, improved version = better?

    Every time the film industry comes up with a new, improved, version of an old, my favorite, classic, I have mixed feelings. Granted, with so much progress in technology, a CGI, 3D, and an IMAX version of an original is inevitable. But can a newer version be better? Sadly, not always.

    The Jungle Book, my all-time favorite, is a prime example of this.
    Technologically, it is a far superior and very realistic 2016 version. I found it extremely child unfriendly.
    Whereas, The Beauty and the Beast, 2017 version is simply mind-blowing and very child-friendly!
    While the story, characters, and songs are kept true to the original, the newer version is relatable to present times. The characters are a representation of people of different ethnicities. The beast is scary but with gentle eyes and has a tender side to him. The Beauty is petite yet, not a helpless, damsel-in-distress. Instead, a well-read, strong young lady with “girl power!” All the characters inside the castle, like Mrs. Potts and Chip, Cogsworth and Lumiere, are adorable and brought to life with much creativity.

    Mindfully made new, improved versions can be brilliant. But, like you, I prefer the originals.

    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for adding your examples, Chaya. I love the Disney version of Jungle Book. It suits the cartoon format. I wouldn’t bother to watch a modern version with real people in it.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  6. Sarcasm Pete, Surely not. You were spot on. West Side Story was he only musical I’ve ever been able to tolerate and I’m sure it can’t be improved upon no matter who they could cast. Leave well enough alone.You can’t improve on perfection.
    Hugs and have a Lovely Christmas

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wasn’t much for the original movie at the time… me being an early teen. Rather thought it was odd that New York gang thugs were dancing in the streets and singing (and no one was using curse-vulgarity). BUT… I did enjoy the soundtrack over the years.

    Pete.. you, your lady.. and Ollie.. have a great holiday season, old buddy. Stay safe and keep dodging the pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I shudder to think about a remake of The Wizard of Oz. No munchkins to start with. Then PETA would probably object to making monkeys evil. WICCA would want to protest the idea of any witch, much less two, being wicked. And Judy Garland certainly never came from Kansas!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As for “My Fair Lady,” one of my favorite films in any genre, Rex Harrison was British, and Audrey Hepburn, who was multilingual, had British citizenship through her father, and also attended school in England as a child. “Hands off, Mr. Spielberg!”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Good points. Where are the new, and excellent____new I repeat____sink your teeth into stories. Movies, series, and books see,m to be less than…. It is rare to find something you will love because it is well made.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I totally agree. Most of what is being “remade or rebooted” is just being recast to look more something, I don’t even know anymore. It was made, it was great – leave it alone and make new things from new writers. How hard would that really be?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Guess what I went and saw at the theaters last night? I adore the 1961 version. On the positive side, the new Maria is authentic and much improved than Natalie. Otherwise, it paled in comparison. It never needed to redone. The dancing, for instance, was weaker in this newer version. I left my sentiments at the door and enjoyed the show with my daughter and and two granddaughters. That was priceless. Not the film.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. When I read that Speilberg was remaking “West Side Story,” my immediate reaction was “Why?” Thinking he needs to rectify the fault of the original casting seems a bit self-righteous, don’t you think? I remember a time when Bowlderizing works of literature was considered a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. To me, this shows that even Spielberg has lost his imagination. West Side Story (the modern Romeo & Juliet story) is a classic, with an outstanding cast. How did he think he could improve on that?
    I will not be going to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a fan of remakes but I can see Spielberg’s point. It’s true that Americans play Brits and vice versa, but rarely, if ever, do black or Latino/a actors play white characters. This means that there is a lack of opportunity for these actors so they should at least be able to play characters of their own race

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Where does it end? Ben Kingsley isn’t Jewish, but had a lead role as a Jewish man in ‘Schindler’s List’. That was directed by Spielberg, but I presume that didn’t concern him at the time.
        Best wishes, Pete.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I know, it’s not simple, but where it concerns Black, Asian and Latino/a roles there is a case to be made. After all, bo white person would ever consider ‘blacking up for a role nowadays

          Liked by 1 person

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