Overbearing Parents, Need for Social Conformity, Preoccupation with Money. Its enough to make one spit! Who wouldn’t go absolutely INSANE? Splendor in the Grass attempts what so many movies of this time attempt… a view into the tragic and real trials of love.
Written in the Wind ( Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall) did it with alcoholism and in turn Dorothy Malone won an Oscar. This Property is Condemned ( Robert Redford, Natalie Wood) does it with politics and revenge. And A Place in the Sun ( Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Cliff) claims 6 Oscars for a lovely unplanned pregnancy, obsession and murder.
Love itself becomes some sort of sin that shouldn’t be touched with a 29-1/2 foot pole. In turn, the men all turn into poor sex starved alcoholics, or worse- find the ideal girl and leave our mere human heroines in the dust. And the poor women, well…their deemed “easy” and subsequently shunned by all society, And some well…some go absolutely mad, in the clinical sense. Again, for what? To meet parental ideals of better jobs? College? Better marriages? To be seen respectable by the chatty women of the community? And one wonders how madness is not the rational next step! For what other outcome could possibly occur?
I think Ginny( Buds sister) says it best…
“If you wanna listen to dad then go ahead, But one of these days you’ll find out, and when you do God help you.”
But Splendor in the Grass, dare I say, happily emerges from the depths of despair. Bud, played by Warren Beatty-in perhaps his most challenging role, experiences a complete physical shutdown caused by his strong but unsatisfied feelings for Deanie( Natalie Wood). While Deanie, trying to be the good girl, suppresses all her human emotion and goes completely mad. But thus are the trials of love. And after two years, we see Bud having escaped his father’s wrath but only by his own father’s suicide, and undertaking agriculture as he’s always wanted. And Deanie leaving the mental hospital with hopes of a new life. Yes, they’ve both moved on. They’ve both escaped those previous entrapments. Deanie, upon returning home, finds Bud has married a sweet italian girl, has had a child, and theres another in tow. Deanie herself plans to marry a fellow patient who is now practicing cardiology. They see each other, and they know what they had was important. What they had was special. But they’re past blaming now. They can’t go back, they must rise from the ashes stronger than before. And they do.
I had only seen bits and pieces of this film before, and I must say I loved it, and not in the way I love other films that address this issue. I don’t do well with tragic endings. I like hope. And at the end of this film, no one goes away with what they originally wanted so badly. But they go away anyway and find things to replace those holes in their hearts and minds. They take different paths, and everything turns out just fine. Amazing how the soul heals itself isn’t it?