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Lobby Card

Splendor in the Grass lobby card

This theater placard advertises the movie Splendor in the Grass, written by Kansan William Inge.

Reading the works of William Inge, one quickly suspects the famous playwright found small town life to be repressive and stifling. The truth is more complex, though, as Inge also recognized his background was a profound source of inspiration. "I've often wondered how people raised in our great cities ever develop any knowledge of humankind," he once said, explaining, "People who grow up in small towns get to know each other so much more closely than they do in cities."

Born and raised in the town of Independence in southeastern Kansas, Inge had a lifelong interest in theater. After earning a degree in speech and drama from the University of Kansas, he worked odd jobs and attended graduate school before securing a post as drama critic with a St. Louis newspaper. Meeting Tennessee Williams in the late 1940s inspired Inge to write plays himself. A string of successes soon followed, including Come Back, Little Sheba (1950), Picnic (1952), Bus Stop (1955) and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957). Picnic earned a Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious awards.

William IngeInge had been a successful playwright for over a decade when he wrote the screenplay for Splendor in the Grass (1961). Although he had earlier adapted the play Bus Stop into a movie which starred Marilyn Monroe, Splendor was Inge's first work written especially for the screen.

The film is set in a small southeast Kansas town, not unlike Independence, in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Its major themes are the class differences and sexual repression that pry apart a pair of teenage lovers played by Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. The movie was Beatty's screen debut. Wood received a Best Actress nomination for her performance but Inge won the film's only Academy Award, for Best Original Story and Screenplay.

This Splendor in the Grass lobby card (pictured above) was purchased by the Kansas Museum of History for its collections. Lobby cards were standard fare in promotional packages that studios sent movie theaters to advertise coming attractions. They were designed to be posted in theatre lobbies, thus the name "lobby card." Typically measuring 11 inches by 14 inches, lobby cards were packaged in sets with a title card and a series of stills from the film. This particular placard is numbered "3" at the center bottom, indicating its placement in the set. Lobby cards were never printed for the general public; theatres were instructed to return them but movie house owners usually just discarded them after a film's run.

This lobby card is captioned as follows:

Elia Kazan's Production of Splendor in the Grass
The first play written especially for the screen by William Inge
© 1961 Warner Bros.
Starring Natalie Wood with
Pat Hingle / Audrey Christie / and introducing
Warren Beatty
In his very first picture
--a very special star!

Lead actors Wood and Beatty are not pictured on this particular card, which instead depicts Pat Hingle and Barbara Loden playing Beatty's father and sister, respectively. Although not identified in the credits, screenwriter William Inge played the role of Reverend at a Sunday church service in the film.

Splendor in the Grass was the last of Inge's popular successes. A string of failures over the next decade caused him to doubt his writing abilities, and he sank into a deep depression. Inge took his own life on June 10, 1973, in California.

Entry: Lobby Card

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2002

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.