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Sunday, 17 November 2013

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (1961) WEB SITE

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Opening on a glorious shot of a waterfall and a passionate lip-lock between raven-haired beauty Natalie Wood and boyishly handsome Warren Beatty in an old-fashioned car, the ambivalent need to succumb to temptation but wanting to be good - "Don't Bud - no!" Elia Kazan's masterpiece of adolescent longing, self-discovery and suppression is a fabulous experience. The hypocritical society that stifles young Deanie Loomis (Wood), drilling that no nice girl indulges or thinks about natural sexual desires and impulses, while young men are free to pursue their lust, but not with any virtuous girls. Deanie, daughter of a working-class family, is madly in love with Bud Stamper (Beatty, in his debut), the son of the wealthiest clan in town, and star of the school's athletic teams. Their romance is doomed by their parents' interference and control. Bud can't continue the relationship with all the pressure placed on him by his domineering father, Ace (Pat Hingle), not to mention the presence of his nymphomaniac, flapper sister, Ginny (Barbara Loden, who, at this time, was Mrs. Elia Kazan). Deanie's mother (Audrey Christie) constantly shadows her daughter, discouraging her from any impure thoughts or actions. After their breakup, Bud gets his release from the most promiscuous girl in school, and this devastates Deanie, who feels that she has to go bad to regain his love and attention. At a school dance, she copies Ginny's seductive style, and attempts to seduce Bud to get him back. He turns her down, leading Deanie to the reservoir where her nervous breakdown explodes, and she is sent to a sanitarium to recuperate. Bud then has to find himself, while Deanie must heal to regain her sanity and sense of self-worth.

Each of their journeys are poignant, as is the revelation that Ginny, on a self-destructive path, dies in an automobile crash. She obviously desperately wanted her father's unconditional love and attention, which he refused to give her, never ceasing to remind her that she was an embarrassment and a disappointment. Her drunken argument with Bud says it all - "If you weren't my brother, you wouldn't even come near me! You're a nice boy, you're nice, I know what you nice boys are like - you only talk to me in the dark!" Bud's meeting with his future wife, Angelina (Zohra Lampert) and Deanie's relationship with fellow patient Johnny, beautifully presents the inner peace and healing that each of the protagonists have sought. The climax is a wonderfully touching end - a reunion of sorts, to make peace with the past.

"Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind." Wood was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress, and she certainly was deserving of that accolade. She and Beatty began an affair after shooting was completed that was sadly short-lived, kind of a painful echo of their on-screen relationship. Another sad parallel is Deanie's breakdown as she swims in the reservoir, since Wood's tragic demise would be as a result of the element that she feared most - water.

The film also features the debuts of Gary Lockwood, Sandy Dennis and Phyllis Diller, as well as Splendor's playwright author, William Inge, in a cameo as the church reverend.

A beautiful piece of movie-making, deserving of its status as a classic.
 
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 CRITICA EN EL PERIODICO "LA VANGUARDIA" (27-12-1962)

