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Splendor in the Grass

Classics and Drama movie directed by Elia Kazan

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"Boys want a nice girl for a wife."

  • Apr 1, 2009
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Right before the stock market crash, Wilma Dean (Natalie Wood) is caught in the "nice girl" trap in 1928 Kansas, her generation ruled by Victorian mores: nice girls don't do certain things or their reputations will be ruined and they won't be able to get married. Deanie's parents support their daughter in her romance with the wealthy Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), seeing in him "the opportunity of a lifetime". The sensitive son yearns for Deanie, but his arrogant father (masterfully played by Pat Hingle) cautions his son, "If anything happens, you have to marry her". Bud is on the Yale track, his future mapped out by a father who has planned his son's future.

While the angst-ridden lovers are the focus of Elia Kazan's 1961 drama, an original screenplay by William Inge, Deanie's slow unraveling is a direct consequence of the moral hypocrisy of the times; the supporting cast sets the tone for two dysfunctional families, one rich, one middle-class. The arrogant rich father and ineffective mother ("I don't think either of my children gets any real nourishment.") turn a blind eye to their son's discontent, distracted by their wild older daughter, Ginny, a constant source of embarrassment, a wanton female who draws men like honey. Ginny tries to warn her brother, "If you want to listen to dad, go ahead. But one of these days, you'll find out and then God help you." Later, Ginny meets the inevitable fate of other on-screen bad girls.

This is a fascinating period in American history, the market ripe for plundering until it wipes out fortunes in a single afternoon, Bud's family included. There is no compromise in this film, the lines of right and wrong sharply drawn. Deanie is struggling with an emerging sexuality that is both condemned and monitored by a rigid mother who browbeats her daughter into submission. Clinging to her family values, Deanie's constant restraint ("Bud, don't!") eventually drives Bud away, leaving her ravaged and confused. Unable to bear the consequences of life without Bud, Deanie has nervous breakdown. Harassed by his driven father, Bud has his own demons, natural impulses that drive him into the arms of Wanda, the bad girl from the other side of the tracks. Bud hardly fares better than Deanie, his family fortune lost and a future without Deanie bleak.

An abundance of money renders the rich extravagant and impulsive, greedily watched by those who struggle with small lives suddenly offered the promise of instant wealth through stock investments. A new century soon tainted by its own excesses, an industrialized society is in flux, the younger generation already questioning their parents' values, but with no tolerance for failure. The lovers are doomed in a class-driven world, their unmatched backgrounds unsuitable, each forced into a future defined by compromise and a loss of ideals. This movie marks the beginning of Natalie Wood's enduring love affair with the American public, soon after the popular Rebel with a Cause. The emotionally vulnerable Deanie is one of many roles, a girl's fragile innocence destroyed by a heartless world with no room for dreamers. Luan Gaines.
Splendor in the Grass

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April 05, 2009
Thanks. I have always enjoyed Natalie Wood's performances and this is one of her best.
April 05, 2009
What a wonderful review! You really captured the angst of the characters. I loved this movie.
More Splendor in the Grass reviews
Quick Tip by . August 28, 2009
It makes me cry every time....Splendor in the Grass with a young Warren Beatty, directed by legendary Elia Kazan..Natalie Wood at her best!
review by . October 10, 2003
The quotation from Wordsworth's poem from which William Inge derived the title of his screenplay (for which he received an Academy Award) offers an insight into the tendency of young people to ignore or minimize the importance of certain decisions they make which can have significant long-term impact on their adult lives. This is essentially a sad movie in several respects as Wilma Dean Loomis (Natalie Wood) and Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty) struggle without much success to establish a stable relationship …
review by . January 08, 2003
Pros: beautiful scenery and beautiful people     Cons: ages seemed a little far fetched     The Bottom Line: huh?     It’s a rare treat when I get to watch an oldie like this one and enjoy it, kind of a guilty pleasure. Got a real kick out of the credits which are shown before the viewing - “Introducing Warren Beatty” - well, who knew?      Our main players are sports hero Bud [Warren Beatty], who comes from …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #109
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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About this movie


Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 07/12/2005 Run time: 124 minutes Rating: Nr
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Director: Elia Kazan
Genre: Classics, Drama
Screen Writer: William Inge
DVD Release Date: March 13, 2001
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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