Splendor in the Grass
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Splendor in the Grass (DVD)
Deanie (Natalie Wood in an Oscar®-nominated performance that marked a career turning point toward complex adult roles) is a teenager eager to do what’s right in her 1920s Kansas town. But the emotions she shares with boyfriend Bud (Warren Beatty in his screen debut) are too strong. Soon the conflict between respectable behavior and human desire will push Bud to physical collapse. And Deanie to madness. Director Elia Kazan encouraged Pulitzer Prize winner William Inge (Bus Stop, Picnic) to turn a true story he heard during his Midwestern youth into an Academy Award®-winning* script. The result, Splendor in the Grass, remains as poetic, penetrating and powerful today as it was two generations ago.]]>
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The world is shown from the perspective of these young lovers where everything is newer, brighter, and fresher than it will ever be again. They are discovering the world, love and themselves for the first time.
While this perspective makes the parents come across as either obsessively ambitious or frustratingly passive, it is in keeping with the teenage perspective on the situation. Unlike so many teen centered films of the 1970s and beyond, this film does not resort to parent bashing or smirky teen superiority.
As well as the story line is handled, it is the acting that makes this movie a classic. Both Wood and Beatty are entirely believable as victims of first love, parental plans and the sad truth that life moves on.
The ending, while not typically or classically “romantic”, adds nobility to both characters.
I have heard of this movie essentially all life, but this was my first viewing. I am sorry I didn’t find this film sooner for it is now well up the scale of my favorites list.
First love, young oppressed love is the central theme. "Good girls" and "bad girls" and "boys will be boys" relay the double standard message of the times and of the movie. I can almost feel the pain of Bud and Deanie who are so much in love, but are not allowed to physically express it. Even though Bud wants Deanie and Deanie wants Bud, she has been raised to believe good girls don't, and he has been raised to believe there are two kinds of girls, and one is for fun and one is for marrying. While Bud, the school football star, wants to marry Deanie, his domineering father, (played to perfection by Pat Hingle) is living vicariously through him and insists the son fufill the father's dream of college football stardom first. Bud, who can ignore his teenage hormones no longer, succumbs to the girl passed around by all the boys in school. Losing Bud is more than Deanie can mentally handle, and she is sent to a mental facility.
First love is shown to be powerful but not meant to be. Even after Bud marries a girl he impregnates while in college and brings her home to live on the farm, and Deanie falls in love with a boy she meets in the facility, their love is still evident and strong. Although this is not a happily ever after story, and I wished until the very end that Bud and Deanie would reunite, it was not meant to be. It is still one of my favorite movies of all time. Whether or not you are a fan of Natalie Wood and/or Warren Beatty, this movie is worth your time. It is not hard to believe the gossip of their affair after seeing how they ignite on the screen.