El argumentista de "Esplendor en la yerba" William Inge es uno de los más significados cautivadores del neorrealismo norteamericano. Con Miller y con Tennessee Williams constituye una especie de terrible trinidad de la literatura tremendista de su país. Algunas de sus obras han sido llevadas con enorme éxito al celuloide tales como "Bus Stop" y "Picnic". Al pasar al cine las obras de Inge suelen ser despojadas de sus aristas más hirientes, lo que probablemente ha debido ocurrir también con este argumento, escrito por su autor directamente para la pantalla. Pero continúa siendo, a pesar de todo una historia ácida y fuerte con personajes retorcidos y claramente desalentadores, aunque posiblemente lógico y realista. En el film, Inge entrelaza las vivencias de dos familias de Kansas, que siendo del mismo origen popular, gozan de situaciones económicas diferentes. El rico tiene dos vástagos: un varón en quien cifra todas sus ilusiones, y una fémina ligera de cascos, alcoholizada y cínica. El otro matrimonio sólo tiene una hija, muchacha bonita y seductora. El hijo del rico se enamora de la chica modesta. Este amor seria en la pluma de cualquier otro escritor, un drama pasional o un idilio romántico. En manos de William Inge se trans forma en una madeja complicada de sorprendentes derivaciones y de situaciones angustiosas. Sucede que el temor a llevar demasiado lejos su pasión, hace al galán tan circunspecto temeroso y huidizo que la pobre muchacha enamorada tiene que pasar por culpa suya dos años en una clínica psiquiátrica. A su temperamento pasional se le hace incompresible la fuga a lo casto José, de quien se mostrara hasta entonces tan ardientemente enamorado. Por su misma complejidad y por los estados morbosos que emergen de la historia, la película de un gran interés y no obstante, el final melancólico e inesperado alcanza una fuerte tensión emocional. El personaje llamado "Bud" es una típica figura del neorrealismo a la americana: un ser predestinado a la frustración de su existencia, y a forjar, inconscientemente, el infortunio de los demás. La película tiene un buen estilo y el vigor narrativo de su realizador, el maestro Elia Kazan. Pero no del Kazan de "Río Salvaje" inexpresivo y vago, sino del magnifico director de "La ley del Silencio" y "Al este del Edén". Natalie Wood reafirma lo excepcional de su temperamento artístico y la admirable lucidez de su talento. La figura de "Deanie" exigía una variedad de matices y una intuición dramática sólo susceptible de ser dados por una gran actriz. Sorprende que Natalie Wood, tan joven -solo tiene 22 años- haya podido penetrar su hondura y enriquecedor el personaje con una gama de expresiones tan hondamente humanas. La frase "esplendor en la yerba" que da titulo al film, procede de un poema de Wodswoth, que responde a la ambición de simbolizar paradójicamente la situación dramática que se crea el la pantalla. Cuando acaba la historia. para la pobre "Deanie" el esplendor primaveral, el verdor de sus ilusiones mas queridas es solo un recuerdo marchito y melancólico. El protagonista masculino, Warren Beatty, es hermano de Shirley MacLaine. Su labor de una gran vibración, apunta atisbos de la calidad artística que corresponde a la familia. Empezó su labor menos convincente que la de su extraordinaria partenaire.-A. MARTÍNEZ TOMAS.
 
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Splendor all around! 
 
This is a beautiful and powerful film - flawlessly acted, directed and written. It is easily the best of the sexual awakening movies that were so popular in the late fifties, early sixties. And why wouldn't it be - with Kazan at the helm and an original screenplay by William Inge.
The film begins with a similar theme to "Rebel Without a Cause" - that is why won't parents treat their children like human beings and really help them come to terms with becoming adults? But halfway through Inge does a clever turn-around and allows the kids to discover that their parents are human beings too, with all the weaknesses and frailties that go with being human. At the same time Inge portrays the coming of age of America as the joy of the roaring twenties moves into the gloom of the Depression.
The story is about how prejudice and blind morality destroys a great love - sex shouldn't be such a huge issue between two people who love each other, but the enormous pressures from outside to either do it or refrain from doing it cause confusion, pain and hurt. Who will ever forget Natalie Wood leaping naked from a bath screaming at her mother that she is not "spoiled"? Wood gives the performance of her life here, convincingly portraying adolescent love, a nervous breakdown, and the blossoming into woman-hood. Beatty too is splendid as the confused Bud. And both are so achingly beautiful!
The supporting cast is superb down to the smallest role. Barbara Loden is particularly memorable as Beatty's wild flapper sister, but Pat Hingle as his father, and Audrey Christie and Fred Stewart as Wood's parents are also unforgettable.
This is a resonant film that I believe will be more and more appreciated with the passing of time.
 
