Sunday, July 08, 2007

On the kindness of strangers

People usually associate Vivien Leigh (above, in 1958) with Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche DuBois. But I gravitate to her gayest character, in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Warren Beatty is downright silly (that terrible Italian accent!) as the gigolo who preys on Karen Stone, an aging American stage actress who flees to Rome after her career sputters and her new husband dies. (A 2003 remake starring Helen Mirren, Ann Bancroft and the smoking-hot Olivier Martinez, below, is a no-miss, too.)

Leigh, who suffered major bouts of manic-depression, is spot-on in that 1961 movie. The scene I always recall comes near the end, when her character succumbs to desperate loneliness. She's on the terrace of her Spanish Steps appartamento, tossing the keys below to another young n'er-do-well, despite a dark hint he may kill her. I thought about Leigh last night, when Sparky and I caught the tail end of A Streetcar Named Desire. Then I read her Wiki bio this morning and discovered she died exactly 40 years ago today, of tuberculosis. She was only 54.

Of course, Streetcar has a big point in its favor, and here he is:

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