Splendor in the Grass (1961)

124 mins | Drama | 10 October 1961

Director:

Elia Kazan

Producer:

Elia Kazan

Cinematographer:

Boris Kaufman

Editor:

Gene Milford

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Companies:

NBI Productions, Newton Productions
Full page view
HISTORY

William Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" is the source of the title. The phrase appears within a stanza of the poem as follows: “Though nothing can bring back the hour/ Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;/ We will grieve not, rather find/ Strength in what remains behind.” Although an 8 Oct 1958 Var brief indicated the title would be replaced before release, it remained unchanged.
       Splendor in the Grass marked playwright William Inge’s screenwriting debut, and Warren Beatty’s first theatrical feature film. Beatty had previously worked with Inge on the play, A Loss of Roses (New York City, 28 Nov 1959), while producer-director Elia Kazan had collaborated with the playwright on The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (New York City, 5 Dec 1957). An article in the 22 May 1960 NYT stated that Inge proposed the story for Splendor in the Grass after the latter play’s opening, summarizing the plot to Kazan in five minutes, and Kazan immediately agreed to direct as long as Inge wrote the screenplay. In the next two years, Inge worked on the script while Kazan contributed “movie shots” and other input. Warner Bros. Pictures’ involvement was announced in a 12 Sep 1958 DV item, which noted that the studio had already registered Splendor in the Grass with the Title Registration Bureau, even though negotiations with Inge were not yet finalized. In an interview published in the 7 Aug 1960 NYT, Inge acknowledged his recent disenchantment with the theater, and stated, “The problems connected with a play – not in the ... More Less

William Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" is the source of the title. The phrase appears within a stanza of the poem as follows: “Though nothing can bring back the hour/ Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;/ We will grieve not, rather find/ Strength in what remains behind.” Although an 8 Oct 1958 Var brief indicated the title would be replaced before release, it remained unchanged.
       Splendor in the Grass marked playwright William Inge’s screenwriting debut, and Warren Beatty’s first theatrical feature film. Beatty had previously worked with Inge on the play, A Loss of Roses (New York City, 28 Nov 1959), while producer-director Elia Kazan had collaborated with the playwright on The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (New York City, 5 Dec 1957). An article in the 22 May 1960 NYT stated that Inge proposed the story for Splendor in the Grass after the latter play’s opening, summarizing the plot to Kazan in five minutes, and Kazan immediately agreed to direct as long as Inge wrote the screenplay. In the next two years, Inge worked on the script while Kazan contributed “movie shots” and other input. Warner Bros. Pictures’ involvement was announced in a 12 Sep 1958 DV item, which noted that the studio had already registered Splendor in the Grass with the Title Registration Bureau, even though negotiations with Inge were not yet finalized. In an interview published in the 7 Aug 1960 NYT, Inge acknowledged his recent disenchantment with the theater, and stated, “The problems connected with a play – not in the writing of it but in getting it properly presented – have become so great that I rather shudder at the thought of doing another one.” He claimed that sometime before discussing the project with Kazan, he had written early scenes for Splendor in the Grass, which he had always envisioned as a film because of its breadth. In addition to his screenwriting debut, Inge also made his only feature film appearance in the role of “Reverend Whitman.”
       A 19 Jan 1959 DV item stated that Natalie Wood was in talks to play the lead role, after a “battle” between the actress and Warner Bros. had reached an amicable resolution. Shortly thereafter, the 3 Feb 1960 LAT confirmed that Inge had finished the screenplay, and that Wood was his first choice for the role of “Wilma Dean Loomis.” Richard Burton was reportedly in discussions to co-star, according to a 10 Feb 1960 LAT item, and the 26 Feb 1960 LAT stated that John Saxon was under consideration for a role, but neither actor appeared in the final film. Likewise, a 7 Apr 1960 DV item noted that Kazan was interested in singer Peggy Lee for a “straight thesping” role, but Lee received no mention in later notices and does not appear to have been credited onscreen. The 17 Feb 1960 DV announced Warren Beatty’s potential involvement, and the 14 Apr 1960 LAT confirmed his casting.
       Kazan was initially scheduled to direct the Tennessee Williams play, A Period of Adjustment, on Broadway, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with the film, as stated in a 28 Apr 1960 NYT brief. He was replaced by director George Roy Hill, and the play opened 10 Nov 1960 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
       Principal photography began 9 May 1960, according to a 13 May 1960 DV production chart. The shooting schedule was said to be ten weeks in the 16 Apr 1960 NYT, while the 22 May 1960 NYT specified a sixty-three-day shoot. Exteriors were filmed at New York City locations including a West Islip, Long Island, ranch house; Horace Mann High School and a church in the Riverdale section of the Bronx; and Victory Boulevard on Staten Island, where a house was “revamped, refaced, repainted and supplied with a real garden.” Filming also took place in the hamlet of High Falls, NY. In addition to location shooting, the majority of the picture was filmed on two adjacent soundstages at Filmways Studio on East 127th Street in East Harlem. There, forty-six sets were built.
       As noted in the 22 May 1960 NYT, the picture was shot in Technicolor, but Kazan and director of photography Boris Kaufman’s aim was to achieve a “cold, monochromatic color with the strength of black and white.” Kazan’s opinion was that the majority of color films recently produced by Hollywood studios used lighting and cinematography that made actors “look like wax fruit.”
       Upwards of 5,000 background actors were recruited to appear in the film. Kazan’s previous picture, A Face in the Crowd (1957, see entry), was said to be the last production to call for so many extras in New York City, according to an agent at Central Casting.
       Two weeks into filming, Kazan commented on his leading man’s star quality, as stated in the 20 May 1960 DV “Just for Variety” column. The director referenced his earlier collaboration with James Dean on East of Eden (1955, see entry), stating, “Jimmy Dean was nothing compared to what’s gonna happen when the kids see Warren Beatty.”
       An item in the 1 Aug 1960 DV noted that filming was nearly completed. Rain delays followed, and the 18 Aug 1960 DV stated that exterior scenes had resumed the day before. Wood was expected to be wrapped by the following day, when she was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles, CA, with then husband Robert Wagner.
       A 25 Oct 1960 DV article stated that Warner Bros.’ nine productions shot between Oct 1959 and Oct 1960, including Splendor in the Grass, cost a total of $17,850,000.
       Editing was nearly completed as of 2 Nov 1960, according to a DV item published that day. However, a 15 Mar 1961 DV “Just for Variety” column stated that a scene in which Wood appeared nude had been recently excised. Wood and Beatty flew to New York for looping sessions in early 1961, as noted in DV items published 6 Jan, 10 Jan, and 27 Jan 1961. Beatty continued to be called in for looping sessions through late Jun 1961, when his next production, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961, see entry), was underway in London, England, according to a 29 Jun 1961 DV brief.
       An item in the 22 Nov 1960 DV noted a Bantam Books tie-in in the works. Splendor in the Grass, A Screenplay was published by Bantam in 1961.
       The picture was screened at a “Jubilee of Films” press junket held by Warner Bros. at its Burbank, CA, headquarters on 6-7 Jun 1961. In addition to the 300 local press agents invited, the all-expense-paid event offered roughly 200 journalists from all fifty United States and Canada airfare and hotel accommodations. The 25 May 1961 DV noted it was the first time the studio “invited press on such a vast scale” and speculated the junket “could be the largest of its type in Hollywood history.” Warner Bros. initially eyed release dates of 12 Aug or 14 Oct 1961, as stated in the 22 May 1961 DV. The picture was ultimately released 10 Oct 1961 at the Victoria and Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theatres in New York City, according to the 14 Aug 1961 and 16 Oct 1961 issues of DV, following a series of advance screenings beginning 25 Aug 1961 with showings at the Randolph Theatre in Philadelphia, PA; the Chicago Theatre in Chicago, IL; and the Paramount Theatre in San Francisco, CA. Warner Bros. executives introduced each of the aforementioned screenings, and separate questionnaires were distributed to adult and teenage attendees. An article in the 5 Oct 1961 DV reported that the questionnaires included the following questions: “Do you think children 16 or under should see ‘Splendor in the Grass’?”; “Did you find anything censorable in the picture?”; “Should Hollywood attempt themes as sensitive as this one?”; “What do you think of such special advances performances?”; and, “What do you think of this film?” The San Francisco screening was attended by Inge, who conducted filmed interviews with audience members, to be used in television advertisements, as noted in the 28 Aug 1961 DV. Warner Bros. reportedly wanted to prove its theory that filmgoers’ appetites for “adult” films was much greater than censorship pressure groups put forth. Hollywood studios in general were said to be reacting against U.S. film censorship, partly due to the success of recent foreign films with adult subject matter such as Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top (1959), and Jules Dassin’s Never on Sunday (1960). The preview screenings were done in an additional thirty-one cities, according to a 4 Oct 1961 Var article, which accused Warner Bros. of “whipping up the intrigue” and “trying to implant in the public’s mind the idea that this Elia Kazan entry is controversial” when, in reality, it was not. Ultimately, Warner Bros. claimed survey responses were positive, but the studio insisted that exhibitors only sell tickets to adults and children over sixteen years of age, unless the under-sixteen patron was accompanied by an adult.
       A stock photograph that had been used in advertisements for the 1954 film The Barefoot Contessa (see entry) was also used in print advertisements for Splendor in the Grass, according to a 1 Nov 1961 Var item. The image showed a woman “ecstatically nuzzling” a man’s ear, with the man seen from behind. Warner Bros. reportedly altered the image by tilting it ninety degrees, to imply the man was lifting the woman up instead of standing in front of her.
       The day after its 10 Oct 1961 debut in New York City, the picture opened in an exclusive run at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, as noted in the 3 Oct 1961 DV. Critical reception was generally warm, although, in an otherwise positive review, the 30 Aug 1961 Var suggested the story contained “missing links and blind alleys,” and noted that lush exteriors shot in New York did not match the Kansas setting. The 16 Oct 1961 DV reported a promising six-day gross of $38,000 at the Victoria Theatre, and stated that ticket sales at Trans-Lux were “equally big.”
       The 10 Sep 1961 LAT review described Warren Beatty’s film debut as “auspicious.” Betty went on to win a Golden Globe award for New Star of the Year – Actor. William Inge won an Academy Award for Writing (Story and Screenplay—written directly for the screen), and Natalie Wood was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Beatty), and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Wood). The awards led to a mid-Apr 1962 revival of the film at the Hollywood, State, Torrance, and Victory drive-in theaters in Los Angeles, as noted in the 6 Apr 1962 LAT.
       The film was ranked #47 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Passions list of America’s greatest love stories.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1958
p. 1.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1959
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1959
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1959
p. 1.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Apr 1960
p. 7.
Daily Variety
13 May 1960
p. 6.
Daily Variety
20 May 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1960
p. 16.
Daily Variety
1 Aug 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1960
p. 169.
Daily Variety
2 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1960
p. 8.
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1961
p. 11.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 May 1961
p. 1, 19.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Oct 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1961
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1959
p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1960
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1960
p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1960
Section A, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1960
p. 27.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1960
p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
7 Aug 1960
Section F, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
10 Sep 1961
Section A, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
12 Oct 1961
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1962
Section C, p. 11.
New York Times
31 Mar 1959
p. 25.
New York Times
16 Apr 1960
p. 10.
New York Times
28 Apr 1960
p. 29.
New York Times
22 May 1960.
---
New York Times
7 Aug 1960.
---
New York Times
25 Jan 1962
p. 23.
Variety
8 Oct 1958
p. 19.
Variety
7 Sep 1960
p. 27.
Variety
30 Aug 1961
p. 5.
Variety
30 Aug 1961
p. 6.
Variety
4 Oct 1961
p. 7.
Variety
1 Nov 1961
p. 3.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
Orig story & scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr & cont
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 October 1961
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 October 1961 at the Victoria and Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theatres
Los Angeles opening: 11 October 1961 at the Paramount Theatre
Production Date:
9 May--mid August 1960
Copyright Claimant:
NBI Productions
Copyright Date:
14 October 1961
Copyright Number:
LP29395
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
124
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a small Kansas town during the late 1920's, two high school students, Wilma Dean Loomis and Bud Stamper, fall in love. Frightened by their physical desires but unwilling to have a sexual relationship, their time together is filled with confusion and frustration. Furthermore, their well-intentioned parents are of little help. Wilma's mother is a domineering woman who boasts of her aversion to men and warns her daughter that nice girls do not have sexual feelings. Bud's father, Ace, is an arrogant self-made millionaire who advises his son to forget marriage until he graduates from Yale University. Unable to consummate their love, either sexually or through marriage, the youngsters end their relationship. For Bud, it means both physical and emotional collapse, and, after a bout with pneumonia, he takes up with Juanita, the most permissive girl in school. Following an attempted suicide, Wilma suffers a mental breakdown and is sent away for psychiatric care. As the years pass, additional tragedy strikes Bud. His promiscuous sister, Ginny, dies in an automobile accident; and his father, whose oil holdings were wiped out by the 1929 stock market crash, commits suicide. Bud leaves Yale after failing almost all his courses and marries a poor Italian waitress, Angelina. When Wilma is released from the sanitarium, fellow patient Johnny Masterson proposes to her and offers her the chance for a new life. Before she can accept, however, Wilma feels that she must see Bud once more. She visits him at his little farm, and they realize that they are almost strangers and that the past must be ... +


