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Based on Tennessee Williams' only full length novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) stars Vivien Leigh, returning to the screen after a six year absence, and twenty three year old Warren Beatty as her Italian "gentleman". Leigh' doll-like femininity and emotional strength complete her performance of Karen Stone, an aging actress who flees to Italy with her husband after receiving poor theatrical reviews. Her doting husband dies on the airplane, and Leigh, a widow, sets up housekeeping expatria. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone is a moving portrait of an American woman' romantic and sexual self-discovery amid the dissolute beauty of modern Rome.
A moody tone set by Tony award winning stage director Jose Quintero - here directing his first motion picture - and lavish art direction by Herbert Smith place us squarely in high society Rome. Shot partially on location in Italy, the film opens with stark, ruminative shots of the famed Spanish Steps, an image mirroring Leigh' inner journey.
Lotte Lenya, immortalized in a lyric from "Mack the Knife," (she was married to Kurt Weill, who co-wrote The Threepenny Opera in which that song first appeared) was nominated for an Academy Award for her sinister performance as the madam who introduces, then withdraws, Warren Beatty from Leigh's life. Lenya later appeared as the villainess in From Russia With Love. Assistant Director Peter Yates later directed such movies as The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Breaking Away.
Director: Jose Quintero
Producer: Louis De Rochemont
Screenplay: Gavin Lambert, Jan Read
Cinematography: Harry Waxman
Editor: Ralph Kemplen
Art Direction: Herbert Smith
Music: Richard Addinsell
Cast: Vivien Leigh (Karen Stone), Warren Beatty (Paolo di Leo), Lotte Lenya (Contessa), Coral Browne (Meg), Jill St. John (Barbara), Stella Bonheur (Mrs. Jamison-Walker), Bessie Love (Bunny).
by Jessica Handler