Wednesday, March 10, 2010

- 'Splendor in the Grass' Open Thread

Join us for the rest of the shows at Movie Club.


  1. Well, I started into the show. It is funny how your perception of things change as you grow older and have more life experiences. Of course, some of it is a bit over the top, with Bud's father being completely insensitive and unable to listen or help those around him (whom he does love), but at least a part of it rings true to me. I am familiar with the frustration that Bud feels, toward his father certainly, but toward Deannie as well. I think Eric Stoltz's portrayal of Daniel Graystone being very unable or unwilling to listen to his daughter Zoe was far more believable, but the sentiment is the same.

    For his first film appearance, the young Warren Beatty is unreal. He is so good, and of course has naturally likeable qualities that shine through - the easy confidence, athleticism and rugggedly handsome presence. But he is so believeable as young Bud Stamper... the teasing and cajoling of Deannie over at her parents home, the sense at school that he has something more to say to her, but he really can't put it into words...all done very well. And his frustration! When he pushed Deannie down and told her to beg him as a slave gave me such a flash of anger, but his immediate remorse for hurting her feelings made me realize that that was actually how he felt, like a slave being toyed with and jerked around by the people around him, and he didn't know what to do with his feelings about it. So frustrating to see how his Dad was totally unable to hear him. And he needed his Dad, to at least hear him, if not help him fix things. What lousy advise he got from his Dad. I got as far as Bud getting treatments at the doctors, and I had a glimmer of hope that here was someone who perhaps Bud could talk to and air out his feelings, be reassured that they were all normal and ultimately a good thing, to get grounded and perhaps get some wise counsel, but no, those hopes were dashed. The doc couldn't do anything to help him...and Bud's dissappointment and resignation.. Beatty was just great in that scene.

    There's lots more to say. I didn't even get a chance to mention Deannie! I'll hope to finish it tonight.

    What did you think? Did you like it at all?

  2. I was only going to watch about half, but I was too drawn in not to see where things went. So, *SPOILERS*!

    I am so impressed with Beatty, so young, first real picture, i didn't expect him to be so balanced, almost understated, so not "over the top", especially in the scenes where he is close to losing it. He practically drives himself insane, being the "good" boy; trying to be careful with Deannie, resisting the need to press the doctor for some kind of help, barely even interrupting his father while the future he wants is pulled away from him.

    The "Kneel, slave" scene is so painful. His immediate remorse, Deannie's shame, almost as if he had stripped her. I had never realized Natalie Wood was so natural at acting with her whole body -- I felt those moments of wanting to disappear into the floor, and then she turns to face him and acknowledges the enormity of her feelings for him, almost as if it is a strength! And the scene where she practically dives onto her bed after a kissing session -- she assures her mother that nothing has happened, but her whole body is alive, electric.

    Bud's sister is practically a caricature -- no light hand there, in the acting or the directing. Maybe just as well; she's heart-breaking as it is. The only time she felt real to me when she was slapping Bud, and then remembers that he isn't the enemy. (I'm wondering; Is the audience supposed to be taking in what she has gone through? The destruction of her marriage, the forced abortion -- are they there to show us how "bad" she's been, or to show how badly she's been damaged by the lifelong control and interference?)

    It's very strange; there are times the direction seems almost nonsensical. Yet they pull off the poem-reading scene so perfectly. Leading up with her in the hallway, alone this time, with the combination of stares and avoidance, the gossip silencing as she moves to her seat. The less said by the character, the better -- it lets the audience project everything we know we would feel onto her, and Natalie Woods is wonderful at showing Deannie's struggle to look "normal". And then we watch her break.

    Do you think they could have been happy? Deannie helping Bud with Ag school, and then the ranch? We never really get to see whether there is more than their youthful chemistry between them; they're both defined as nice kids, but we meet them as an established couple. Or might life have been simple enough that given their choices they would have just kept loving each other?

    Instead, they'll each work on a life made up of "what remains behind." Bud's most loving act is at the end, when he lets her know that she is still a part of him. She needs that, she knows how to value it, and it allows her to trust her own understanding. But I wonder whether Bud will be able to love Angelina the way she deserves.

    Yes, I liked it very much.

  3. "she assures her mother that nothing has happened, but her whole body is alive, electric."

    Yes, she did that very well...holding the pillow and wishing it were Bud. You can really feel for her, and you just want to sit down and reassure her, give her some guidance and understanding. The young characters are both aching to have some helpful parental involvement, and its obvious lack and the nitwit half-truths they receive just make you cringe inside and anxious that things will not go well for them.

    Deannie is so enamored of Bud. She loves him with all that she has. It is an innocent and young love to be sure, but she is an innocent and young girl. All she wants is to become Bud's wife, to be with him and be there for him, to hold him and be as close as she can be, to have his children... she wants all those things. For Bud, he wants to live a life that he feels he could live, and he wants Deannie to be there with him. He doesn't want to live without her...he hardly can manage it as it is. He knows he will be all right with Deannie there, and though he doesn't know how it will all work out, he has a confidence that it will. Of course, the thought of children are not on his mind at all, except as a possible unpleasant development. Young men are like that. When he does come to have children, he will come to discover that what he was thinking he should avoid is the greatest source of happiness in his life. That's just how that goes, and any more mature man of sense would tell him so.