In a small Kansas town during the late 1920's, two high school students, Wilma Dean Loomis and Bud Stamper, fall in love. Frightened by their physical desires but unwilling to have a sexual relationship, their time together is filled with confusion and frustration. Furthermore, their well-intentioned parents are of little help. Wilma's mother is a domineering woman who boasts of her aversion to men and warns her daughter that nice girls do not have sexual feelings. Bud's father, Ace, is an arrogant self-made millionaire who advises his son to forget marriage until he graduates from Yale University. Unable to consummate their love, either sexually or through marriage, the youngsters end their relationship. For Bud, it means both physical and emotional collapse, and, after a bout with pneumonia, he takes up with Juanita, the most permissive girl in school. Following an attempted suicide, Wilma suffers a mental breakdown and is sent away for psychiatric care. As the years pass, additional tragedy strikes Bud. His promiscuous sister, Ginny, dies in an automobile accident; and his father, whose oil holdings were wiped out by the 1929 stock market crash, commits suicide. Bud leaves Yale after failing almost all his courses and marries a poor Italian waitress, Angelina. When Wilma is released from the sanitarium, fellow patient Johnny Masterson proposes to her and offers her the chance for a new life. Before she can accept, however, Wilma feels that she must see Bud once more. She visits him at his little farm, and they realize that they are almost strangers and that the past must be buried. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.