Splendor in the Grass

I confess that I did not actually see the end of this movie, but I saw most of the movie. The ending was not a surprise when I found out about it. Like most Elia Kazan movies from that era, there is a lot of angst. As for the acting, Warren Beatty is hot in his first role and of the three Natalie Wood films I have seen, this is probably her best work. I think Deannie’s (Wood) descent into madness/nervous breakdown is fastening as is the film’s take on late 1920’s sexuality and young love from a 1961 perspective. It is outdated in some ways, but I think many of the themes are still very relevant such as the Madonna/Whore complex which is explored. I wonder about how it was received at the time because even watching it in a less conservative time, some of the scenes were very sad in the treatment of women. Bud’s (Beatty) sister’s portrayal as a girl who only boys talk to in the dark was annoying, but the movie pushed the point home about how far she would go. Her last scene is almost lurid in its depiction of “the other type of girl”. The constant idea for men to seek these other girls, use them, but marry a nice girl like Deannie. While she must remain pure as that is what good girls are for, and “nice girls” don’t have sexual urges. It does seem outdated for Deannie to go mad from a broken heart, but I think if you consider the pressure she was under and her sensitive, young nature, it probably was not completely far fetched at the time. It is definitely a movie to consider gender roles and stereotypes then and now.

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