Saturday, April 9, 2011

Splendor In the Grass -- Best Movie Scene/Ending Ever

Tonight Splendor in the Grass was on Turner Classic Movies.  If you haven't seen this movie, you must watch it, if only to see Warren Beatty in his first movie role.  This has always been one of my favorite movies.  We watched it in English class when I was in high school -- I can't remember why -- but it was one of the few movies we watched in high school that I actually really loved.  I watch it every time I catch it on cable. 

The title is based upon a poem by William Wordsworth, called Ode: Intimations on Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood.  It is a long poem, but the pertinent section goes like this:

What thought 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, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind...

There is a scene fairly early on in the movie where Deanie (played by Natalie Wood) has to discuss the poem in class, to set the stage.

My favorite scene, and I think one of the best scenes in any movie, occurs at the very end.  (I'm about to spoil the end, so you are warned.)  A little background:  Deanie used to date Bud (Warren Beatty) in high school.  Bud was from a wealthy family, was supposed to go to Yale and be a successful guy.  Then a whole bunch of stuff happened to both of them, so their relationship ended.  At the end of the movie, several years later, she goes to see him, driven by her friend June.  He is living on a farm with his wife, Angie, working as a farmer.  Deanie is dressed in white, looking very classy.  Angie is attractive, but looks like a typical farmer's wife.  Deanie sees him with his wife and child, and Angie is also pregnant again, and well aware of how frumpy she looks compared to Deanie.  Then, Deanie leaves, and Bud walks Deanie out to the car, where June is waiting: 

B:  I married Angie when I left New Haven.  You know I didn't even finish my first year in school there.

D:  That's real nice.

B:  She was wonderful for me when things started to go wrong.

D:  You're happy, Bud.

B:  I guess so.  I don't ask myself that question very often now.  How about you?

D:  I'm getting married next month.

B:  Are you?

D:  A boy from Cincinnati.  I think you might like him

B:  See, things work out awful funny sometimes, don't they Deanie?

D:  Yes, they do.

B:  I hope you're going to be awful happy.

D:  Like you, Bud.  I don't think too much about happiness, either.

B  What's the point?  You gotta take what comes.

D:  Yes.  Well...

B:  Deanie?  I'm awful glad to see you again.

D:  Thanks, Bud.  Goodbye.

B:  Bye.  June?

J:  Hello, Bud.

B:  Hello.  You girls have to come out again sometime.

J:  You might ask us.

B:  Oh I will, I promise.  Angie and I got a little more money coming in now so well have a big party.

(The girls pull away).

(Angie is watching him out the door.  He walks over to her.) 

B:  Want to go eat?

(Angie looks sad; he kisses her)

(Back to the car)

J:  Deanie, honey, do you think you still love him?

D:  (voice over) (though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strengh in what remains behind....) 

The words alone simply don't do this scene justice.  You have to see it, after watching the entire movie, and their relationship, and everything that happened.  Just bar none, one of my favorite movie scenes/movie endings of all time, because it is actually more like real life than the ending of most movies.  Most people don't end up with "that person."  Shit happens, and they move on, and that's that.  Yet the way Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty act out this scene, they are both looking at each other and wondering "what if?"  And you just know he's never going to invite them back.  It's amazing. 

4 comments:

  1. A fine, sensitive observation about a heart-wrenching final scene. A contender: The final scene between Redford and Streisand in "The Way We Were."

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  2. One of the worst films I've ever seen and mostly due to the slow moving lines and senseless screaming by Natalie throughout the film. The early 60s films concentrated on tearing the established norms down. This was kind of one of those juvenile films though all the players were much older than h.s. students! Natalie was a good child actress (though not in Margaret O'Brien's league) but her juveline and adult roles were always roles where she was either a gang member (hardly fitting a goody-goody type) or a spoiled daughter of ignorant parents who gets obsessed with some macho guy.

    In this film, the outfits and cars were 20s but they hung on to the 50s hairstyles which ruined the continuity. The music was also wrong for the film when it was even there. Where was the Roarting 20s music? A great film isn't one that has a poignant ending only--it has to be a great film with great scenes throughout--like "Twelve O'Clock High", "All About Eve", "A Letter To Three Wives", "Double Indemnity", "The Apartment" and "The Asphalt Jungle". Pat Hingle was excellent as he was in most of his 50s films. The rest of the character roles were played by nobodies save for Sandy Dennis.

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  3. A wonderful movie with a great performance by Natalie Wood. She appeared in so few really good movies. Like Ann-Margaret, she was a great talent who needed the right director to bring out her best, and that seldom happened.

    Just looking at her eyes is so affecting; they are like vast worlds.

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  4. Powerful story about that point in the lives of young people. We watched it on TCM tonight. Wood and Beatty conveyed that tension and awkwardness brilliantly. I thought the film had a perfect pace. I enjoyed your observations. Thanks.

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