Q3 2022

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T A I L P O P REMEMBERING YOUNG LOVE IN 'SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS' Glory in the Flower Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood in "Splendor in the Grass." P H O T O : P H O T O F E S T T he summer I turned 12 was spent in Ogunquit, Maine. My uncle impul- sively bought an inn when no hotel would take his standard poodle, and he asked my mom to be the innkeeper. I quickly learned that seasonal vaca- tioners' kids went to summer camp, locals had their own friends, and weekenders came through too briefly to bond. My friends were hours away. There was no internet, long distance was expensive. I was lonely. The town was small but it had a movie theater, so that's where I spent a lot of my evenings. One summer night, I wandered in to see a new film, "Splendor in the Grass." (The title is taken from a William Word- sworth poem quoted in the film.) This was the first movie I saw (other than Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedies) that even hinted at sex, and "Splendor in the Grass" did more than just hint. Deanie (Natalie Wood) loves Bud (Warren Beatty), but the only thing she knows about sex is that she can only kiss before marriage. Bud understands this but has urges to satisfy, so he dates the "bad girl" in class, which crushes Deanie. Later, when Deanie tries to seduce Bud, he rebuffs her, reminding her she's a "good girl." It's 1928 Kansas; neither has anyone to talk to about such things in their small town, and Deanie spirals into an emotional breakdown. Her parents cash out their stocks and send her to a sanitarium for psychiatric help. Meanwhile, Bud capitulates to his dad's pressure to attend Yale but is flunking be- cause he really wants to go home and farm. His dad storms into the Dean's office, hoping to keep Bud in school, but news breaks of the 1929 stock market crash and he runs out of the office. Bud goes to the hotel and finds that his dad has killed himself. At the sanitarium, Deanie's psychiatrist helps her explore her life and her feelings for Bud. While there, she grows close to a young man named Johnny who proposes. At Deanie's final appointment, she tells her doctor that she's going to say yes. He suggests she see Bud before making that final decision. At home, Deanie's girlfriends take her to see Bud without mentioning that he came home from Yale married and is expecting a second child. As Bud approaches the car, he's dirty and in work clothes. (Deanie looks every bit the movie star that Natalie Wood was.) Their chemistry lights the screen. Bud brings Deanie into his dilapidated house. She meets his pregnant wife and child — this could have been her life. She hugs Bud's toddler son a moment too long before Bud walks her to the car. As she's about to leave, he says quietly; "Deanie, it was really good to see you." She replies, equally emotion- ally; "You too, Bud." As she and her friends drive away, the Wordsworth poem repeats in voice over…. 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. The lights came up but I couldn't leave the theater; I was sobbing too hard. Besides feeling my own "stirrings" after watching two hours of Mr. Beatty twenty feet tall onscreen, I had never before be- come so viscerally engulfed in the emotions of a movie. I understood to my core why each character reacted as they had. From William Inge's tender (Oscar-win- ning) script and Elia Kazan's meticulous direction (Natalie Wood earned an Oscar nomination), l learned valuable lessons: That young love changes people's lives, even when it doesn't end happily. That parents DO pay attention and will do the right thing at the exact moment it's needed. That feelings, felt deeply, especially when you are young and being formed, are valid and lasting. I learned that some movies imprint themselves on your psyche and can bring you to tears, even 50 years later, even after 50 viewings. That's more apparent to me now, having been involved with making films. Making people feel something — joy, sadness, excitement, fear…. What a wonderful job. Wendy Dytman was a story analyst for Disney and Ray Stark Productions before becoming a studio executive and producer. She retired with an IATSE gold card and is now a therapist. She can be reached at 54 C I N E M O N T A G E

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