CLASSIC MOVIE REVIEW #2
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 10, 1961
“Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…”
Splendor in the Grass stars Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in a story about love during the late 1920s. Directed by Elia Kazan, the film tells the story of a young girl, Deanie Loomis, who becomes head over heels for her boyfriend, Bud Stamper, in a small Kansas town in 1928. When the couple’s relationship becomes more and more heated, the threat of sexual tension rises, causing Deanie and Bud’s love to become frayed. On the brink of the Stock Market crash of 29′, the two young lovers struggle with family, morals, and love, in a time when “good people” didn’t speak of such taboo subjects.
During the 1960s Wood was at the peak of her career, starring in films such as West Side Story and Love with a Proper Stranger. Splendor in the Grass was probably her most coveted film in her repertoire, later in life naming her boat, “The Splendour.” As for Beatty, this was his big-screen debut. Wood and Beatty play the “star-crossed” lovers in this film, with these main characters being portrayed as good people. The films of the 1950s and 1960s, recognized the young people who tried to rebel against their parent’s heavy heel, and the struggle of trying to be understood in a society that would never take them seriously. I would say that you can still find that mentality amongst adults of present day. But Splendor in the Grass takes that subject head on! For Deanie, it’s her mother’s inadvisable nature and her father’s obliviousness towards her situation. As for Bud, his life is constantly dictated by his oil rich father, who believes that a man should “play the field” before he settles down. Not to mention his incredibly timid mother. Bud’s sister also intervenes in his personal life, as she is a wild girl who takes her rebellion against her parents to the next level. Her misbehavior is rather important to see when in comparison to Deanie’s “nice girl” image. But another issue that the film handles, is the idea of mental health.
Throughout the film Deanie is incredibly infatuated with Bud, even so much as to scribble Mrs. Bud Stamper all over her binder. But when Bud’s sexual hunger begins to get the better of him, Bud breaks it off with Deanie for a “not so nice” girl. This leads to Deanie becoming incredibly upset and depressed, which then leads her to do desperate things. Now, seeing this movie with brand new eyes, it’s hard for me to understand the trauma which Deanie goes through after the break-up. But in this movie, Bud often treats Deanie in a domineering way. The sexual urges of Bud takes over him, and causes him to become more short-tempered. But in their society, that is still no excuse for them to act out on such urges. In a scene between Deanie and her mother, the mother tells Deanie that women do not want that stuff. The mother continues to say, that she basically laid there so the husband could have his way with her, because no “good girl” ever wanted that stuff. This is a film, that when watching in our current time period, may leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. But considering the society of the 20s, and what these young people are rebelling against, it’s an interesting storyline.
Throughout the film, Beatty has a great first performance. Though his character has his own inner demons to deal with, Beatty does play the cocky popular guy perfectly. My favorite scene that he is in is with his sister Ginny, played by Barbara Loden. In the scene Ginny and Bud fight about her staying home for Christmas, but the argument soon escalates, soon forcing Ginny to tell Bud something that he needs to hear. I believe that this is a pivotal scene foreshadowing what it about to happen. But it is Wood’s performance that drives this movie with probably the best performance of her career. The character of Deanie is constantly evolving, and facing different emotional obstacles along the way. I will say there are two key scenes where Wood delivers some of the most powerful lines. But what I have always admired about Wood’s acting, is her ability to show so much more through her mannerisms, and she does that so well in this film.
Splendor in the Grass hits home on subjects, that we as a society, find difficult to find common ground. With the topic of sex being the base of the film, it is the lack of parental guidance, and the lack of having your parents treat you like an adult, really make up the whole film. In retrospect, looking back on Splendor in the Grass, you can see the effort that young people took to free themselves from their parents’ grasp. The same type of parental inadequacy is a subject that many films had during the 50s and 60s. Splendor in the Grass takes that same premise dealt with in films such as East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, and creates a story that is driven by a female protagonist.
Splendor in the Grass
Directed by: Elia Kazan
Starring: Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty