The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone


1h 44m 1961
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Brief Synopsis

A fading stage star gets caught up in the decadent life of modern Rome when she hires a male companion.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Widow and the Gigolo
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
Boston opening: 25 Dec 1961
Production Company
A. A. Productions
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Rome, Italy; London, England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams (New York, 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

A disastrous performance in an ingenue role convinces actress Karen Stone that it is time to give up her fading career and vacation in Italy. En route, her wealthy, ailing, husband suffers a fatal stroke. In Rome, after admitting to her journalist friend, Meg, that she is restless, Karen is introduced to handsome gigolo Paolo di Leo by Countess Magda Terribili-Gonzales, a cynical procuress. Karen is unable to resist his charm, and in time they become lovers. The countess, however, is dissatisfied with Karen's insistence upon giving Paolo expensive gifts rather than money, and she introduces him to Barbara Bingham, a rich young Hollywood star. The younger woman so arouses Karen's jealousy that she loses all restraint and creates an ugly scene; Paolo, however, defiantly rejects her with the taunting accusation that her pursuit of him has made her the laughing stock of Rome. When she learns later that Paolo and Barbara are having an affair, Karen returns to her apartment and stares down at a young man who has silently followed her ever since her arrival in Rome; she walks to the balcony, wraps the keys to her apartment in a handkerchief, and throws them to the waiting stranger.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Widow and the Gigolo
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
Boston opening: 25 Dec 1961
Production Company
A. A. Productions
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Rome, Italy; London, England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams (New York, 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Supporting Actress

1961
Lotte Lenya

Articles

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone


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).
C-104m. Letterboxed.

by Jessica Handler

The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

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). C-104m. Letterboxed. by Jessica Handler

Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, The - Vivien Leigh in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE on DVD


Among the big-screen treatments given the prose of defining American dramatist Tennessee Williams, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) is generally relegated to minor status. Stretched to narrative length from one of the author's novellas, the film was widely regarded as glossy and disposable at the time of its release. While the years haven't proven the critics thunderously wrong in that regard, they've provided enough context to make the film, recently released on DVD by Warner Home Video, an intriguing watch for the contemporary viewer.

The narrative concerns the losing battle with the years waged by fading footlight diva Karen Stone (Vivian Leigh), who's abruptly pulled out of her latest production after being stung by critical and audience indifference. A planed Roman getaway with her older magnate husband (John Phillips) swiftly turns tragic when he suffers a fatal heart attack on the flight over. The stricken new widow opts to remain in the Eternal City, leasing a sumptuous apartment and maintaining marginal human contact therein.

That's the case until she's targeted by the Contessa (Lotte Lenya), a social butterfly who covertly makes a handsome living by steering companionship to lonely older ladies of means. The Contessa wrangles an introduction for Paolo di Leo (Warren Beatty), one of the more promising pieces of horseflesh in her stable of young Italian gigolos. His intentions are obvious to Karen, but the Paolo is intrigued by her depth, and accordingly persistent.

Giving in to her own loneliness and desperation, Karen submits to the handsome youngster's attentions. It seems that Paolo, too, regards her as more than just another job, as he is far slower in milking her for financial favors to satisfy the Contessa. The matter of how long the relationship can be sustained upon these questionable underpinnings provides the dramatic thrust for the rest of the film.

As adapted by screenwriter Gavin Lambert, it all unfolds in a manner that's frequently overwrought, never more so during spans when a sonorous voice-over is used to convey Karen's turmoil. (The bulk of the project was filmed on London soundstages, and those are body doubles in long shot you're seeing in all that pretty location footage.) For his first filmmaking assignment, stage director Jose Quintero did a creditable job, and while the pace of the proceedings is kind of languorous, it's never visually static.

With respect to the performances, the still strikingly beautiful Leigh is splendid in showing the disintegration of her character's brave façade in the face of uncertainty. Given what has since come to light about the waning years of the fragile actress's too-short life, though, it's tough to consider her work here on its merits without viewing it through the prism of her personal experiences. The young Beatty drew the bulk of the heat from the critics of the day, so much so that he pondered retirement from acting. They were being less than fair; whatever points you want to award the Italian accent he affected, the role's requirements (beyond having a studly mien) were modest, and he rose to the occasion.

The film's most flavorful work comes from Lenya, with her cunningly parasitic Contessa being her first screen effort since rendering husband Kurt Weill's songs for G.W. Pabst's The Three Penny Opera (1931). Also noteworthy are Coral Browne as the old friend trying to throw Karen a rope to her prior life, and Jeremy Spenser, silently shouldering the story's central metaphor as a soulful if scruffy young admirer who stalks Mrs. Stone from a distance. Other familiar faces smattered about the proceedings in small roles include Bessie Love, Ernest Thesiger and a young Jean Marsh.

