Splendor in the Grass
|Splendor in the Grass|
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Elia Kazan|
|Produced by||Elia Kazan|
|Written by||William Inge|
|Music by||David Amram|
|Editing by||Gene Milford|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||124 minutes|
|Box office||$4,000,000 (US/ Canada)|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2011)|
Splendor in the Grass is a 1961 romantic drama film that tells a story of sexual repression, love, and heartbreak, from which the character Deanie suffers. Written by William Inge, who appears briefly as a Protestant clergyman and won an Oscar for his screenplay, the film was directed by Elia Kazan.
1928 Kansas: Wilma Dean "Deanie" Loomis (Natalie Wood) is a teenage girl who follows her mother's advice to resist her desire for sex with her boyfriend, Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), the son of one of the most prosperous families in town. In turn, Bud reluctantly follows the advice of his father, Ace (Pat Hingle), who suggests that he find another kind of girl with whom to satisfy his desires.
Bud's parents are disappointed by, and ashamed of, his older sister, Ginny (Barbara Loden), a flapper and party girl who is sexually promiscuous, smokes, drinks, has had an abortion (or as Deanie's mother said "one of those 'awful surgeries'"), and a marriage annulled, so they "pin all their hopes" on Bud, pressuring him to attend Yale University.
Bud does find a girl who is willing to become sexually involved with him; when Deanie is later almost raped by another boy, she is driven close to madness and institutionalized. Her parents must sell their stock to pay for her institutionalization, which they do just before the Crash of '29 that leads to the Great Depression. However, Bud's family loses its fortune in the crash, which leads to the father's suicide. Ginny dies in an automobile accident, his mother has left town, and Bud returns to take up ranching, which he had postponed because of his father's aspirations for him.
In the final scene, Deanie, home from the asylum after two years and six months, "almost to the day", goes to meet Bud. He is now married to Angelina (Zohra Lampert), the daughter of Italian immigrants; he and his wife, whom he met while attending Yale, have an infant child and are expecting another. Deanie states she is going to marry a doctor in Cincinnati whom she met at the asylum. After their brief reunion, Deanie and Bud realize that they must continue their lives separately.
- Natalie Wood as Wilma Dean "Deanie" Loomis
- Warren Beatty as Bud Stamper
- Pat Hingle as Ace Stamper
- Joanna Roos as Mrs. Stamper
- Audrey Christie as Mrs. Loomis
- Fred Stewart as Del Loomis
- Barbara Loden as Ginny Stamper
- Zohra Lampert as Angelina
- John McGovern as Doc Smiley
- Jan Norris as Juanita Howard
- Martine Bartlett as Miss Metcalf
- Gary Lockwood as Allen "Toots" Tuttle
- Sandy Dennis as Kay
- Crystal Field as Hazel
- Marla Adams as June
- Phyllis Diller as Texas Guinan
The film is based on people whom screenwriter William Inge knew while growing up in Kansas in the 1920s. He told the story to director Elia Kazan when they were working on a production of Inge's play The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, in 1957. They agreed that it would make a good film and that they wanted to work together on it. Inge wrote it first as a novel, then as a screenplay.
- What though the radiance which was once so bright
- Be now for ever taken from my sight,
- Though nothing can bring back the hour
- Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
- We will grieve not, rather find
- Strength in what remains behind...
Two years before writing the screenplay for the film, Inge wrote a stage play whose title comes from the same line of the poem, Glory in the Flower (1953). The play relates the story of two middle-aged former lovers who meet again briefly at a diner after a long estrangement; they are essentially the same characters as Bud and Deanie, though the names are "Bus" and "Jackie".
Scenes of Kansas and the Loomis home were shot in the Travis section of Staten Island, New York City. Exterior scenes of the high school campus were shot at Horace Mann School in the Bronx. The gothic buildings of the North Campus of The City College of New York stand in for Yale University in New Haven.
Bosley Crowther, in a "Critics' Pick" review, called the film a "frank and ferocious social drama that makes the eyes pop and the modest cheek burn"; he had comments on several of the performances:
- Pat Hingle "gives a bruising performance as the oil-wealthy father of the boy, pushing and pounding and preaching, knocking the heart out of the lad"
- Audrey Christie is "relentlessly engulfing as the sticky-sweet mother of the girl"
- Warren Beatty is a "surprising newcomer" and an "amiable, decent, sturdy lad whose emotional exhaustion and defeat are the deep pathos in the film"
- Natalie Wood has a "beauty and radiance that carry her through a role of violent passions and depressions with unsullied purity and strength. There is poetry in her performance, and her eyes in the final scene bespeak the moral significance and emotional fulfillment of this film."
Time magazine said "the script, on the whole, is the weakest element of the picture, but scriptwriter Inge can hardly be blamed for it" since it had been "heavily edited" by Kazan; he called the film a "relatively simple story of adolescent love and frustration" that has been "jargoned-up and chaptered-out till it sounds like an angry psychosociological monograph describing the sexual mores of the heartless heartland."
Awards and accolades
At the 34th Academy Awards, Inge won an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay—Written Directly for the Screen; Wood was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, but lost to Sophia Loren in Two Women.
References in popular culture
- Pink Martini released their fourth album in 2009, titled Splendor in the Grass.
- Eric Carmen wrote the song "Hey Deanie" about the character of the same name on his album Change of Heart. "Hey Deanie" also became a Top 10 hit for Shaun Cassidy.
- Jackie De Shannon wrote her song "Splendor in the Grass" in 1966 after watching the movie. She released three singles with two versions of the song.
- The UK pop group Gullivers People recorded a popular single of the song in 1966. It was produced for EMI Parlophone label by Norman "Hurricane" Smith
- "All-Time B.O. Champs", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
- Crowther, Bosley (October 11, 1961). "Splendor in the Grass". NYT Critics' Pick. The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "Cinema: Love in Kazansas". Time. October 13, 1961. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
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