Jill St. John

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone 1961Karen Stone (Vivien Leigh) is not going through an easy time in her life. Her illustrious stage career seems to be drawing to a close now that she’s nearing the age of 50 and her husband recently passed away, so she’s feeling quite lost in life. She decides to bow out of the spotlight and spend some time in Rome. While there, she meets Countess Magda Terribili-Gonzales (Lotte Lenya), who makes a living by pimping out her band of young gigolos to rich women. Naturally, Karen is precisely the type of woman she wants to target so she introduces Karen to Paolo (Warren Beatty).

Although Karen has her reservations at first, she slowly starts to become infatuated with Paolo and the feeling is mutual. Karen is happy with Paolo, but she’s afraid of what her friends would think. However, unlike the other types of women the Countess usually deals with, Karen prefers to lavish Paolo with expensive gifts like new clothes and fancy dinners instead of giving them cold hard cash. The Countess has an arrangement with all of her gigolos that she gets half of everything they get so the Countess isn’t getting anything out of those dinners in nice restaurants.

Realizing Paolo’s feelings for Karen, and of Karen’s fragile mental state, the Countess tries to direct him toward a much younger American actress, Barbara Bingham (Jill St. John), who is more likely to be profitable for her. She knows that Paolo having an affair with Barbara would absolutely destroy Karen.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone had the potential to be a really interesting film, but unfortunately, it missed the mark. Both Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty have made much better films. The movie is only about an hour and forty-five minutes long, but it felt like it was longer than that. I kept looking at the clock to find out how much longer I had to listen to Warren Beatty’s terrible Italian accent for. That accent and wearing copious amounts of self-tanner are pretty much Warren Beatty’s two big acting choices for this role. Vivien does a good job with her role and if I were to come up with my own reworking of the film to make it more interesting, I’d probably keep her in it. But oh, dear, I don’t think I could have listened to Beatty’s accent for any longer. I’m usually into movies that feature some beautiful Italian scenery, but that wasn’t even enough to keep me even remotely interested.