SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (Kazan, 1961) -Have I hyped Anne Helen Petersen’s glorious articles at the Hairpin on the Scandals of Classic Hollywood yet? If not, I should have - they’re always a blast, highly informative about both star’s life and the star image that went along with it. All that, and she recommends good movies, too - the piece on Rock Hudson pointed me to SECONDS, and the most recent one, on Natalie Wood, got me to watch this movie.
As someone who’s been blissfully living in sin for the past 2+ years, there was a temptation to laugh at this movie. “Oh, look at them being sexually repressed. How quaint!”. Still, as despicable as Wood’s mother is with all her concerns about her daughter getting “spoiled”, the movie takes place in 1928, and sex was more fraught then. Even now, teenage pregnancy isn’t exactly a great idea, and though the movie implies another female character had an abortion, that can’t have been a very safe or pleasant experience either. Given these circumstances, giving it up to a young Warren Beatty or not does become a fraught dilemma, and Wood’s angst is understandable, maniacal laughter and rolling around and all. It’s really a good performance, believably teenaged even if Wood was already in her twenties, and she even manages to make the ending poignant (it sort of reminded me of the ending of LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG).