I watched Splendor in the Grass and The River, starring Montgomery Cliff, as a double feature last night at the Paramount.
The River was an excellent film that I have never seen nor heard of before. It is all about the Tennessee Valley Authority and how it affected those with land along the flood ways. Jo Van Fleet was exceptionally awesome in this film.
"That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind. "
As always, Splendor in the Grass left me dwelling on the ending for hours. There is Natalie Wood as Deanie Loomis, all excited about seeing her ex and trying to look her very best for that moment when she would prove to him and herself that she is over him and can face him as an adult woman and show him that gone is the sycophant teen she once was only a few years before.
When she arrives there is, "Oh, Bud", a poor rancher, married with a son and baby on the way. This final scene is my most favorite of any movie I have ever watched. The body language and the gestures that supplement the verbal interactions between Deanie, Bud and Angelina fascinate me because they can be read in so many ways.
Though the movie focuses on both Deanie and Bud, the story seems to be more about Deanie, to me. As she struggles to read the lines from Ode: Intimations of Immortality", she is already forced to leave her juvenile ideals of love (the result of Bud finding "glory in the flower") and enters the adult world by way of madness. The movie ends with her treating her parents as if they are the children now. She has been through more in her short time as an adult than they have in their entire lives. Or so it seems. The movie ends with her reciting the lines with a new knowledge of what they are about.
I often ask people, who have watched the movie, what their take on the ending is and it often leads to conversation that lingers on much longer than expected.
Does Bud just marry Angelina because she was there and took care of him and fed him during a dark period of his life? Poor Angelina, is she loved dearly by Bud or does Bud remain forever a spoiled child incapable of not loving anyone really but himself? When Deanie is playing with Bud's son, the looks on Angelina and Bud's faces are telling us what?
Was Deanie embarrassed and feeling silly that she had tried so hard to look luxe to meet Bud now that she sees where and how he is living...what? What does it mean when she picks at her lapel and shakes her head as she walks out of Bud and Angelina's kitchen? Did her white dress represent that through everything she was always honest and emerges clean whereas Bud is drowning in regret and maybe out of touch with himself? Or does the fact that Deanie's ensemble includes white gloves (that she never takes off), keeping her from actually really touching anything in Bud's new world hint at a class distinction? Deanie's mother always wanted her to marry well and she is engaged to a doctor who we are told is doing well. Or does it hint at her recovery not being entirely complete as she is still hiding behind gloves and not actually feeling what she touches?
I always feel bad for Angelina. At the beginning of the scene she seems content (there are flowers on the refrigerator) then her life is interrupted by her husband's past and she is left looking sad at the doorway. She nearly cries when he asks when do they eat. But he kisses her and things seem to continue as they did before Deanie's visit. Rather, I assume they do.
But are Deanie and Bud really happy with what has become of their lives? Are they really?
Note: I was so in love with the dress Natalie Wood wore to the dance that I designed my prom dress around it and had it made. The red satin was an inspiration. I'll show you one day when I am more comfortable with my big 80's hair and "claw".