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It will break your heart
 
Warren Beatty made his screen debut in Hollywood with this treasure of a film. One of the best ever made. For me, I can barely make it through without shedding a tear. It's probably the most emotionally devastating film I've seen and somehow struck a chord with me like few other films have. The Shootist and The Bridges of Madison County are two other movies that bring out the Kleenex, but not the way Kazan's film can. The setting is a dim rural Kansas farming community in the days just prior to the Great Depression. Yet things are good in the beginning. The Stamper family is making a fortune off their stocks and the Loomis family has recently invested and stands to make money as well. Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood play two of the children of the families who go together in high school and are desperately in love. Beatty is Bud Stamper and Wood is Deannie Loomis. Both are in their teenage years and their hormones are raging. Sexual repression and it's consequences are examined in the film and why such conservatism and restraint exists. Bud and Deannie do not have sex, though both feel extremely uncomfortable from the tension that arises when they mutually suppress their instincts. Deannie is told by her mother that good girls don't do things like that, nor should they enjoy it. Bud on the otherhand is told by his freewheeling father, played excellently by Pat Hingle, that there's two kinds of girls in the world. Those that put out and those that don't. His only advice for his son is to not get into trouble, by which he means get a girl pregnant. Bud knows all too well about the "other" kind of girl, as his sister has become one of them. Bud fights pressures on all sides of his life including sports, his relationship with Deannie, finding a college, and sexual repression. Yet he is emotionally stable enough to take it. Deannie on the otherhand makes an altar to Bud and her entire existence seems to revolve around him. What makes the film so compelling is watching these wonderful characters who are not cliché' even if their problems sometimes are. Warren Beatty plays his role naturally sensitive but conflicted with his father and peer's advice that he "man-up." Deannie is quiet, shy, beautiful, and sensitive. When Bud's need can no longer remain in check he sleeps with another girl. This news sends Deannie into complete shock. Natalie Wood brings so much depth to the character. I can vision a thousand places where her scenes could have gone wrong, but somehow it works. Even the most difficult and infamous scene in the movie where Wood is soaking in the tub and then stands up screaming at her mother before running out of the bathroom. Deannie's mother only wants the best for her, but it's the old fashioned values, restraint, and the pain of Bud with another girl, which eventually snowball into Deannie being sent to a mental institution after a nervous breakdown and suicide attempt (ironically Wood attempts suicide by drowning in the movie, years later the real life Wood died from drowning. She carried a fear of water with her through her entire life). From this point in the movie the stock market crashes and Bud moves past Deannie but fails college before continuing his personal dream of becoming a farmer. William Wordsworth wrote the poem from which the film takes its name. The film deals with first love in a way few other films have. Certainly a movie of today examining the issue would not be so foreboding. One might think the film is unrealistic because of the outbursts and almost too fragile teens. It is easy to laugh and say how stupid and ignorant love is at that age, but for those who've lived and felt it, I think it'd be difficult to see this movie as far fetched in anyway. Or even scoff at the characters and their desperate behavior. Afterall, we're dealing with an age and time where suicide is among the leading causes of death for teenagers and 20-year olds and one of the major factors are breakups with first loves. Natalie Wood gives one of the finest, most powerful performances in all of cinema. She'll break your heart and make you feel as much for her character as possible with the medium. Warren Beatty is also good as Bud, the confused and repressed young man who just wants things to make sense. There are few films as fine as Elia Kazan's 1961 picture that tackles these subjects and can deal with them in such a sincere and emotional way.
 
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Get The Kleenex Ready 
 
So poignant, it hurts. And I'm a heterosexual male who enjoys football and grunge. Though some of the attitudes toward sex have been tempered in the intervening years, the turmoils and pressures of being a teen ring just as true today 42 years after this film's release. Kazan is a master at capturing those wrenching angsty adolescent and post-adolescent moments of emotional vulnerability and doubt, especially concerning the love/hate between children and their parents, and this is among his best work. A reminder that wistful remembrances of the seeming innocence and happiness of youth are probably wishful thinking, and also an ironic prodding that there is seemingly something idealistic lost or compromised when we enter adulthood. Kudos to the entire cast but in particular, Natalie Wood is scintillating, perfectly encapsulating the joys and horrors of someone caught up in the dizzying power and raging hormones of teen love. Beatty is solid, too, if a bit overly earnest.

