Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Splendor in the Grass 
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by William Inge
Warner Bros./Newtown Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Wilma Dean: My pride? My pride? I don’t want my pride!

Elia Kazan makes both doomed young love and small-town Kansas look absolutely beautiful.

Deanie (Natalie Wood) and Bud (Warren Beatty) are high school seniors in the throes of first love.  He is the son of the richest man in town, who positively dotes on him.  She is of more modest parentage.

When they get within three feet of each other sparks fly and their make-out sessions are hard to stop.  Both have been taught that “good girls” wait until marriage.  Deanie is under the additional burden of her mother’s belief that “good girls” don’t even have the feelings she gets when she is with Bud.

Bud’s desire is so strong that he decides the only way to fight it is to stop seeing Deanie. This leaves Deanie with a broken heart and eventually drives her right over the edge.  With Pat Hingle as Bud’s father and Audrey Christie as Deanie’s mother.

What saves this from being a typical psychological drama of the era is Kazan’s skillful direction, Boris Kaufmann’s great cinematography and the acting.  Wood plays her part with great delicacy – it may be her best work.  I’m not always a fan of Beatty’s.  He’s fine here.  Worth seeing.

Splendor in the Grass won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen.  Natalie Wood Was nominated for Best Actress.