Depicts the first French kiss in a Hollywood film. It occurs between Warren Beatty (Bud) and Jan Norris (Juanita) during the waterfall scene.
Right before shooting was set to begin, Pat Hingle suffered devastating injuries when he accidentally fell 54 feet down an elevator shaft in his apartment building. It would take Hingle over a year to fully recover from the accident. In the meantime, however, he decided to go ahead and do the film - he would simply incorporate his limp into the character. "I broke everything," Hingle said later. "I landed upright, so I broke hips and knees and ankles and ribs, and that sort of thing. That lurching walk that Ace Stamper has - that was as good as I could walk."
Even though they were supposed to be playing teenagers, Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty were approximately 22 and 23 respectively at the time of filming. As a result, Elia Kazan decided that the other actors who were to play teenagers in the film should be in their early to mid-twenties as a way to make it easier for the audience to accept Wood and Beatty as teenagers rather than as adults playing teens.
The film's title comes from the poem, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth: "Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, / of glory in the flower, / we will grieve not, / rather find strength in what remains behind."
Elia Kazan did whatever was necessary in order to bring out the best possible performances by his actors - it was one of the reasons he was known as one of the best directors in the business. From the beginning, he wanted to strip away the Hollywood glamour from Natalie Wood and get her to a more natural state for the camera, which was appropriate for the character of Deanie. It meant that Wood had to do without the sophisticated makeup and costumes she was used to, which caused her some anxiety. According her friend Mart Crowley, she was always trying to sneak on a little extra rouge or lipstick when Kazan wasn't looking.
In the bath scene, Natalie Wood's wrist is very briefly revealed. She normally always wore a bulky bracelet or long sleeves to hide the protrusion of a bone in her wrist which she thought to be an ugly anomaly.
Film debuts of Warren Beatty, Sandy Dennis, Phyllis Diller, Marla Adams and Eugene Roche.
As filmed, this film included a sequence in which Wilma Dean Loomis takes a bath while arguing with her mother. The bickering finally becomes so intense that Wilma jumps out of the tub and runs nude down a hallway to her bedroom, where the camera cuts to a close-up of her bare legs kicking hysterically on the mattress. Both the Hollywood censors and the Catholic Legion Of Decency objected to the hallway scene, finding the bare backside unsuitable for public display. Consequently, director Elia Kazan dropped the piece, leaving an abrupt jump from tub to bed. Later, in an early 1970s TV interview with Mike Douglas, Wood claimed that the European cut of the film she eventually saw in France left in the partial nudity scene in the hallway.
According to one of the makeup artists, the crew found Warren Beatty arrogant and didn't like him. In fact, he was given the nickname "Mental Anguish" or "M.A." for short that crew members called him behind his back.
The title character in Judy Blume's coming-of-age novel, Deenie, was named for Natalie Wood's character in this film. The novel contains several references to the film.
Jane Fonda wrote in her autobiography that she tested for the role of Deanie. When Elia Kazan asked her if she was ambitious, she said no (even though she was) because "good girls aren't supposed to be ambitious." Fonda believes this was the reason for her not getting the role.
Although Elia Kazan had planned to film the movie in Kansas, a severe drought forced him to relocate all shooting to New York state. The waterfall in the film is located in High Falls, New York, in the Catskills.
Pat Hingle, who plays Warren Beatty's father, was in fact only 13 years older than Beatty.
Film neophyte Warren Beatty looked at Elia Kazan as a teacher and sought to learn as much as possible from him. Kazan taught him how to think about acting, where to put the camera, how to break down a script - all valuable lessons for Beatty, who later went on to direct and produce himself.
The nightclub owner played by Phyllis Diller is Texas Guinan, a real-life New York nightclub owner of the 1920's. "Hello, suckers!" was her standard nightly greeting to her nightclub patrons.
Natalie Wood's sister Lana Wood had an on-again, off-again relationship with Warren Beatty for several years after he and Natalie had broken up. In December 1981, a few days after Natalie's funeral (which Beatty did not attend), Lana met up with him to discuss a project. She recalled that "Natalie was not mentioned until I was about to leave, and then I couldn't help it. I wanted him to say something about her, to say how he would remember her." Lana asked Warren if he missed Natalie, to which he replied "No, not really. She's gone and I'm sorry, but that's it. The truth is that I talked to you and know you better." Then "he reached out and pulled me to him. Warren simply could not let the opportunity get by. This time I could, though." Angered by his lack of sensitivity, she said her last goodbye and ran out the door.
Elia Kazan and Barbara Loden were a couple during filming. They had begun their affair several years earlier and had to keep it under wraps since Kazan was married to someone else at the time.
The very brief glimpse we get of a building in Yale is not Yale, but CCNY, the City College of New York.
There were two scenes that worried Natalie Wood due to the intensity of each: the scene where she has a confrontation with her mother while she is in the bathtub; and the scene in which she tries to drown herself in a lake after Bud rejects her sexual advances. Each time, Elia Kazan found a way to bring out her best, even if his methods left her angry. "The bathtub scene, in which I was to be hysterical," said Wood in a later interview, "always frightened me. And I told Kazan I was very worried about it. His response absolutely threw me for a loop, because he said, 'What you do, I'll let you see the film, and we'll go back and do it again. Or we can play it on Audrey's [Christie] reactions.' And I was so enraged and offended that I became hysterical. That was his way of dealing with me, and it was obviously the correct way, because we only shot it once."
Elia Kazan wasn't that enamoured with Warren Beatty, though he couldn't deny that he was very talented. "Warren was a little 'snotty' - I don't know a better word for how he behaved and can't find one in my thesaurus," said Kazan in his 1988 autobiography A Life, "but he was able to grow into a formidable man."
Natalie Wood's character tries to drown herself. 21 years later, Wood drowned after falling off a boat.
Shot entirely in New York, exteriors were filmed in Staten Island and upstate New York, which doubled as Kansas in the 1920s. Interiors were filmed at Filmways Studios in East Harlem.
The NY club which Bud and Ace go to is similar to the '300 club' run by flapper Texas Guinan in the 20s. She would often greet guests with the phrase: "Hello suckers".
Incredibly - by today's standards - a Cedar Rapids, Iowa (USA) newspaper ad for this film says "No one under 16 will be admitted unless accompanied by an adult".
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
While a clip was not actually seen (though dialog is heard), there is a scene in Pedro Almodóvar's What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984) in which the grandmother and her eldest grandson attend a showing of Splendor in the Grass (1961). As they leave the theater, the poster (Spanish) is clearly seen in the background.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
The exterior used for Yale is actually The City of New York's Shepard Hall located in Harlem, New York.