in the Grass (1961)
it was released, Splendor in the Grass was extremely explicit,
and some scenes will still be considered that way even today. The
spontaneity and energy that Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty instantly
bring to Splendor in the Grass gives the first part of the film a
directness and a freshness that very few of its contemporaries
can match. The acting, characterizations and ambience are alive and
vivacious in a timeless way. Inge's script draws inspiration from Arthur
Miller's Death of a Salesman, mixes that with a precocious
thematization of youthful sexual aggravation and finally backdrops it
all against the economical contrasts surrounding the stock market
collapse in the late 20s. It's a very ambitious project that ultimately
turns out to be too ambitious even for a man of Elia Kazan's calibre.
Because, although there are interesting views presented on most of these
issues, Kazan has trouble maintaining a thin red line throughout his
work. That goes especially for the historical material; more often than
not, these are 1960s characters placed in a 1920s environment. Kazan also
has some trouble with his pacing and time-spanning. Where he is thorough
in the film's first half, he rushes off too often in the latter.
Unfortunately, this affects the potency of the story as well as the
characters and the relations between them. Only Pat Hingle's powerful
performance keeps the film interesting on more levels than the one it's
really all about: sex. Arguably the first film to really come out and
discuss sex openly - even if the word is never said. Wood and Beatty
sure has the energy to depict the frustration their characters go
through. And it probably wasn't too hard to empathize: the two stars'
much publicized relationship started just after the filming had
finished. Beatty's debut; Wood was Oscar-nominated.