    But how do they get from where they are to where they hope to be? As it stands, none of the things on Bud's mind are in his Dad's plans for him, and his Dad can think of nothing else. And what of the advice they are getting from their families? No one can see what these two young people know, that they love each other, and that that's enough. And it would be enough, if they were among a loving and supportive family. That kind of certainty that Bud has, it doesn't come along that often in a young man. If I were his father, I would tell him he is young and things might be tight, at least at first, but he has the right girl now and would do well to marry her. And by the way, he should thank God for his good blessing. Deannie isn't going to hold Bud back from a future he could have. She'll help him to reach a better one... the one he should have.

    But things aren't going to go that way, because all the adults are unable to see past there own notions of limited possibilities, nor do they see the dangers of making their children's lives hard for them. Young people seldom have a good idea of what is best to do, but in this case that common truth is turned on its head.

    You're right about the young Natalie Wood. She is remarkably good in portraying her longing for Bud, her own struggle to not make a mess of things, her struggle to try and do the right thing when she really would much rather be with Bud, and her insecurities about her own feelings. She isn't trying to tease Bud or lead him on. She isn't trying to hook him. She loves him. She doesn't understand Bud's frustration, nor does she know how to help him.

    Bud just couldn't deal with it anymore, and had to get some separation, which she really couldn't understand. I feel bad for them both.

    Thanks for your great comments, Cathy. I hope to see the rest tonight!

  4. Deannie's mother is at the bathroom door, asking her if she had let things go too far with Bud. Deannie answers 'No', and when her Mom asks again she opens the door and tells her again so her Mom can see her face when she answers... and her Mom's fears are put to rest.

    Just a little thing, but so honest a feel to it.

  5. Deannie was willing to go to the dance on the chance she will see Bud there, and does. And though most of our focus is directed toward Deannie and her deep wound and heartbreak, my strong impression is that Bud is deeply troubled as well, and the half-brain schemes he comes up with to help him deal with his feelings are utterly self-destructive. They make him loathe himself, and are a false substitute for what he really wants. Even the red head at the falls and the blonde at the dance have a certain amount of self loathing for actions that they just know are wrong and harmful, not just to Deannie and Bud, but to themselves. Self-interest acted upon while attempting to disregard what we know is the right thing God would have us do is ultimately self-destructive. It's always like that. Pleasure for a season perhaps, but no joy there.

    Even though frustrated by circumstance, there had been an easy joyfulness to Bud just being around Deannie. A simple deep understanding that she was good for him. Now that is all lost to him, and it isn't going to be found in any of the things he is doing to try to escape and numb his feelings.

  6. I really liked the little side-story about the blond at the dance. Early in the movie she was shown looking with rather forlorn longing at Bud, pretty clearly accepting that it was just not her lot to date the football hero.

    Later she is one of the classmates who witness Deannie falling apart, and in the clasroom window with a couple of the other girls (all of whom know the cause of Deannie's distress) says she would never accept a date with Bud, which the other girls scoff at.

    When we see her at the dance with Bud, it is she who gives Bud and Deannie the moment together -- she knows that Bud isn't really available, and sends him back to the girl who clearly still has his heart. I don't think there was anything of the nature of what went on with the redhead; I think there was just a bit if wishful thinking that maybe she could finally have Bud for herself, but saw it wasn't to be.

    A sad little story, but with a lot of truth -- most girls don't get to date the hero.

  7. Yes, a small part, but it fills out the story. Or the cut away to the two older ladies watching Bud and Deannie across the fence, with great interest and feeling. That was all we saw of them, but I loved the fact that they were there. That is one thing that I really appreciate about older films, that minor characters are given a little time and attention, to convey a broader, deeper feel for the world in which Bud and Deannie live.

    That Tootze was a real ass. I would have loved to knock that clown on his butt.

    This was a pretty rich story, and it struck a nerve for me in many ways. I love the fact that you, Cathy, have a much better feel for the women's perspective. I saw that blonde as a fickle friend with no depth or loyalty, but you're right, she stood back and allowed Bud to go over to Deannie, so there is something to be admired in that.

    And yes, we often do not get to date the person we would hope to, the football star or popular girl, but that perhaps that is a good thing for us. Popular girls (whatever they are doing these days - cheer leading, dance team, soccer) and boys that are 'stars' in high school sports sometimes are inclined to be somewhat egocentric, for that is how the world seems to treat them. It is a struggle for them not to take advantage of their appeal to others, if they are even aware that that is something they should try to keep in check. In this case though, both Deannie and Bud really were good people, neither of them being consumed with themselves.

    When Deannie finally came to visit Bud at the ranch, there were a number of interesting moments, but the one that affected me most was when Deannie bent down to pick up Bud Jr and hold and admire him. As Bud watched her, he came to be a little self-conscious and concerned for his wife, while Deannie seemed lost in thoughts of her own...

    I would be keen to hear what you might have thought about it.