The restoration job on the print (in the original theatrical 1.78:1 aspect ratio) is nice, if not eye-poppingly so, and the clarity of the Dolby Mono audio is very acceptable. Beyond the original theatrical trailer, the extras package consists of a new 12-minute featurette, Looking for the Light in All the Dark Corners. It delivers probably about as much delving as the movie merits; Williams biographer Donald Spoto holds forth on Karen Stone as the author's most obvious alter ego of all his creations, and Beatty biographer Suzanne Finstad shares perspectives and anecdotes on the actor's efforts to lobby Williams for the role. Jill St. John, who had an early role as the starlet offering personal and professional enticements to Paolo, shares respectful reminiscences of working with Leigh, who had been aloof to her on the set. Warner has also made the DVD available as part of the Tennessee Williams Film Collection, an impressive set that boasts new special editions of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958), as well as the DVD debuts of Baby Doll (1956), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and The Night of the Iguana (1964).

For more information about The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, visit Warner Video. To order The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, go to TCM Shopping.

Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, The - Vivien Leigh in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE on DVD

Among the big-screen treatments given the prose of defining American dramatist Tennessee Williams, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) is generally relegated to minor status. Stretched to narrative length from one of the author's novellas, the film was widely regarded as glossy and disposable at the time of its release. While the years haven't proven the critics thunderously wrong in that regard, they've provided enough context to make the film, recently released on DVD by Warner Home Video, an intriguing watch for the contemporary viewer. The narrative concerns the losing battle with the years waged by fading footlight diva Karen Stone (Vivian Leigh), who's abruptly pulled out of her latest production after being stung by critical and audience indifference. A planed Roman getaway with her older magnate husband (John Phillips) swiftly turns tragic when he suffers a fatal heart attack on the flight over. The stricken new widow opts to remain in the Eternal City, leasing a sumptuous apartment and maintaining marginal human contact therein. That's the case until she's targeted by the Contessa (Lotte Lenya), a social butterfly who covertly makes a handsome living by steering companionship to lonely older ladies of means. The Contessa wrangles an introduction for Paolo di Leo (Warren Beatty), one of the more promising pieces of horseflesh in her stable of young Italian gigolos. His intentions are obvious to Karen, but the Paolo is intrigued by her depth, and accordingly persistent. Giving in to her own loneliness and desperation, Karen submits to the handsome youngster's attentions. It seems that Paolo, too, regards her as more than just another job, as he is far slower in milking her for financial favors to satisfy the Contessa. The matter of how long the relationship can be sustained upon these questionable underpinnings provides the dramatic thrust for the rest of the film. As adapted by screenwriter Gavin Lambert, it all unfolds in a manner that's frequently overwrought, never more so during spans when a sonorous voice-over is used to convey Karen's turmoil. (The bulk of the project was filmed on London soundstages, and those are body doubles in long shot you're seeing in all that pretty location footage.) For his first filmmaking assignment, stage director Jose Quintero did a creditable job, and while the pace of the proceedings is kind of languorous, it's never visually static. With respect to the performances, the still strikingly beautiful Leigh is splendid in showing the disintegration of her character's brave façade in the face of uncertainty. Given what has since come to light about the waning years of the fragile actress's too-short life, though, it's tough to consider her work here on its merits without viewing it through the prism of her personal experiences. The young Beatty drew the bulk of the heat from the critics of the day, so much so that he pondered retirement from acting. They were being less than fair; whatever points you want to award the Italian accent he affected, the role's requirements (beyond having a studly mien) were modest, and he rose to the occasion. The film's most flavorful work comes from Lenya, with her cunningly parasitic Contessa being her first screen effort since rendering husband Kurt Weill's songs for G.W. Pabst's The Three Penny Opera (1931). Also noteworthy are Coral Browne as the old friend trying to throw Karen a rope to her prior life, and Jeremy Spenser, silently shouldering the story's central metaphor as a soulful if scruffy young admirer who stalks Mrs. Stone from a distance. Other familiar faces smattered about the proceedings in small roles include Bessie Love, Ernest Thesiger and a young Jean Marsh. The restoration job on the print (in the original theatrical 1.78:1 aspect ratio) is nice, if not eye-poppingly so, and the clarity of the Dolby Mono audio is very acceptable. Beyond the original theatrical trailer, the extras package consists of a new 12-minute featurette, Looking for the Light in All the Dark Corners. It delivers probably about as much delving as the movie merits; Williams biographer Donald Spoto holds forth on Karen Stone as the author's most obvious alter ego of all his creations, and Beatty biographer Suzanne Finstad shares perspectives and anecdotes on the actor's efforts to lobby Williams for the role. Jill St. John, who had an early role as the starlet offering personal and professional enticements to Paolo, shares respectful reminiscences of working with Leigh, who had been aloof to her on the set. Warner has also made the DVD available as part of the Tennessee Williams Film Collection, an impressive set that boasts new special editions of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958), as well as the DVD debuts of Baby Doll (1956), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and The Night of the Iguana (1964). For more information about The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, visit Warner Video. To order The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, go to TCM Shopping.

Quotes

Rome is a very old city. Three-thousand years. How old are you? Fifty?
- Paolo di Leo

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in London and Rome. Opened in London in February 1962. Also known as The Widow and the Gigolo.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States December 30, 1961

Released in United States on Video January 29, 1992

Released in United States Winter December 28, 1961

Re-released in United States on Video July 6, 1994

Released in United States on Video January 29, 1992

Re-released in United States on Video July 6, 1994

Released in United States December 30, 1961 (Boston)

Released in United States Winter December 28, 1961