Seeking reminiscences of Splendor in the Grass filming in High Falls

Warren Beatty’s big-screen debut was Splendor in the Grass, which co-starred Natalie Wood. The movie, which was directed by Elia Kazan, came out in 1961 and was filmed near Kazan’s summerhouse in High Falls. (Warner Bros.)

A major highlight for old-timers in the lovely, tiny hamlet of High Falls was the period in 1960-61 when Hollywood came to town to film Splendor in the Grass. Director Elia Kazan had a summerhouse in High Falls, and chose the hamlet’s eponymous cataract to stand in for a makeout spot for Kansas high-schoolers in the 1920s. If there’s anyone still around who has personal recollections or family tales – or even photographs – about the period when the movie’s production was going on, the High Falls Conservancy would love to hear from you at highfallsconservancy@gmail.com. No date has yet been specified for a gathering or an exhibit, but stay tuned for further details.

Gazing up at those falls today one cannot help but wonder whether Kazan ever asked playwright/novelist William Inge, who won an Oscar for the film’s screenplay, whether they even have elevation changes like that in the state of Kansas. But no such suspension of disbelief is required when contemplating the appeal that such a spot might have to young lovers. There’s just something terribly romantic about waterfalls. And this one not only offers splendor aplenty, but is also easily accessible; there’s parking right nearby, just off Route 213 by the hydroelectric generating station.

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Nowadays, teenagers mostly flock to the area on hot summer days to wade in the stretch of the Rondout immediately downstream from the lower falls. Although swimming is no longer permitted, officially, movie buffs can still stroll over the rocks in the spot near the upper falls where Deanie and Bud, the characters played by Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty (in his first big-screen role), had their unconsummated tryst. Kayakers and canoeists can put in their boats on the south bank near where a panicky Deanie leapt into the water to escape the attentions of Toots (Gary Lockwood) – though it’s advisable to paddle upstream rather than risk getting washed over the lip of the falls, as the movie’s heroine nearly did. (You might want to stick to more sensible shoes for ambling around the water’s edge than Wood’s gold high-heeled pumps, as well.)

To stay posted on the Splendor in the Grass memories project and other undertakings of the High Falls Conservancy, call (845) 687-6187 or visit www.thehighfallsconservancy.org or www.facebook.com/highfallsconservancy.

 

There is one comment

  1. Rick from New Rochelle

    Natalie Wood spent her haunted by what turned out to be a justifiable fear of water. Even getting into a bathtub for that movie caused her anxiety, so that still above has an eerie resonance. But honestly, “Splendor in the Grass” wasn’t a huge hit in 1960 — Warren Beatty didn’t become a star until “Bonnie and Clyde,” seven years later — and 57 years later, how many people even under 50 have heard of it, much less seen it?

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