Splendor in the Grass

1961

Splendor in the Grass

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 19

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,487
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Splendor in the Grass Photos

Movie Info

1961's premiere "date" movie represented the screen debut of Warren Beatty. Set in the 1920s, William Inge's screenplay concerns the superheated romance between working-class high schooler Natalie Wood and rich kid Beatty. Trying their best to keep their relationship from going "all the way," Beatty and Wood go through a series of unsatisfying interim romances. The troubled Wood attempts suicide and is sent to a mental institution, while Beatty impregnates freewheeling waitress Zohra Lampert. Wood and Beatty still carry a torch for one another, but circumstances preclude their getting together -- and besides, Wood suddenly realizes that she's outgrown the still-floundering Beatty. Scriptwriter William Inge shows up as a minister in Splendor in the Grass, while comedienne Phyllis Diller does a cameo as famed nightclub entertainer Texas Guinan; also, keep an eye out for Sandy Dennis, making her first movie appearance.

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Cast

Natalie Wood
as Wilma Dean Loomis
Warren Beatty
as Bud Stamper
Pat Hingle
as Ace Stamper
Audrey Christie
as Mrs. Loomis
Barbara Loden
as Ginny Stamper
Zohra Lampert
as Angelina
Fred Stewart
as Del Loomis
Joanna Roos
as Mrs. Stamper
Jan Norris
as Juanita Howard
Lynn Loring
as Carolyn
John McGovern
as Doc Smiley
Martine Bartlett
as Miss Metcalf
William Inge
as Minister
Charles Robinson
as Johnny Masterson
Charles Knox Robinson III
as Johnny Masterson
Phyllis Diller
as Texas Guinan
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Critic Reviews for Splendor in the Grass

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (4)

  • There is something awkward about the picture's mechanical rhythm. There are missing links and blind alleys within the story.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A complicated film that never really successfully yokes together the themes of money-making and sexuality, it reveals both Kazan's operatic sensibility and his inability to follow an argument rigorously through.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The authority and eloquence of the theme emerge in the honest, sensitive acting of Mr. Beatty and Miss Wood.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
  • Like nobody else, Kazan succeeded in capturing the overheated, self-pitying dramatization so near and dear to the teenage heart.

    Feb 13, 2001 | Full Review…
  • An excellent critique of a specific historical moment in US history and reveals the flaws that were present in its belief system.

    Feb 12, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The psychology may be simplistic, but the powerful portrayals from the cast - especially from Beatty - make that weakness seem like an irrelevance.

    Feb 12, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Splendor in the Grass

