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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone (1961)

After the death of her husband (John Phillips), an aging actress (Vivien Leigh) retires from the stage and lives in seclusion in her Rome apartment. But when a procuress (Lotte Lenya) who specializes in providing handsome gigolos to wealthy widows and divorcees introduces her to a handsome young man (Warren Beatty), her fate is sealed. Based on the novella by Tennessee Williams, the film provides one last great role for Leigh (she did only one more movie) whose casting is inspired. Karen Stone is a heartier and harder version of Blanche DuBois and a barely disguised stand in for Williams himself. The only film by the famed stage director Jose Quintero, Gavin Lambert's screenplay has a keen ear. Beatty certainly looks the part but he's all wrong for it. He tries very hard and one can admire his effort but he's so inauthentic that it takes a leap of faith to accept him as an Italian hustler and it's not just his wonky accent either. Lenya in an Oscar nominated performance about steals the film. The ambiguous ending (will she be murdered?) can be interpreted two ways and perhaps I'm being naive but I always opt for the "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" version. With Jill St. John, Coral Browne, Cleo Laine, Bessie Love, Jeremy Spenser, Ernest Thesiger and Jean Marsh.

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