All of the twists and turns of the plot work, though ultimately Bud's family's economic setbacks and deaths and Didi's family's successes are mere soap operatic window dressing to the "A" plot line, which is the heart tugging reality of "nothing bringing back the hour of the Splendor In The Grass" for Bud and Didi, though both obviously still share the feeling. This is the kind of movie that doesn't get made in America now because of the non-commercial (but accurate) ending. Okay, they broached it in the less psychologically challenging CASTAWAY, but slapped on a happy ending afterwards.

SPLENDOR is not perfect; Bud's father (Pat Hingle) is a little overwrought and stereotypically drawn as the socioeconomic snob with castratingly ambitious designs on Bud's future. Bud's sister (Barbara Loden) is similarly too pat as the troubled, neglected child who does all she can to get daddy's disapproval. Still, any of the soapy aspects of the plot just fall away when the Beatty / Wood romance plot line gets cooking. They got the meat of this movie just right and the result is one of the most memorable and vivid examples of young romance ever set down on celluloid. Don't miss it!
 
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 Powerful Movie With A Timeless Message
 
I watched Splendor In The Grass today in its entirety for the first time. I had seen bits and pieces of it on late night TV before, and had planned to try and see the whole movie for many years. I must say that I strongly disagree with the notion that this movie is "dated" and has lost its power over the last 40 years. This movie is not about un-requited love, but rather about two people who are deeply in love with each other. Unfortunately, due to various external forces such as their parents, their peers, the pressure to fit in with the rest of "normal" society, their fears, their innocent lack of understanding of how special their feelings are for each other, etc. all lead to one screwed up attempt after another to open up to each other and try to act on what they feel in their hearts. While some of the dialogue may be "dated", these two people struggling with love together is in my opinion as timeless as love itself.

This is one of those rare movies that while brilliant in its day, is somehow enhanced further by its age (it was filed 40 years ago in 1961). The age of the movie seems to make its message even more powerful. Lost love, time marching on, people trying to leave the past in the past and move forward, these messages are somehow made more realistic and more moving by the knowledge of the passage of time that has occurred since this film was made. Am I making any sense here?

My gosh, Natalie Wood was a flower in full bloom when she appeared in this film. What a beautiful young woman she was and she gave a wonderful performance as Deannie. Warren Beatty was good too as Bud, her high school sweetheart, but Natalie Wood stole the show. What a lucky guy Robert Wagner was for being married twice to this beautiful and talented woman. What is it about this film, that in spite of the fact that I never knew Natalie Wood in real life, just watching her in this film and realizing she is gone from this world brings me deep feelings of sadness. She would be 63 years old now, the same age as my mother, had she not been tragically killed in a drowning accident in California.

I am not educated in the art of film making or acting. However, I am a lover of good movies. This film makes we wish I had studied acting or directing or film or whatever, so that I could be involved in the production of movies like Splendor in The Grass.

I am babbling and jumping around all over the place here but I want to add a couple more thoughts. I disagree with the notion that this movie tries to sell the message that one must forget about the past and move on. To the contrary, I think the true message delivered by this film is that you only have one life on this planet, one chance, and if you are lucky enough to find someone that makes you feel the way Deannie and Bud felt for each other, you should do your best to explore it for what it is and not throw it away, because you are young. The future may not always bring someone else along that makes you feel the same way again. Also, parent's may think they know what is best for their children at all times, especially about who they should go out with or become involved with. But parent's have to let their children live their own lives, or their meddling may do way more harm and none of the good they intended.
 
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 Whatever you think of Elia Kazan, he still is one of the greatest directors who ever lived. 
 
