Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, The (1961)

Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, The (1961)

“The whole world — the stars… Everything is drifting. Is it so bad to drift?”

When her older husband (John Phillips) dies during a trip to Italy, an aging actress (Vivien Leigh) sets up a home for herself in Rome and befriends a crafty Contessa (Lotte Lenye) who procures a handsome young lover (Warren Beatty) for her.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Expatriates
  • May-December Romance
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos
  • Tennessee Williams Films
  • Vivien Leigh Films
  • Warren Beatty Films
  • Widows and Widowers

Vivien Leigh (in her next-to-last big screen role) is perfectly cast in this adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ novel about an aging actress who finally allows herself to be seduced by a young gigolo, fooling herself (somewhat) into believing he loves her.

While Leigh’s sensitive portrayal is fine and nuanced, Beatty reveals his lack of acting experience by giving a fairly terrible performance — though at least he comes across as authentically obnoxious:

There’s not much to the storyline other than watching a reasonably likable, self-sufficient woman (Leigh is clear on what she wants for herself) being taken for a ride by manipulative bastards — so your enjoyment of this film will depend entirely on whether you’re up for this kind of narrative playing out. The film is also notable for featuring stage actress Lotte Lenya in one of her very few screen roles, and she’s quite effective:

Note: Lenya is likely best known to film fanatics for playing villainous Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love (1963), but she also starred (much earlier) in G.W. Pabst’s adaptation of her husband Kurt Weill’s Three Penny Opera (1931).

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Vivien Leigh as Karen Stone (nominated as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
  • Lotte Lenya as Contessa Magda
  • Fine production design and cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a one-time look for Leigh’s performance. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


2 thoughts on “Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, The (1961)

  1. Not must-see.

    I’ve seen this film twice, I think, and ultimately it’s not that satisfying – even if it’s not boring either. Hardcore Williams fans will get the most out of it.

    Beatty is certainly terrible. Lenya is nothing short of intriguing but there’s too little of her.

    What can one say of Leigh? Given her problems in life, it’s not surprising she made relatively few films, esp. films of note. This particular role is one she could have done in her sleep. It’s not all that challenging.

    It’s really a shame that Peary didn’t include her take on Anna Karenina (1948, dir. Julien Duvivier). It’s a rather exquisite performance and unlike anything else I’ve seen her do in film.

  2. More intriguing than anything else, I thought it would be boring but it’s keeps the interest throughout this rather melancholy story. Also enjoyed the Roman scenery, I’m a sucker for anything filmed there and the cinematography is definitely top-notch.
    Leigh is indeed perfect for this role but it would have been a lot better if an Italian actor had played the Beatty role.
    Overall not a must-see but a curio worth watching if it shows up.

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