THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE
(director/writer: Jose Quintero; screenwriter: Gavin Lambert/from the novel by Tennessee Williams; cinematographer: Harry Waxman; editor: Ralph Kemplen; music: Richard Addinsell; cast: Vivien Leigh (Karen Stone), Warren Beatty (Paolo di Leo), Lotte Lenya (Countess Magda Terribili-Gonzales ), Coral Browne (Meg), Jill St. John (Barbara Bingham), Stella Bonheur (Mrs. Jamison-Walker), Bessie Love (Bunny), John Phillips (Tom Stone), Jeremy Spenser (Young Psycho); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis de Rochemont; Warner Bros.; 1961-UK)
“The disappointing pic is right in Vivian Leigh’s wheel-house, as she inhabits her aging and fading beauty character to the fullest and gives a superb performance.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The only feature-film directorial effort of experimental-theatre maven Jose Quintero is unfulfilling because of stagy dialogue and plodding direction. Writer Gavin Lambert adapts it from the first and only full-length novel by Tennessee Williams. The drama reeks of gloom and moral decline, making it an unpleasant watch. But the disappointing pic is right in Vivian Leigh’s wheel-house, as she inhabits her aging and fading beauty character to the fullest and gives a superb performance.
When the 45-year-old actress Karen Stone (Vivien Leigh) bombs in a Shakespeare play in London, she quits show business and talks her ailing much older wealthy businessman husband Tom (John Phillips) into going with her on an extended vacation to Rome. When Tom dies of a stroke on the flight over, Karen decides to live in Rome, anyway, and resides in a luxurious apartment. Manipulative business-minded Contessa Magda (Lotte Lenya, German actress), a procurer, takes advantage of the lonely and insecure woman and introduces her to the handsome young gigolo Paolo di Leo (Warren Beatty). He is employed by the Contessa to begin a romance with Karen and take her for as much money as possible. While the gigolo professes his phony love for her, the lonely woman falls for his act and falls madly in love with him. But the Contessa tires of Karen giving her boy only expensive gifts and not paying him off in big money for his services, and re-assigns the young mercenary to court the young rich Hollywood actress Barbara Bingham (Jill St. John). For Karen, she’s resigned into accepting her life ended when she could no longer play parts for younger actresses.
The lushly filmed pic has nice scenery to look at, but the degradation of Karen Stone left me feeling cold.
REVIEWED ON 4/17/2015 GRADE: C+