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Splendor in the Grass, an Americanmarker movie from 1961, tells a story of sexual repression, love, and heartbreak. Written by William Inge, who appears briefly as a Protestant clergyman, the film was directed by Elia Kazan.

Inspiration

The film is based on people whom 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.

The film's title is taken from a line of William Wordsworth's poem "Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood":
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...


Plot

Deanie Loomis (played by Natalie Wood), a teen-aged girl living in a small town in Kansasmarker in 1928, follows her mother's advice to resist her desire for sex with her boyfriend, Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), the scion of the most prosperous family in town. In his turn, Bud reluctantly follows the advice of his father (Pat Hingle), who suggests that he find another kind of girl with whom to satisfy his sexual desires.

Bud's parents are disappointed by, and ashamed of, his older sister Ginny—she is sexually promiscuous, smokes, drinks, and has had an abortion—and accordingly "pin all their hopes" on Bud, pressuring him to attend Yale Universitymarker.

Bud does find a girl who is willing to become sexually involved with him, and when Deanie finds out, she is driven close to madness and institutionalized. Bud's family loses its fortune in the Great Depression, which leads to the father's suicide; and Bud takes up farming, which he had postponed because of his father's aspirations for him.

In the final scene, Deanie, home from the asylum after two and a half years, goes to meet Bud. He is now married to the daughter of Italianmarker immigrants; he and his wife, whom he met while complying with his father's desire that he attend Yale, have an infant child. After their brief reunion, Deanie and Bud see that they must continue their lives separately.

Analysis

The different mindsets motivating Deanie's mother, who is relatively poor, and Bud's father, who has made a great deal of money in the oil industry, to hold back their children's sexuality are evident in two adjacent scenes early in the story.

In the first, Deanie's mother encourages her not to give up her virginity to Bud, telling her "Boys don't respect a girl they can go all the way with; boys want a nice girl for a wife". Having bid her daughter a good night, Mrs. Loomis then talks with her husband, enthusiastically informing him that their daughter and the son of the richest family in town are in love and that Bud would "be the catch of a lifetime".

In the next scene, Bud's father encourages him to abstain from sex with Deanie, because, if the two of them were to conceive a child, they would have to marry.

Deanie's mother believes that sex would ruin her daughter's chances of marrying Bud. Bud's father believes that sex, especially pregnancy, would force his son to marry Deanie. One parent wishes for such a marriage, while the other seems to warn against it.

In their discussion of what kind of girl a boy wants as a wife, Mrs. Loomis also tells Deanie that "No nice girl" has sexual desires for a boy. When Deanie asks her mother whether she was ever sexually attracted to Mr. Loomis, the answer is "Your father never laid a hand on me until we were married. And, then, I—I just gave in because a wife has to. A woman doesn't enjoy those things the way a man does. She just lets her husband come near her in order to have children." This enhances Deanie's inner struggle—about whether to give Bud what she and he both seem to want, or whether to behave in a more socially acceptable way, avoid the risk of pregnancy, and follow her mother's advice about how to retain Bud's respect, which eventually drives her to madness.

Production

Scenes of Kansas and the Loomises' home were shot in the Travis section of Staten Islandmarker, New York Citymarker. Exterior scenes of the high school campus were shot at Horace Mann Schoolmarker in the Bronx.

Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood were to be paired also for the film adaptation of West Side Story, which was released eight days after Splendor. (Contenders other than Beatty for West Side's Tony role included Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, and Anthony Perkins; but Richard Beymer won the part.)

Splendor in the Grass was re-made in 1981, with Melissa Gilbert, Cyril O'Reilly, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Awards and accolades

Inge won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay—Written Directly for the Screen; Natalie Wood was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The movie ranked number 50 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.

References in popular culture



External links




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