The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (DVD-2006)
Reviewed by Daniel Severin
Tennessee Williams film adaptations have recently come out on DVD from Warner Home Video, two of which star Vivien Leigh.
I’m sure you know A Streetcar Named Desire, but what’s the other one?
Well, it’s Warren Beatty’s second movie, if that helps. Give up? The answer is The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, a 1961 film about an aging stage actress. As Karen Stone, Leigh realizes she is
too old to play Shakespeare’s teenage heroines, so she runs away to Europe, tells her New York
friends she’s dying, and falls in love with an Italian gigolo, played by Beatty. The lavish Technicolor film, shot partly
in Rome, co-stars Lotte Lenya as a scheming countess out to make a buck
any way she can.
Tennessee Williams’s only novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone didn’t
do too well when first released, yet the author said it was the best movie made from one of his plays or stories, which is
high praise indeed from the author of The Glass Menagerie. A featurette on the
DVD describes the parallels between the film and the careers of those involved: Williams and Beatty’s careers were on
the rise, while Leigh would make only one more movie after Mrs. Stone. The film
is fascinating to watch in a perverse way, as only Williams could pull off. The DVD transfer is stunning and makes the movie
seem even better.
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone is available on DVD alone or as part of the Tennessee Williams Collection, along with the special edition of Streetcar, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Night of the Iguana.