Splendor in the Grass

  • Directors: Elia Kazan
  • Producers: Elia Kazan
  • Writers: William Inge
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden, Zohra Lampert

Deanie Loomis (played by Natalie Wood), a teen-aged girl living in a small town in Kansas in 1928, follows her mother’s advice to resist her desire for sex with her boyfriend, Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), the scion of the most prosperous family in town. In his turn, Bud reluctantly follows the advice of his father (Pat Hingle), who suggests that he find another kind of girl with whom to satisfy his sexual desires.

Bud’s parents are disappointed by, and ashamed of, his older sister Ginny—she is sexually promiscuous, smokes, drinks, and has had an abortion—and accordingly “pin all their hopes” on Bud, pressuring him to attend Yale University.

Bud does find a girl who is willing to become sexually involved with him, and when Deanie finds out, she is driven close to madness and institutionalized. Bud’s family loses its fortune in the Great Depression, which leads to the father’s suicide; and Bud takes up ranching, which he had postponed because of his father’s aspirations for him.

In the final scene, Deanie, home from the asylum after two and a half years, goes to meet Bud. He is now married to Angelina, the daughter of Italian immigrants; he and his wife, whom he met while complying with his father’s desire that he attend Yale, have an infant child and are expecting another one. After their brief reunion, Deanie and Bud see that they must continue their lives separately.

Miracle on 34th Street

  • Directors: George Seaton
  • Producers: William Perlberg
  • Writers: Valentine Davies, George Seaton
  • Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Maureen O Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, Harry Antrim

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is indignant to find that the person (Percy Helton) assigned to play Santa in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is intoxicated. When he complains to event director Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), she persuades Kris to take his place. He does such a fine job that he is hired to be the Santa for Macy’s flagship New York City store on 34th Street.

Ignoring instructions to steer parents to goods that Macy’s wants to sell, Kris tells one shopper (Thelma Ritter) to go to another store for a fire engine for her son that Macy’s doesn’t have. She is so impressed, she tells Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge), head of the toy department, that she will become a loyal customer. Kris later informs another mother that archrival Gimbels has better skates for her daughter.

Fred Gailey (John Payne), an attorney and neighbor of Doris, is babysitting the young divorcee’s nine-year-old daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) and takes her to see Kris. When Doris finds out, she lectures Fred about filling Susan’s mind with fantasy. Meanwhile, Susan sees Kris talking and singing with a Dutch World War II orphan girl in her native tongue and begins to wonder if perhaps Kris is real. When Doris asks Kris to tell Susan that he really isn’t Santa Claus, Kris surprises her by insisting that he is.

On Christmas morning, Susan is disillusioned because Kris was unable to get her what she told him she wanted most. As they are about to leave, Kris gives Fred and Doris a route home that will supposedly avoid traffic. Along the way, Susan is overjoyed to see the house of her dreams (exactly matching the drawing she had given Kris earlier) with a For Sale sign in the front yard. Fred learns that Doris had encouraged Susan to have faith, and suggests they get married and purchase the house. He then boasts that he must be a great lawyer, since he managed to do the seemingly impossible. However, when he notices a cane leaning against the fireplace that looks just like the one Kris used, he wonders “Maybe I didn’t do such a wonderful thing after all.”

Rebel Without a Cause

  • Directors: Nicholas Ray
  • Producers: David Weisbart
  • Writers: Nicholas Ray, Irving Shulman, Stewart Stern
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo

The main plot centers on Jim Stark (James Dean), a 17-year-old. Stark and his parents move to Los Angeles, where he enrolls at Dawson High School. The film begins with Stark brought into police station for public drunkenness. His mother, father and grandmother come to get him, and the film’s dilemma is introduced. Jim’s parents are frequently quarreling. Often the father is the one who tries to advocate for Jim; however, Jim’s mother, a naturally pushy woman, always wins. Jim feels betrayed both by this quarreling and by his father’s lack of moral strength, causing feelings of unrest and displacement. This shows later in the film when he repeatedly asks his father “what do you do when you have to be a man?”.

While trying to conform at the school, he becomes involved in a dispute with a local bully named Buzz Gunderson. While he tries to deal with Buzz (Corey Allen), he becomes friends with a 15-year-old boy, John, nick-named Plato (Sal Mineo), who was also at the police station the night of the opening scene for shooting puppies. Plato idolizes Jim, his real father having abandoned his family. Plato experiences many of the same problems as Jim, such as searching for meaning in life and dealing with parents who “don’t understand.”

Plato hides in the Griffith Observatory which is soon besieged by the police. Jim and Judy follow him inside, and Jim convinces Plato to lend him the gun, from which he silently removes the ammunition magazine (though he neglects the round in the chamber). When Plato steps out of the observatory, he becomes unstable again at the sight of the police and charges forward, brandishing his weapon. He is shot fatally by a police officer acting in defense of himself and the bystanders, despite Jim’s yelling to police that he removed the bullets. Plato was wearing Jim’s jacket at the time, and as a result, Jim’s parents (brought to the scene by police) think at first that Jim was shot. Mr. Stark then runs to comfort Jim, who is distraught by Plato’s death. Mr. Stark promises to be a stronger father, one that his son can depend on. Thus reconciled, Jim introduces Judy to his parents.

