Splendor in the Grass
Fiction, USA, 1961, color, 124’
Direction: Elia Kazan Screenplay: William Inge Cinematography: Boris Kaufman Music: David Amram Cast: Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden, Zohra Lampert Production: Warner Bros., Newton Productions Distribution: Park Circus
The 1929 Wall Street Crash constitutes the ideal setting in which Kazan can speak implicitly to the emergent youth movement during the Depression –still current in the early 1960s when the film is shot- by exercising a furious critique of bourgeois morality and hypocrisy. Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty in his first film role), a rich football player in financially wretched Kansas is madly in love with “Deanie” (Natalie Wood). Social norms, however, threaten their dreams. Working closely with playwright William Inge, Kazan fought off multiple attempts to censor the film’s frank critique of American Puritanism and capitalist excess as two sides of the same counterfeit coin. Inge and Kazan’s shared interest in psychoanalysis pushed their characterization of sexual awakening to the point of neurosis as embodied by a radiant and fragile Natalie Wood and a dashingly awkward Warren Beatty. Barbara Loden (who later married Kazan) also delivers a memorable performance.