  • May 27, 2016
    Such a heartbreaking tale of teenage angst and tragic love. Natalie Wood is stunning and in a story with some real weight to it, performs brilliantly. The film 'introduces' Warren Beatty, who's no slouch himself, and finer looking couple I don't think you'll ever see. The film opens with the two of them making out heavily while parked by a waterfall (the crashing falls a little heavy in their symbolism), and her stopping him, much to his frustration. Once home, her mother cautions her about going too far, and then tells her that not only do good girls save themselves for marriage, but they don't have those urges at all(!) Meanwhile, he goes home to a father who tells him he'll have to marry her if he gets her pregnant, and then rams his vision for the boy's future down this throat, which is Yale followed by a job in his oil business, all without pausing to listen to him. Both go to bed understandably frustrated. Their parents have spoken to them out of love, but not in an open-minded way, and one that's hopelessly outdated. You really feel for Wood in this film. Her looks of love into Beatty's eyes are intensely endearing. Frustrated, he tests his power over her by pushing her to her knees and saying "at my feet, slave", and makes her tell him how much she loves him. She says she would do anything for him, and we believe it, but understand she won't do *that*. It drives Beatty crazy and he wants to marry her, but his father insists that he wait until after college, and encourages him to go after a "different kind of girl" to relieve his frustrations(!) The well-meaning but bad parenting abounds. Ultimately Beatty breaks it off with Wood despite their love for one another, and from there, her spiral begins. Wood has three fantastic scenes that earned her an Academy Award nomination. In the first, her teacher forces her to recite a poem from William Wordsworth; the words clearly relate to her heartbreak: "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..." The second has her in the bathtub, where her mother's only concern is whether he "spoiled" her, and her emotional reaction, expressing her grief and frustration of it all, "spoiled?? I'm not spoiled, mom! I'm not spoiled, mom! I'm just as fresh and viriginal as the day I was born, mom!" her voice and emotion rising. We really feel the hypocrisy of the double standard - girls are either "bad" or "good" - and the horrible position this puts them in. In the third scene, Wood throws herself at Beatty, saying she's not a nice girl, and he resists, sensing her desperation and knowing they shouldn't do it in her state of mind. He asks her where's her pride, and she erupts, "My pride?! I haven't any pride! I just want to die!" Did I mention heartbreaking? They part, Beatty to a life of dissipation at Yale, Wood to a mental institution in Virginia. They never forget one another, but their time is past. The ending is brilliantly balanced. A couple of years later she sees him for closure; he's married with a child, and she's engaged. She asks him whether he's happy, and he replies, "I guess so. I don't ask myself that question much ... What's the point, ya gotta take what comes." So poignant. One thing I've always found a little odd is how Beatty's bohemian, somewhat wild sister, played very well by Barbara Loden, disappears after some great scenes, the last of which has her drinking too much out of frustration at a New Year's party, 1929. She underscores the double standard and the desire to freely pursue one's destiny, wanting to go to California and study art, and saying she's a "freak in this town". The other small knock I have is that while the film is set in 1928, aside from the old car and some elements of the set, it really feels like 1961, the year it was made, based on the appearances of the characters and the story itself. No matter, though. This is a timeless story of heartache and passion, and yet in the end, maturity in working through breaking up over a love that (unfairly) couldn't be. Kazan directs it well, bringing out great performances and emotion, without being overly melodramatic. He's also daring - what Beatty (and Wood) want is abundantly clear - while at the same time being honest, and real. Definitely recommended.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 01, 2014
    Quite an interesting film in its time..the discussion of hormones in the early 60s before everyone else was talking about it. The late great Natalie Wood plays off Warren Beatty and eventually her character trumps him for good measure.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 04, 2011
    The definitive bucket of cold water movie about the hormones that swept America. Warren Beatty finds his Stanley Kowalski and Natalie Wood gives one of the essential female performances in American film.
    Matheus C Super Reviewer
  • Jan 19, 2011
    If there is a heaven, it simply must involve being loved by Natalie Wood. I have only seen Rebel Without a Cause, but after this incredible, emotionally riveting performance, there are certainly more of her films added to my queue. In addition to possessing the physical beauty that we simply don't celebrate anymore, she embodies this character with raw intensity, recognizing the complexities and themes of the story. In this performance, she is "actor as character" and "actor as storyteller" - an oft-overlooked combination. The story, penned by William Inge, is part morality tale, part universal truth. The film reverses the typical dictates about pre-marital sex and suggests that the constant pressures of being "untainted," "pure," "unspoiled," and "a nice girl" cause more moral degradation than they prevent. Additionally, the characters all see women as fitting into two distinct categories: they are either whores or wife material, a condition which is explained starkly by Mrs. Loomis: "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." As a result of such sexual repression and categorical thinking, the film shows the inevitable descent of two good people. But their descent is marked both by the effects of their environment and by the simple fact that adulthood always disappoints the idealism of youth, a theme the title of the film evokes. The film has two very minor flaws. First, I thought the under-handed images of sexuality were over-used; how many times do I have to look at a waterfall? I understand the censorship of the time, but Kazan could have added a train going through a tunnel just for variation's sake. Second, Beatty seems to betray some inexperience here and there, unsure when to play subtlety and when to release. Overall, Natalie Wood makes this film a sheer joy to watch, and as long as men continue to tell women what is valued about their bodies and their sexuality, the themes in this film will remain relevant.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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