  8. There are so many things that would have to run through her head. First the brutal reality that Bud, married and having children, was really, truly , lost to her. And Bud's been married some time, obviously -- How quickly was she replaced? Had he really loved her as she believed? It had taken Deannie years to get to the point that she could face him again, but seemingly, he had moved on pretty easily. Then there is Bud Jr., whom she would love, for being Bud's, but with the pain of knowing he might have been hers, as well. However, having the baby there, to hold and interact with, spared her having to chat eye to eye with Angelina, and gave her the bit of cover she needed, while she took in the shock of it all.

    Angelina must have known who Deannie was, and she's obviously uncomfortable being caught off-guard, maternity house-dress and all. But she is welcoming, and generous -- if she had been resentful of her husband's past, she wouldn't have encouraged Deannie to pick up the baby. But she is uncertain, somewhat insecure, a little afraid of what seeing this lost love again would mean to her husband. Bud is a loving soul --he sees that unease on Angelina's face when he comes back from his farewell with Deannie, and truly looks at her, and kisses her. He wants her to know that she is his wife, not just the woman he married. But he still can't help watching Deannie drive away with the girls.

    Who knows. Maybe, with what-might-have-been laid to rest, they will actually find that they're happy in the new lives they're building.

  9. Did you love that it was Deannie's dad -- finally! -- who told her where to find Bud!

    And I was thinking about what you said re the treatment of the bit-part characters, more than the cardboard cut-outs for immediately recognizable stereotypes they would be in more recent stuff. Instead we see, quickly, that, though they may, in fact, be two old women with nothing better to do than stand around and talk about the neighbor kids, they've watched those neighbor kids grow up, and they've laughed with, and cried for, those kids for eighteen years so far. It tells us about the time, about the community, and about the kids. And I don't think they even had any lines!

  10. Yes, I loved that Deanie's Dad came through for her, and that Deanie came over and gave him a little intimate kiss on the forehead. He always had far more sense than the mother did, but was cowed by her large personality. A quick glance over to mom showed him he would catch trouble for it, but he knew he had done the right thing...finally.

    I would hope Deanie would have a sense that Bud did not move on easily. He certainly didn't. He was absolutely devastated, and the loss of Deanie is what his father was certain sure was a grievance Bud could not forgive him for.

    "Then there is Bud Jr., whom she would love, for being Bud's, but with the pain of knowing he might have been hers, as well."

    Wow, that was the part that just killed me. Seeing little Bud and holding him, knowing this is the child she had hoped so much to have with Bud. That is the part a young man like Bud surely had never given a thought about, but you just knew that Deanie had. And now here he was. It was the heartstone evidence that Bud's new life was forever to be lived apart from Deanie. I felt so bad for her, for the loss of the children she had hoped for with Bud, here before her but not hers. That had to be a hard.

    Bud was just great, walking her back to her friends and telling her how strange it was the way things worked out, not like either of them had thought they would, and the acceptance that they just had to take what life brings. He really hoped that Deanie would be happy with her life. And yes, it made me glad that he called her back, nodded to her to come a little further away from her friends with the same way he always had, and told her "I'm awfully glad to have seen you, Deanie" He would never see her again, but he let her know that she was precious to him, and that she and those times they had had together in their younger days were precious to him as well.

    I guess the thing I would hope to keep in mind is that it is possible to love someone well, really well, as Bud did Angelina, and still have deep regard for someone else you had loved earlier. Times had changed, life had dealt them both some very hard blows, and they had both had to take what comes. But it didn't mean that Deanie wasn't important to Bud, or that those earlier days were any less precious to Bud as they were to Deanie.

    Loving Angelina was what Bud had chose to do, and he wasn't going to go running off for anyone else. Everyone knew that. The only one that might have had a touch of doubt was Angelina. But it was certain sure in Bud's mind that Angelina was his wife, and the mother of his children, and that she had loved him well. There wasn't anything to do but reassure her that he loved her and that she was his life now.

    Oh my, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this movie. So sad, and yet I can relate to it more today than when I first saw it twenty years ago. I could talk about it a lot more, and may still in the future. Is this really fun for you?

    Well, what do you say? On to The Razors Edge?

  11. Yes, this is really fun for me. It's been a long time since I've talked movies with someone who likes looking at the details.

    Something that's surprising me a little, as I think about scenes, or even moments, from Splendor after giving it time to percolate, I'm more affected by them, especially the ones that touched a nerve. I'm really glad you suggested it.

  12. They remade this movie twenty years later in 1981, with Melissa Gilbert playing the part of Deanie Loomis. She was really good in it, but as it was a made for TV production, I have not been able to see it again.

  13. Wow, there's some casting I would never have imagined! Do you remember who played Bud?

    Hey -- which version did you see first?

  14. Bud was played by a guy named Cyril O'Reilly (?), and Bud's sister Ginny was played by Michelle Pfeifer, but it was Melissa Gilbert that made the show.

    I saw the 1961 motion picture version first, but enjoyed them both.

  15. For those interested, here is the opening of the 1981 Melissa Gilbert version. It's just a tiny piece, but you can get a feel for the mood of the film, and of the very fine job Melissa did as the young Deanie.