Critics and the public say Karen Stone is too old -- as she approaches 50 -- for her role in a play she is about to take to Broadway. Her businessman husband, 20 years her senior, has been ... See full summary »
Critics and the public say Karen Stone is too old -- as she approaches 50 -- for her role in a play she is about to take to Broadway. Her businessman husband, 20 years her senior, has been the angel for the play and gives her a way out: They are off to a holiday in Rome for his health. He suffers a fatal heart attack on the plane. Mrs. Stone stays in Rome. She leases a magnificent apartment with a view of the seven hills from the terrace. Then the contessa comes calling to introduce a young man named Paola to her. The contessa knows many presentable young men and lonely American widows. Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
I'll say flat out right at the beginning, that if you don't appreciate the talents of Vivien Leigh -- you will not like The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. This is her penultimate film, which was really made as a vehicle for her talents, without much of an ensemble cast and she's in nearly every scene. But the great actress is certainly up to the task of making this material work, although she is let down at times by contrivances of plot and other aspects of believability.
Taken from famous playwright Tennessee William's novella, the story concerns aging actress Karen Stone, who yearns to retire with her rich husband, who unfortunately expires while on their way to Rome for their extended getaway. Then the lonely widow starts dating a handsome young Italian guy who has an unusually close relationship with the sinister contessa who introduced them both.
Vivien Leigh as Karen Stone "drifts" through the movie, an ethereal presence that's nearly translucent, extremely delicate and cautiously mannered. The machinations of the plot allow her many opportunities to overstate or exaggerate, which is something Leigh never does. Many have said that this source material is kind of second rate Tennessee Williams, but even if true, Vivien Leigh's work here makes the very best of it in an engaging style.
And the movie has the added benefit of young future superstar Warren Beatty, making his second feature film. Needless to say, he looks fantastic, making it much more believable that Mrs. Stone would become so enamored with him. It's evident that Beatty clearly dove headfirst into an attempt to transform himself into an Italian gigolo. I find the Italian accent he attempted to be perhaps a little lacking at some points in the way of his hitting a few wrong pronunciations that sound artificial at very few and select times. Other than that minor detail, Beatty fills the role more than adequately, and his star power is in abundance.
And no small mention must go to fabulous Lotte Lenya (who scored an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress in this), as this unctuous Euro-trash "contessa" who deals in romantic relationships usually for women of a certain class, age and wealth. She's extremely creepy, and look for a frightening scene set inside a cavernous discotheque where the camera follows Lenya slithering through the crowd, making her way to the fragile Mrs Stone. Every scene with Lenya is a highlight in this movie, and also see how her intense love for her pet cat is expressed in the way Lenya artfully handles the willing feline.
The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, surely a "must-see" for devotees of Williams, Leigh, Beatty or Lenya, and anyone who enjoys colorful European settings, vivid characters and glossy romantic drama.
**** out of *****
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