Why Did Rita Moreno Leave West Side Story? What Prompted This Decision?

Why Did Rita Moreno Leave West Side Story? 1961’s West Side Story, already regarded as one of the best Broadway musicals ever, was a global phenomenon that won multiple Oscars the following year and made Rita Moreno the first Latina woman to win Best Supporting Actress.

Though Moreno nearly declined the part, her performance of Anita has had a significant influence on film musicals, Latina representation, and the legacy of West Side Story that hangs over Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake.

Why Rita Moreno Left West Side Story

Rita Moreno never actually “left” West Side Story in the way of quitting the production or refusing a role. In fact, she’s had a multifaceted relationship with the story, encompassing both the 1961 film and the 2021 remake.

Moreno nearly quit while filming the 1961 movie because of the original lyrics to the song “America.” Being of Puerto Rican heritage, Moreno felt the song’s disparaging remarks about his native island to be extremely insulting.

She threatened to resign since she was so uncomfortable playing such a character. Thankfully, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, the songwriters, took her concerns seriously and changed the lyrics to be more subtle and courteous.

This incident demonstrates Moreno’s resolute opposition to damaging preconceptions and her commitment to accurate portrayal.

Despite the awful initial experience, Moreno went on to play Anita in the 1961 film, and she provided an impressive performance. Her depiction garnered her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming her the first Latina actress to win an Oscar.

Why Was Rita Moreno So Dark in West Side Story?

Rita Moreno was not “naturally” dark in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story. Instead, she, along with other actors of color in the film, wore makeup specifically designed to darken their skin tones.

Nowadays, brownface is largely seen as an insulting and damaging kind of racial stereotyping. Hollywood had a narrow and frequently misguided view of Latino identity in the 1960s.

Brownface was frequently used to establish a visual identification with a certain race since casting directors and makeup artists sometimes depended on stereotypes about what Latino people looked like.

There weren’t many opportunities available for Latino actors at the time. In this situation, actors like Moreno felt compelled to take on parts that bolstered prejudices in order to further their professional careers.

Olorism, or prejudice or discrimination against those with darker skin tones, was also common in Hollywood.

This contributed to the belief that lighter-skinned Latino actors were more desired, prompting the usage of brownface to darken the appearance of stars such as Moreno.

Final Words

While Rita Moreno never officially “left” West Side Story, her journey has been complicated and nuanced.

She endured obstacles linked with damaging stereotypes in the original film, had restricted professional options despite winning an Oscar, and eventually returned to the story in a new part that provided a more favorable representation.

Her narrative exemplifies the fight for appropriate portrayal and the continuous struggle for diversified chances in the film business.