We’ve been posting our disagreements since the site began. In all that time, we’ve never had anyone write in to disagree with our opinions.
We received a comment on our Facebook page from Nancy Taylor Rojo strongly disagreeing with both our opinions of Splendor in the Grass. She made such good points in her short statement that we asked her to expand on her comments, which she graciously did. Below we repeat our original observations, along with Nancy’s rejoinder to our opinions. We found her argument excellent, and thank her for sending it along. This is what the love of movies is all about. Film fans love to argue over movies and challenge each others’ opinions. We strongly encourage this; after all, who’s to say we’re the last word on the subject?
We encourage our readers to write in if they agree or disagree with any of our opinions as expressed in our columns. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to make this a permanent feature.
ED: B. This daring film from director Elia Kazan is a tragic, coming-of-age melodrama about sexual repression and neurosis, written by playwright William Inge, his first project written for the big screen. Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty are the teenage lovers, Deanie and Bud. Deanie follows her mother’s advice to resist the desire for sex with Bud, and in turn Bud reluctantly follows the advice of his father (Pat Hingle), who advises him to find a girl not so forbidding in order to sow his wild oats. Depressed over Bud’s ending off their relationship, Deanie becomes involved with another boy in an episode where she is almost raped, and in her despair, attempts suicide, requiring her institutionalization. The reason I cannot give it a higher grade is because, as we follow the fortunes of our two protagonists, the story devolves into pure melodrama. Had this film been made 10 years hence, when the censors were successfully defied, it would have been allowed to be stronger and more directly to the point. However, the real reason to watch is Natalie Wood; not only is it her best performance, but one of the best in movies. Had not Sophia Loren made Two Women the same year, Wood would have been a shoo-in for Best Actress. It’s also the film debut of Warren Beatty, another reason for cinephiles to tune into this flawed, but fascinating psychological drama.
DAVID: C. I really want to like this film. Elia Kazan was a magnificent director and in his prime, Warren Beatty was an extraordinary actor. While I'm not a fan of Natalie Wood, she gives a strong performance here. However, the plot is cliche and lifeless, and quite frankly, the movie is boring even as it tries to shock its audience. It plays more like a soaper than a coming-of-age film, and it's very difficult to like or identify with any of the characters. Beatty shows great potential that is realized in other films, but as Bud he's a dud. As I mentioned, Wood is very good as Deanie, but this movie could be so much better. Splendor in the Grass came out in 1961, around the time when daring filmmakers were defying censors and leading the way toward ending the repressive Hays Code. I agree with Ed that if the movie was made years later that it would have been better. But Kazan had a lot of power and respect in Hollywood and could have pushed for a more daring film than the end result. Overall, it's a disappointment largely because the pieces are there for an excellent movie that never materializes.
NANCY: Today I expressed my opinion that the reviewers were harsh on the movie Splendor in the Grass. Comments were made that the story dissolved into melodrama, and it would have been a better film if censors were defied. One reviewer stated it was very hard to relate to the main characters.
My disagreement is based on the fact that this film is "spot on" for 1961. I lived the emotions portrayed (although not as extreme or as sensitive as Deanie's situation) at the very same time and age.
To say it would have been a better film if made 10 years after censorship was lifted, is judging this film by another time frame's tastes and standards. A remake might be more strong and direct, but for someone who was 15 in 1961...the emotions, repression, and pressures on these young people were real.
I am definitely not stuck in that time, but love films that give "windows" to time, place and people. So, from my personal point of view: this is a valuable film and a great story. Glad we have it!
P.S. To this day, the stanza from the William Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" expresses the heart of the film.
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