After her husband’s sudden death aging actress Karen Stone finds herself adrift in Rome—a city which, like herself, exists largely in the past. He had been twenty years older than her and that age gap, plus a circle of flattering friends, allowed Karen to ignore some harsher truths about herself: she had more personality than talent, and she was quickly approaching middle-age. Alone for the first time Stone falls prey to the wiles of Contessa Magda, an embittered relic of European nobility now peddling illusions of romance to rich lonely women (and men) in the form of dashing young gigolos. One such rent-boy, Paolo, slowly works his way past Karen’s defences threatening both her personal stability and very public reputation in the process. A lush technicolor adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ tragedy headlined by Vivian Leigh (whose personal life mirrored much of Karen’s) and a shockingly young Warren Beatty who sabotages his own good looks with a ridiculously affected Italian accent. True to Williams’ style everyone seems to exist within a comforting bubble of unreality from Paolo’s pathetic attempts to rise above his station in life to Stone’s own fragile vanity as she wills herself into believing she’s finally found love and passion. Reality, however, is never far away for Karen’s future is literally shadowing her through the streets and alleyways of Rome. A fine cast is rounded out by screen great Lotte Lenya as the Contessa, a cynical dowager who mocks the very women she purports to be helping, and Jill St. John as Barbara Bingham, a shallow starlet who embodies everything Karen feels she has lost. A sad tale presented with style and flair.
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