Splendour in the Grass a 1961 movie

On Friday August 23, 2013 I was anticipating PBS’s movie at 8 pm when my wife mockingly said It’s Splendour in the Grass. Do you really want to watch that for the umpteenth time. My response was that I wasn’t sure I had ever seen that 1961 movie even though its title has been with me for as long as I can remember, like “Leaves of Grass”, Wordsworth or Whitman, but: maybe she was right; maybe we’d seen “Splendour” enough times to make both of us sick. But I still had a feeling I hadn’t seen the movie or at least can’t recall anything about it but its title. As we began watching that old film, I kept saying no; none of this looks familiar, maybe I really haven’t seen it before. And then after seeing Bud’s wild flapper sister flirting uncontrollably, and Bud erupting against the object of her lust then into a melee defending her honour to a bunch of her other would be male attractions, and Wilma’s mother doing a little whooping Indian dance and chanting we’re goanna be rich as her husband ominously quotes the value of a 1928 stock holding. I said : these people are all crazy; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie in which all its characters were crazy. Then later we see that Deanie, Bud’s girl, initially seeming a foil to his sex crazed sister, plaintively confessing that she resents the good girl image forced upon her by her mother. This sexual repression causes her to become suicidal and sent to a psychiatric institution to convalesce. Bud’s wealthy father as domineering as Wilma’s mother, represses his son’s desire to live actively and outdoors like Whitman, like Wordsworth, as a rancher rather than a man of the mind or business. The suicide that Wilma(Deanie) avoids by her institutional stay and financed by her father’s fortunate stock sale just before the 1929 crash, Bud’s ranting father realizes as a wealthy unlucky victim of that crash. Again the characters in the 1961 movie Splendour in the Grass are all unstable, driven by economic uncertainties, human frailties and abrupt changes, echoing tremblings threatening Western society: Castro in Cuba 2 years before; the nuclear crisis as the world hung on the wisp of a thread in the year ahead, Kennedy dead in two, old mores dissolving, like Wilma wanting to be “hot” like Bud’s sister; parental uncertainty like losing confidence in war, the crash of 29 believed buried in the past – an ironic “splendour in the grass“.

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