George Chakiris became a permanent part of the iconography of New York City for his role as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang in the 1961 film West Side Story. But there is much more to the life and career of this versatile performer, who was born to Greek immigrant parents in Norwood, Ohio. Trained at the American School of Dance, Mr. Chakiris turned professional at the age of 13, when he was cast in the chorus of the MGM musical Song of Love (1947). A decade of Hollywood dance followed, including appearances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, screening on October 27), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), and White Christmas (1954). After his breakthrough in West Side Story, Chakiris performed as a singer and dancer on many television specials of the 1960s and recorded several albums. In 1962 he left Hollywood in search of more demanding dramatic roles, making films in England (633 Squadron), France (Jacques Demy’s classic Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) and Italy (Luigi Comencini’s La Ragazza di Bube/Bebo’s Girl, screening this evening). In a rare visit to New York, Chakiris joins dance critic Debra Levine to discuss the many facets of his career, in a presentation illustrated with rare clips courtesy the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Onstage conversation with George Chakiris and Debra Levine
T1, Theater 1