I am not a fan of the politics of Mr. Kazan, nor do I have the least amount of respect for his conduct during the McCarthy era, however I cannot help but acknowledge that he is simply one of the finest movie directors who ever lived.
Splendor In The Grass is yet another brilliantly acted film, one which is so engrossing, so riveting, that by the time it is finished one literally feels out of breath. Now perhaps one could say, well Mr. Kazan has been blessed with a continuing succession of extremely talented actors and actresses. This is true, "Gentleman's Agreement," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "On The Waterfront," "Splendor In The Grass" each possess legendary performers. However! How did they perform at their best? Mr. Kazan. And if you ever hear them interviewed, those who are still alive, they all pay tribute to his superior ability to demand and acquire the best an actor has to offer. Natalie Wood in particular proves this in the film, so does the nascent Warren Beatty, both whom deliver poise far beyond their respective ages at that time.
Mr. Kazan also is a superior story teller and this film maneuvers with lyrical facility and poetic grace. I did not find one moment unnecessary, every image told a story and aided my descent into the minds of the characters. And you certainly empathize with them! You are drawn in and engrossed by their experiences. All of this is the result of a master technician and artistic visionary who had both the aesthetic genius and technical know-how to conduct one of a series of top-notch pieces in the American film landscape. A must see!
 
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Splendor in the Grass
 
The movie "Splendor in the Grass (1961)," is one of the best movies I have seen so far. I am a male in my early thirties and the film has touched me in such a way that I have never been touched by an old movie before. Even though I have not lived in that time era the film portrays. However, I have seen many old films that are from the "older" version, and I have yet to see a film that projects human feeling as much as this film has done it for me.

Genuine love between two youngsters who have yet to experience the world's bad side, a side that affects plenty of flowers from blossoming; went astray. Discrimination on the basis of wealth is the main cause for Deanie's bad end, which is no different than other forms of discrimination that Bud's family put on the not-so well to do young lady, Deannie. It is unfortunate that Bud ended up having a "normal" traditional life that rich and well to do young ladies longed for at the time. The character played as Deanie longed for basic love from Bud to which he was unable to deliver due to his family's constant intervention on his son's personal life; it is his father that denied him pleasure of having 'happiness' with his high school sweetheart. Happiness, which he would have preferred over controlling his family's business could bring him.

Unfortunately, not all people have the same lens of view of seeing life from different angle. In the opinion of the writer of this comment, wealth is not only gained from money, wealth is gained from all the riches of satisfying life, life that is fulfilled with little achievements. In this particular film, the young man's family translated wealth as a source of pride and happiness. Despite, in the eye of a capitalist's vision of happiness, his father did what he thought was best for his son. After all, who wouldn't wish the best for his or her child? It was also sad to see Deannies' father unable to do anything to counter the rejection of his daughter, except resent his inablity to supply his family with the riches other men do.

The writer/director played Deanie's character in a very exposed emotion laid for the audience to smash it open and be ashamed of it to its end. I was close to tears at times, especially at the end when she discovered that her Bud was married with a toddler and pregnant wife. It made his new wife cry with envy, as to who he gave up to be with her. It is visible to see from Deanie's eyes the disappointments, it just reminds me of my other favorite movie seen, "Carlito's Way," the character played by Al Pacino, when he was attempting to convince his love interest played as "Gail." In that seen, he meets her at a place of her work and very disturbed by what she does for living, strip joint dancer. He tries to hide his feeling of disappointment, but she learns his judgment when her fans came to express their joy for having to see her dance. Right at that moment, when she mentioned something he has been dodging to avoid, his eyes tell it all. In my view the seen captured is by far the best of all movies I have seen capturing the emotional disappointment visually being captured. "Splendor In The Grass," has captured that sort of emotion from a female perspective, the writer/director added dignity to the expression of disappointment. That was heartbreaking to have to witness such devastating reality Deanie has to swallow. Her eyes tell it all, as they were hungry to see her own life find that very end, an end she would have been very pleased to see.

It teaches the audience that time is a river, unlike a lake (pond) it travels, Bud did what was normal for him to do, find another girl and fall in love with. It also shows that no two loves are equal, the love Deanie and Bud had for each other was not at equilibrium. If it was, he would have married her after discovering of his father's death. At the end when she came out of her madness to remember him as he was, while he has forgotten all about her and moved on. I find the film very soothing to the soul, and took me back to reminisce my own past life.
 
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