For Track 5 of “Ladies of the Nightclubs” we explore a familiar question: What becomes a legend most? Sometimes the answer is: Another legend. The 1961 film, THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE, is packed with legendary artists of all sorts. Some were regarded as legends at the time, others became legends over a period of time. Our featured singer, Cleo Laine, is a living legend. At nearly 85, Dame Cleo Laine has yet to retire from the spotlight. Over a half-century ago, still an emerging talent in the United States, she appeared on a Warner Brothers soundstage and stood under a warm spotlight ordered by film director José Quintero. His cinematographer, Harry Waxman, captured her smoldering beauty as she sang “Love Is A Bore” (“Che Noia L’Amour”), a savory ballad created for her by Richard Addinsell (“The Warsaw Concerto”) and Paddy Roberts (“Songs For Gay Dogs”). All she had to do was stand there and croon. The scene is a Roman nightclub, an elite subterranean tavern, where the lines blur between between those searching for love, forgetting about love, or selling what passes for love. Above the din and through the smoky atmosphere, the un-named character played by Cleo Laine sings a gentle warning in both Italian and English — “Love is a bore, but you seek it more and more, though you know you’ll be disillusioned.” We latch onto her silky voice as the camera meanders past the chic clientele. Enter the legendary Lotte Lenya (as “Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales”) and a collection of handsome young men she has procured for a wealthy rogue and an even wealthier widow, played by Mavis Villiers. At a nearby table is budding starlet Jill St. John (playing a budding starlet) and over in a more secluded corner is a particularly handsome young gigolo, “Paolo di Leo”, who is looking for cache in all the wrong places. Played by the relatively unknown but soon to be wildly popular Warren Beatty, “Paolo’s” companion for the evening is the ultimate star of the production, two-time Oscar winner and legendary beauty, Vivien Leigh. “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone”, based on the novella by Tennessee Williams, has been produced and promoted as a return-to-the-screen for this (by now!) immortal star of “Gone with the Wind” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Tennessee Williams has hand-picked both Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty to portray the characters in what he will later claim to be his favorite among the many film adaptations of his works. Though Cleo’s enchanting song is somewhat fragmented throughout this fascinating scene, and though it was never recorded nor did she ever perform it again, the song “Love Is A Bore” becomes legendary by consequence. And the exquisite images of Cleo Laine performing it remain forever young. — Sean Martinfield
* The actress we identify as Bessie Love, is actually Mavis Villiers. Our apologies.