Splendor in the Grass
DIRECTOR: ELIA KAZAN
CAST: NATALIE WOOD, WARREN BEATTY, BARBARA LODEN, PAT HINGLE
Prior to starring in her self-directed Wanda, Barbara Loden’s defining screen role had been in this searing melodrama by then-lover, later husband Elia Kazan, who was both supportive of and perhaps threatened by his partner’s filmmaking—his 1972 The Visitors would be heavily influenced by the rawness of her feature debut. This William Inge-scripted tale of sexual repression in America before and after the Great Depression follows Warren Beatty from Kansas to Yale, as he and sweetheart Natalie Wood struggle with hormonal confusion, unconsummated passion, and family expectations relating to class and gender. Playing Beatty’s sister, Loden is the spirit of total license, a citified flapper whose adventures with drink and men back in Chicago bring shame to her small-town family. Loden’s performance is dangerously alive, reflecting not only Kazan’s erotic fascination with her, but her own lingering discomfort with her small-town upbringing.