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Classic Woman-centric Movie Review: The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

Happy Friday, Persephoneers! It’s been a long week for me, and the best way to deal with a trying week is to distract myself with other people’s problems, particularly fictional characters’ problems. And boy, has the heroine of this movie got a lot on her plate! The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was made in 1961 and was directed by Jose Quintero. It stars Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty, and Lotte Lenya and is based on the novel of the same name by Tennessee Williams.

Karen Stone (Leigh), an actress of a certain age, and her much older husband are en route to Italy for a vacation. Sadly, though, her husband suffers a fatal heart attack on the airplane. Karen, now a widow, decides to stay on in Italy and rents a luxurious apartment in Rome. She meets the calculating Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales (Lenya), who introduces her to the handsome Paolo (Beatty). The contessa, unknown to Karen, is a procuress for several of the local gigolos, and Paolo is one of her business partners. Her target customers are lonely, middle-aged American women who spend all the money they can on the young men. Karen and Paolo begin a passionate affair, and they both become quite attached to one another. As the affair sours, though, it proves to be Karen’s undoing. The more Karen feels Paolo slipping away from her, the more fiercely she tries to hold onto him, even as her sense of self begins to crumble.

The movie poster for "Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone."
Poster from film. Image via Wikipedia.

The film has always been one of my favorites as it deals with the loneliness and vulnerability that come with loss. Karen is alone in the world without her husband, who has been there for her during her entire career. She must come to terms with her new lot in life and redefine herself as a single woman, but she is reluctant to do so. She uses Paolo to alleviate her loneliness, but she keeps him around for the wrong reasons; she needs him so that she can define herself in the way she always has, and she wants him to need her just as intensely. The more desperate she becomes to maintain the relationship, the more miserable she is, and in the end, she finds herself alone.

The film is available through Netflix’s DVD service.

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