Album: West Side Story (1957)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Written by composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, this upbeat number from West Side Story finds Maria giddy over her romance with Tony. Her confidence soars because she is "loved by a pretty wonderful boy," but her co-workers at the bridal shop think she's nuts: "She isn't in love, she's merely insane."

    The musical is an updated version of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, reimagining the star-crossed lovers in '50s-era New York City where they're caught between rival street gangs. Maria is a Puerto Rican immigrant whose brother is leader of the Sharks, while Tony is a former member of the Jets. In the stage musical, Maria bursts into "I Feel Pretty," unaware that Tony has just killed her brother. In the 1961 movie, the scene takes place before the killing.
  • Carol Lawrence originated the role of Maria on Broadway, but Natalie Wood was chosen for the film role. Wood, a child star-turned-dramatic actress, desperately wanted to do her own singing but was dubbed by Marni Nixon (Hear Wood's vocals). Nixon provided the singing voice for several stars, including Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Deborah Kerr in The King and I.
  • In the movie, the scene is set during the day instead of at night, which accounts for some changes in the lyrics. The play's "I feel pretty and witty and bright, and I pity any girl who isn't me tonight" was changed to "I feel pretty and witty and gay, and I pity any girl who isn't me today." Several TV commercials, from Nike to Pampers, used the original version and took heat from viewers who assumed the companies purposefully nixed the word "gay."
  • When Sondheim was asked about his famous musical in 2010, he called the score "embarrassing," especially this song. He said: "I'm fond of quoting 'I Feel Pretty.' The street girl is singing, 'It's alarming how charming I feel.' ... I just put my head under my wing and pretend I'm not there."
  • Adam Sandler sings this in the 2003 comedy Anger Management.
  • On the 2011 Glee episode "Born This Way," Quinn and Rachel sing this in a mashup with TLC's "Unpretty." The single version peaked at #22 in the US.
  • Kathleen Turner performed this when she played Chandler's dad on the Friends episode "The One With Chandler's Dad" in 2001. Jane Leeves sang it on the Frasier episode "The Show Where Woody Shows Up" in 1999, and Elizabeth Montgomery sang it on the Bewitched episode "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble" in 1967.
  • The Simpsons parodied this as "Homer's Food Song" aka "I Like Pizza":

    I like pizza.
    I like bagels.
    I like hot dogs, with mustard and beer...
    I'll eat eggplant.
    I could even eat a baby deer...
    La-la-la-la-la-la, la, la, la-la...
    Who's that baby deer on the lawn there...

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Best Band Logos

Best Band LogosSong Writing

Queen, Phish and The Stones are among our picks for the best band logos. Here are their histories and a design analysis from an expert.

Elton John

Elton JohnFact or Fiction

Does he have beef with Gaga? Is he Sean Lennon's godfather? See if you can tell fact from fiction in the Elton John edition.

Barney Hoskyns Explores The Forgotten History Of Woodstock, New York

Barney Hoskyns Explores The Forgotten History Of Woodstock, New YorkSong Writing

Our chat with Barney Hoskyns, who covers the wild years of Woodstock - the town, not the festival - in his book Small Town Talk.

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)Songwriter Interviews

The former Metallica bassist talks about his first time writing a song with James Hetfield, and how a hand-me-down iPad has changed his songwriting.

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TV

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TVSong Writing

Shows like Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the way songs were heard on TV, and produced some hits in the process.

Carl Sturken

Carl SturkenSongwriter Interviews

Hitmaker Carl Sturken on writing and producing for Rihanna, 'N Sync, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Donny Osmond, Shakira and Karyn White.