Classic Woman-Centric Movie Review: Splendor in the Grass

Hello, Persephoneers! It’s Friday, and it’s time for another classic movie pick. This week’s movie pic is Splendor in the Grass, released in 1961, and starring Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood, and Pat Hingle. It was directed by Elia Kazan.

In Kansas in 1928, young Deanie Loomis (Wood) is dating Bud Stamper (Beatty), the son of one of the town’s most prominent families. They’re simply crazy about each other, but the antiquated notions of the previous century threaten their relationship. Deanie’s mother advises her not to yield to her desire for sex with Bud, while Bud’s father (Hingle) advises him to find a girl who’s willing to sleep with him. Bud is also pressured to chase success; his parents desire for him to attend Yale University and to go out and take the world buy storm. While Deanie is a very sweet girl, she’s the one thing that could keep Bud from achieving all of this. Following his father’s advice, Bud starts to date another girl who will have sex with him, and when Deanie discovers this and the relationship ends, she is heartbroken.

While Bud goes off to Yale, Deanie tries to move on with her life and date other boys, but she is almost sexually assaulted by one of them. The ensuing post-traumatic stress disorder and her lingering heartache over the failed relationship with Bud become too hard for her to bear, and she is institutionalized. While in the institution, Deanie does give in to her desire for sex and learns how to live her life on her terms. Her parents had to sell their stock to pay for her hospitalization and narrowly miss losing everything during the stock market crash of 1929, while Bud’s family fortunes are wiped out and his father commits suicide. The stock market crash turns out to be a boon for Bud, as he and his new wife, whom he met while off at Yale, buy a ranch. Deanie, who’s engaged to a doctor and plans on moving with him to Cincinnati, visits Bud one last time before leaving. They say their goodbyes, and Deanie is finally able to come to terms with her past and move on with her life.

Movie poster from Splendor in the Grass

Theatrical poster for Splendor in the Grass. Image from Wikipedia.

Splendor in the Grass tackles the ill effects of patriarchy on both genders. The line of distinction between the women men marry and the women men simply sleep with is something that ruins the young romance in this film, and much of the attitude also has to do with class. Bud’s parents want him to marry a woman who is in the same social class as they are; while Deanie is alright for now, there’s certainly no future with her after high school. While Deanie is what’s considered to be a “good woman,” Bud’s sister Ginny, a flapper who likes to drink and party and who has an annulled marriage under her belt, is considered to be the shame of the Stamper family, but the money behind her name is the one thing that can save her reputation. Deanie only has her reputation, and according to her own mother’s beliefs, she must do what she can to preserve it.

Conflicting values between parents and children is another theme that is covered in this film. The 1920s was a time of great social change. After the First World War, women wanted to embrace the freedom that they felt they gained when they the right to vote. The war changed the perspectives of many people, and they began to question the beliefs that their parents had taught them. Not only does this occur with Deanie, but with Bud as he tries to fulfill his parents’ expectations even though that might not be what he wants to do with his life. The stock market crash of 1929 gives him a chance to start anew and live life on his terms as well, without his parents’ constant pressure to live up to the family name.

The plot is also one that many can relate to. We all remember the intensity of our first romantic relationships and the many plans that may have been made and the things that may have been said, but rather like Deanie and Bud, we grow up, and we realize that the plans we make always change just as our lives do.

 

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