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Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in February 1962. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.
The Oscar-winning musical West Side Story first opened in Detroit on Wednesday, February 14, 1962, at the Madison (Woodward at Elizabeth). It had earlier premiered in New York on October 18, 1961. In Detroit, the opening night show was a benefit for the Variety Club's Growth and Development Center at Children's Hospital. Appearing at the premiere was Russ Tamblyn, the leader of the Jets gang in the movie.
"Perhaps never before has the screen adapted a stage musical to its own purposes so effectively as it has in 'West Side Story,' now beginning a long engagement at the Madison," wrote Al Weitschat of The Detroit News in the "Picture Parade" column on February 15, 1962. "If the impact of the stage success was potent, it is doubly so on film, because the fluidity of the camera has been used to full advantage to add new dimensions to the drama, music and dancing."
" 'West Side Story opened Thursday at the Madison Theater, a movie of stunning technical excellence," wrote Detroit Free Press Staff Writer Louis Cook on February 16, 1962. "It is such a busy, noisy film, however, that the tender love story is often obscured by other action and it's less a modern Romeo and Juliet than it is Murder, Unincorporated."
Also opening in Detroit on February 14 was Lover Come Back (Rock Hudson, Doris Day) at the Michigan. Ongoing downtown Detroit movies on February 14 included The Innocents (Deborah Kerr) at the United Artists; Light in the Piazza (Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi) at the Adams; The Prisoner of the Iron Mask at the Fox; Summer and Smoke (Laurence Harvey, Geraldine Page) at the Grand Circus; the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin) in Sergeants 3 at the Palms; and, in Cinerama, El Cid (Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren) at the Music Hall. The Redford was showing a double bill of Flower Drum Song (Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta) and World By Night.
West Side Story settled in at the Madison for an 8-month run of only reserved seating. The first Detroit run of West Side Story ended on October 23, 1962, and the next day the Madison switched over to The Chapman Report (Shelley Winters and Jane Fonda). West Side Story arrived in neighborhood theaters on October 31, 1962 and played until December 4. In the next few months, it had two more neighborhood runs.
Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of West Side Story at the State on Thursday, October 25, 1962. It played for about a month before being replaced on November 22 by The Chapman Report. Also playing in Ann Arbor on October 25 were Pressure Point (Sidney Poitier, Bobby Darin) at the Michigan; and François Truffaut's Jules and Jim (Jeanne Moreau) at the Campus.
Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of West Side Story.
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