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Friday, May 30, 2008

THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE (1961)


This poorly received adaptation of a Tennessee Williams novella (script by Gavin Lambert) doomed any film career for famed stage helmer Jose Quintero. Yet, it’s one of the few non-Elia Kazan TN pics to come off. Sure, there's a bum prologue, dunderheaded narration & subpar technical elements (lenser Harry Waxman can’t get his studio lighting in sync with the Rome location stuff), but Quintero pulls off some nifty staging while bringing out the self-incriminating character aspects of his three preternaturally TN-esque leading players. There's Vivien Leigh, drifting thru middle-age with sex-for-cash companionship & the angel of death as her personal stalker. (No joke, death is a young, handsome & very corporeal tramp). There's Warren Beatty as the ambitious and oddly prideful gigolo. (Though his striking looks are as non-Italian as his amatuerish accent.) And there's the great Lotte Lenya as a putative Countess who pimps young men for rich ladies hungry for a last taste of La Dolce Vita. All you have to do is substitute 'bartered play writing' for 'bartered boys' and you have three terrifying self-reimaginings by our aging author. But Tennessee Williams wasn't alone when it came to looking in the abyss; watch Vivien Leigh as she ditches some old friends she happens to bump into on a street in Rome. Riveting stuff.

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