Monday, September 07, 2009

"Splendor in the Grass": Finding strength in what lies behind

In the fall of 1961, during my eleven weeks at William and Mary, I saw the film (prescient, for me) “Splendor in the Grass”, now a classic WB movie directed by Elia Kazan, written by William Inge.

The story is inspired by a passage toward the end of the famous poem by William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (link).

The famous words about bringing back the moments of “splendor in the grass” refer to young love, forbidden love, a bit of Romeo and Juliet. Here, the girl Deanie Loomis (Natalie Wood) is from a poor family in Kansas in 1928, whereas the boy Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty) comes from the rich side. Deanie’s mother fears that her not remaining a “nice girl” will cause her any chance to get married, and Bud’s pa fears the opposite, that he’ll have to marry a tramp. The story builds up considerable tension (just within what we call PG-13 today), including a scene where Bud “teases” her into worshipping him and then apologizes. Finally, when Deanie hears the poem, she cracks, and winds up in a mental institution. Bud’s family goes broke in the Depression, but both marry someone else and wind up, in a final meeting, wondering what might have been.

In my mindset at the time, there was plenty for me to “emote”. In my own way of thinking that previous summer, I had known a kind of psychological “splendor”, and already “found strength in what lies behind”. I would wind up in a “mental institution” of sorts, NIH, in 1962, in an episode I’ve discussed on my main blog (look at Nov. 28, 2006).

An episode in Season 3 of Smallville retrospects back to 1961 and shows a marquee for the “Splendor in the Grass” film as if it had shown in Smallville, KS that year.

Another controversial film that I saw that fall in Williamsburg was “Goodbye Again” (aka “Aimez-vous Brahms”, United Artists), directed by Anatole Litvak, based on the novel by Francoise Sagan, with Anthony Perkins and Ingrid Bergman, and a famous use of the Poco Allegretto from Brahms’s Symphony #3. This latter film does not appear to be available on DVD yet (logically, it would belong to MGM).

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