Splendor in the Grass (1961) Review

Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay at the 1962 awards, and a nomination for Natalie Wood in Leading Actress Role.

A fragile Kansas girl Deanie’s (Natalie Wood) unrequited and forbidden love for a handsome young man Bud (Warren Beatty) from the town’s most powerful family drives her to heartbreak and madness. This movie is all about young love/first love, growing up, coping with pressures of school, getting into college, sexual repression and ultimately making decisions. Deanie and Bud are a young couple in their final year in high school they are very much in love, but have not done anything more than kissing. As time moves on Bud seems to be more and more frustrated with all of this, wanting to move to another level and also wanting to marry Deanie. Overall he is very confused about what he should do.

Bud’s sister Ginny(Barbara Loden) was a disgrace to the family as she had been to different colleges across the country and ended up getting pregnant by a guy in Chicago which prompted her parents to pay for an abortion and bring her home. Hence she was the talk of the town, and very much embarrassed herself and the family on numerous occasions. Especially at New Year when she was all over every man in the room, after drinking a lot. I found it rather difficult to watch some of this as the acting was fantastic but you had to totally feel for the character and felt embarrassed for her. In the way in which she was acting. Bud tried to help her out and ended up getting into a fight with the men.

Bud’s father Ace (Pat Hingle) wanted to very much control Bud’s life and tell him how he was going to live it. This did not help when he was not supportive of Bud in his decision to want to marry Deanie. He told him to go to Yale and then in 4 years if he still wanted to marry her do it then. He also told him that there is two types of girls, and sometimes you have to go away from the nice girl to get what you want. This made me think and try to decide if that is still the same now and these two types of girls exist or not. I did not really come to any conclusion as it seems that often the “nice” ones are the ones you have to watch out for and maybe the way Deanie went in this movie helps to show that too?

When Bud tells Deanie that he does not want to see her anymore she ends up having a total breakdown. Which starts when she has to read a poem out in class, and ends up just running out. This is followed by not being herself at home with her parents and the bath scene with her mother is really hard to watch, but fantastic acting. She just totally loses it and keeps saying that she wants to die and does not even want to face her friends anymore. Then deciding to go to the dance, but ending up attempting to jump into the waterfall. Which resulted in her breakdown totally happening and being put in a mental institute.

Two and a half years after being put in the mental institute Deanie was released and went back home to pack up her things as she planned on marrying a man she met in there. But the one person she wants to see the most is Bud. Her Mother tries to prevent this from happening but it really is something that she has to do in order to move forward in her life. Her two friends take her to see him, and I thought they really could have told her that he was married with one child and another on the way. But it was such a heartbreaking moment in away as this could have all totally broke Deanie again after spending a couple of years sorting herself out. Bud did not look totally happy, but satisfied. It was a bittersweet ending as you really feel that Deanie and Bud could have been together and very happy together, but it obviously was not meant to be.

Performance wise I think Natalie Wood is so good as the nice girl next door, but also incredible in the breakdown scenes. Warren Beatty was just perfect as Bud, he was handsome and acted with such emotion in parts. Pat Hingle as Ace was also fantastic and I have to admit throughout the movie I was trying to figure out where I knew him from and yes thats right I knew him as commissioner Gordon in Batman.

This movie really does make you think about first love and how views on sex before marriage and sex at a young age for the first time have possibly changed over time and are not really seen as such a big deal anymore. Or at least that is how I see it now. But also that pressures from society can really push you to the edge and just be too much to take at times. You just have to find a happy medium and try to deal with everything that is thrown at you.

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