The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
Tennessee Williams Film Collection exclusively available from HMV
Karen Stone starts this movie based on a novel, unsuccessfully playing Rosalind on stage in As You Like It. By the end, her story reads far more like a Shakespearean tragedy.
Vivien Leigh takes the leading role playing a woman who gives up acting following bad reviews and the death of her much older husband. She retires to a large Roman apartment to mourn and then she knows not what.
Her friendship with a Contessa played by Lotte Lenya, who received an Oscar nomination for her performance, brings the grieving star back to earth, with unforeseen consequences. The Contessa is a really poisonous woman who runs a team of gigolos with the aim of ripping off rich older women just like the former actress.
The ridiculously handsome Paolo, played by a very young Warren Beatty, takes a little time to make his way into her affections sporting a particularly irritating Italian accent. Once there, he begins to receive lavish gifts as the couple prepare for a blissful future that never seems likely to materialise.
As soon as Paolo meets a younger film actress, played by Jill St John, his mind is made up. Then, what had otherwise seemed a pretty pedestrian story of delusional love, gets a dark ending, thanks to a mystery man who may be a stalker, would-be lover or madman.
This is not Tennessee Williams at his very best and there is little doubt that this story would work far better on paper than the silver screen. However, it is not only a chance to see Vivien Leigh flirting with Warren Beatty 45 years ago but star spotters can have a lot of fun picking out the likes of Cleo Laine, Warren Mitchell and Jean Marsh.
There are also some great views of Rome, mainly populated by Americans and Fiats including wonderful taxis that appear to be driving backwards.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher