Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Moving Pictures: West Side Story

Share

Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles

 

Last fall, the Google Cultural Institute supported the digitization of over 1300 photographs of the original 1957 production of West Side Story from our Martha Swope, Friedman-Abeles, Florence Vandamm, Kenn Duncan, and Avery Willard photography collections. It is always exciting to be able to provide wider access to our collections, but this project is especially thrilling  because we are seeing, in many cases for the first time in decades, images that the photographer never developed beyond the original negatives. There are hundreds of images of dance and music rehearsals taken (mostly) by Martha Swope. There is the famous Friedman-Abeles shot (used on the original Playbill cover) of Larry Kert (Tony) and Carol Lawrence (Maria) running down a street in the Upper West Side, but there are also the shots just before and just after the moment captured in that iconic image which were not used.

As I examined the wealth of digital photographs we now have, I began to wonder whether it would be possible to join the sequential images from a single negative strip to create a very short movie.  Using the "Animation Assistant" tool in Google Photos, I stitched together a few of these sequences, and I found the results to be a little breathtaking.  There was a rehearsal for "Dance at the Gym" with Jerome Robbins watching and joining in on the snaps! There was Bernstein conducting a music rehearsal while Sondheim played on the piano! Seeing Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert freed from their frozen moment on the Playbill image and actually running down the street felt a little like stepping out of a time machine into 1957.

I am confident there are many, many more such treasures in our photograph collections. The Theatre Division preserves well over a million photographic negatives documenting the last century and a half of theatre, and like these West Side Story photographs, many have never before been seen.  If you are interested in supporting the work of bringing this history into the light of the open web, please drop me a note at dougreside@nypl.org.

For now, those, enjoy these tiny, magical, moments from 1957:

Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Promotional photograph by Friedman-Abeles
Dance Rehearsal. Photos by Martha Swope.
Dance Rehearsal. Photos by Friedman-Abeles
Fight rehearsal.  Photos by Martha Swope.
Fight rehearsal.  Photos by Friedman-Abeles
Bernstein conducts music rehearsal while Sondheim accompanies on the piano. Photo by Martha Swope.
Bernstein conducts music rehearsal while Sondheim accompanies on the piano. Photo by Friedman-Abeles
Bernstein conducts music rehearsal while Sondheim accompanies on the piano. Photo by Martha Swope.
Bernstein conducts music rehearsal while Sondheim accompanies on the piano. Photos by Friedman-Abeles
 
Dance rehearsal.  Photos by Martha Swope.
Dance rehearsals. Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Dance rehearsals. Photos by Martha Swope.
Dance rehearsals. Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Dance rehearsals.  Photos by Martha Swope.
Jerome Robbins prepares for rehearsal.  Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Jerome Robbins prepares for dance rehearsal. Photos by Martha Swope.
Jerome Robbins prepares for dance rehearsal. Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Dance rehearsal. (Photo by Martha Swope)
Dance rehearsal. Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Dance rehearsal for West Side Story (Photos by Martha Swope)
Jerome Robbins directs Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence in the death scene. Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Rehearsal for Dance at the Gym. Photo by Martha Swope.
Robbins directs West Side Story rehearsal.  Photos by Friedman-Abeles.
Publicity shot of performers receiving a vacination. Photo by Friedman-Abeles
Publicity shot of performers receiving a vacination. Photo by Friedman-Abeles 

Comments

Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

What a wonderful project!

What a wonderful project! Please do more!

Cool

Cool.

This is fantastic! Thank you

This is fantastic! Thank you so much, Doug!

WOW!!

WOW!!

Wonderful! How great to see

Wonderful! How great to see these wonderful artists so young and happy.

Love this!

Doug: this is such a great project. Congratulations!

West side Story photos

Awesome, beautiful, amazing. Thank you so very much for sharing this with us....

west side story photos.

shows off how wonderful the play was.

This is breathtaking! Thank

This is breathtaking! Thank you so much for posting this!!!

regarding GIF'S FROM wEST SIDE sTORY

I agree with above comments , Beautiful and great ride down memory lane.

this made my day and it is

this made my day and it is only 9:16 AM

From still to moving images

That's wonderful! A really clever, imaginative way to revive and relive a moment - or two. Many thanks for sharing, Cathy

Post new comment