SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS has a few firsts attached to it. It was Beatty's debut in the movies; it was Inge's first work done specifically for the screen; and it was Kazan's first picture that failed to satisfy. A self-consciously Freudian melodrama of repressed sexuality and its consequences,
the film takes place in 1925 in Kansas, where Inge grew up. Beatty and Wood are high schoolers who can't consummate their love due to social constraints. Their frustration is exacerbated by Wood's shrewish mom (Christie) and Beatty's rigid, unloving dad (Hingle); madness and heartbreak result.
The title comes from Wordsworth: "There's nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower / We will grieve not, but rather find / Strength in what remains behind." What remains of interest after more than three decades is Zohra Lampert's excellent work in a
small but crucial part, and a key role in the evolution of Beatty's star image. Beatty was in his early twenties and had just appeared in Inge's play "A Loss of Roses" in 1959, after having been discovered by Josh Logan and Inge while working in a small playhouse in New Jersey. Despite that play's
failure, Inge was mesmerized by Beatty and wrote this screenplay for him. Later, he would adapt James Leo Herlihy's novel All Fall Down into a screenplay for Beatty after Beatty himself had impressed another epicene playwright, Tennessee Williams, sufficiently to get the plum role in THE ROMAN
SPRING OF MRS. STONE. While making this film, Beatty began the off-screen amours that have since become legendary. Wood was married to Robert Wagner (the first time around) and she was the first of many who would fall for Beatty.
In small bits, note Phyllis Diller as Texas Guinan, Sandy Dennis in her first film, and Gary Lockwood in his third. Youth exploitation pictures were all the rage at the time, and while this is better than some in execution and intent, it's still exactly that.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS has a few firsts attached to it. It was Beatty's debut in the movies; it was Inge's first work done specifically for the screen; and it was Kazan's first picture that failed to satisfy. A self-consciously Freudian melodrama of repress… (more)