The Searchers

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: C V Whitney
  • Writers: Alan Le May, Frank S Nugent
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Western
  • Actors: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood, Ward Bond, Vera Miles

The year is 1868. Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns from the American Civil War, in which he fought for the Confederacy, to the home of his brother Aaron (Walter Coy) in rural northern Texas. Despite hints and supposition that Ethan has been up to no good, the movie’s early scenes never explicitly frame Ethan for wrongdoing. However, Ranger Captain Clayton (Ward Bond), who is also the local preacher, dourly observes, after Ethan refuses to take an oath of allegiance to the Texas Rangers (“no need to, wouldn’t be legal anyway”) “you fit a lot of [wanted poster] descriptions.” Ethan has a medal that he gives to his niece Debbie (Lana Wood), which suggests he has been in Mexico during the period of the Emperor Maximilian. He also gives Aaron two pouches of freshly minted Double Eagle $20 dollar gold pieces to help with the ranch. Martha and Aaron wonder, but do not ask, where they came from. Shortly after his arrival, a Comanche raid leaves his brother and sister-in-law Martha (Dorothy Jordan), his nephew, Ben (Robert Lyden), all dead, and his two nieces, Lucy (Pippa Scott) and Debbie, abducted, and the family homestead burned down.

After the funeral, a group led by Captain Clayton goes in search of the raiding party. When they discover the location of the encampment, Ethan wants to attack immediately, before daylight. Clayton points out to Ethan that the Comanche generally kill their hostages at the first notice of a raid, which is something that Ethan already knows. This is the first sign that Ethan is willing not to bring the girls back alive. Captain Clayton gives the order that they will sneak in easy and scare off the band’s horses. By the time they get to the encampment the Indians are gone. The Rangers are then caught in a pincer movement trap and have to make a run for the river. As they cross the river, one of the group, Nesby (William Steele), is wounded. The Rangers take up a defensive position using the river as a buffer, and they manage to repel the attack. The Indians retreat. When Ethan attempts to kill one more Comanche, Clayton stops him by knocking his rifle barrel down. This enrages Ethan who says that from now on he will do the job by himself. Captain Clayton decides that they are too few to continue and must get Nesby back home to treat his wound.

Eventually Ethan, Martin, and the Texas Rangers find Debbie again. Martin kills Scar and Ethan scalps the dead chief. Martin tries to prevent Ethan from killing Debbie, but it is Ethan himself who realizes how close he has come to destroying the last link to his family and how, in the act of scalping Scar, he himself has become what he hated so much. Instead of killing Debbie, he lifts her in his arms just as he did when she was a child. Ethan brings Debbie to the safety of friends and then walks away. The film, which opened with a near-identical shot of another doorway, slowly revealing the film’s landscape, finishes with a reversal: the film’s players enter the darkness within the doorway, and the door closes, just before the end title, leaving Ethan isolated outside where he turns and wanders away into the wilderness.

Miracle on 34th Street

  • Directors: George Seaton
  • Producers: William Perlberg
  • Writers: Valentine Davies, George Seaton
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • Actors: Maureen O Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, William Frawley

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is indignant to find that the person (Percy Helton) assigned to play Santa in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is intoxicated. When he complains to the event’s director, Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara), she persuades Kris to take his place. He does such a fine job that he is hired to be the Santa for Macy’s flagship New York City store on 34th Street.

Ignoring instructions to steer parents to goods that Macy’s wants to sell, Kris tells one woman shopper (Thelma Ritter) to go to another store for a fire engine for her son that Macy’s doesn’t have. She is so impressed, she tells Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge), head of the toy department, that she will become a loyal customer. Kris later informs another mother that archrival Gimbels has better skates for her daughter.

Fred Gailey (John Payne), an attorney and neighbor of Doris, is babysitting the young divorcee’s nine-year-old daughter Susan (Wood) and takes her to see Kris. When Doris finds out, she lectures Fred about filling Susan’s mind with fantasy. Meanwhile, Susan sees Kris talking and singing with a Dutch World War II orphan girl in her native tongue and begins to wonder if perhaps Kris is real. (In the 1994 remake, Kris communicates with a deaf girl via sign language.) When Doris asks Kris to tell Susan that he really isn’t Santa Claus, Kris surprises her by insisting that he is.

On Christmas morning, Susan is disillusioned because Kris was unable to get her what she told him she wanted most. As they are about to leave, Kris gives Fred and Doris a route home, supposedly to avoid traffic. Along the way, Susan is overjoyed to see the house of her dreams (exactly matching the drawing she had given Kris earlier) with a For Sale sign in the front yard. Fred learns that Doris had encouraged Susan to have faith, and suggests they get married and purchase the house. He then boasts that he must be a great lawyer, since he managed to do the seemingly impossible. However, when he notices a cane leaning against the fireplace that looks exactly like the one Kris used, he wonders, “Maybe I didn’t do such a wonderful thing after all.”