Gay Author & Screenwriter Gavin Lambert Movies 'Rose Garden' & 'Roman Spring'

by Andre Soares
Gay author Lambert: The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone Vivien Leigh Jeremy SpenserThe Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone with Vivien Leigh and her Roman stalker, Jeremy Spenser. Best remembered for her two Oscar-winning roles – Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – Vivien Leigh delivered two of her finest screen performances in her last two films: José Quintero's The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and Stanley Kramer's Ship of Fools (1965), in both of them playing lonely, troubled, fading beauties. Gay author and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, the subject of an upcoming LACMA tribute, adapted The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone from fellow gay author and screenwriter Tennesse Williams' 1950 novel.

Oscar-nominated gay author & screenwriter Gavin Lambert LACMA homage: 'The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone' & 'I Never Promised You a Rose Garden'

“A Tribute to Gavin Lambert” is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's upcoming film series in honor of the Oscar-nominated gay author-screenwriter who died at age 80 in July 2005. Held at the Leo S. Bing Theater, the series kicks off on Friday, Jan. 27, with a screening of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), both of which Lambert co-adapted for the screen.

Based on the first novel (1950) by another gay author and screenwriter, Tennessee Williams, and directed by José Quintero, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone follows an aging actress, delicately played by Vivien Leigh, as she looks for both companionship and her lost youth in the streets of Rome. She succeeds in her quest – well, sort of – after finding a self-centered Italian escort (or, back in those days, “gigolo”), absurdly played by Warren Beatty.

Leigh's stellar performance alone is enough to make the great-looking but dramatically flawed The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone a must-see.

Star-studded 'I Never Promised You a Rose Garden' earned Lambert Oscar nomination

Directed by Anthony Page and adapted from Joanne Greenberg's novel, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden depicts the inner workings of a young woman suffering from schizophrenia. Future Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13, 1995) and one of Ingmar Bergman's frequent collaborators, Bibi Andersson (The Seventh Seal, Persona), star as, respectively, patient and doctor.

The prestigious supporting cast includes veterans Signe Hasso (A Double Life), Sylvia Sidney (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for Summer Wishes Winter Dreams, 1973), and Diane Varsi (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for Peyton Place, 1957).

In addition to: Susan Tyrrell (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for Fat City, 1972), quasi-veterans Ben Piazza (The Hanging Tree) and Norman Alden (The Nutty Professor), Jaws actress Lorraine Gary, Grease actor Jeff Conaway, and Dennis Quaid (The Big Easy, Far from Heaven) at the start of his film career.

Lambert and Lewis John Carlino received an Oscar nomination for their I Never Promised You a Rose Garden screenplay.

Gay author screenwriter Gavin Lambert: Another Sky Victoria GraysonAnother Sky with Victoria Grayson. Gay author and screenwriter Gavin Lambert directed only one feature film, the now largely forgotten, British-financed, 1955 micro-budget indie Another Sky, the story of a young, proper British governess (Victoria Grayson) who has her inner sex animal unleashed while caring for a wealthy English widow (Catherine Lacey) enjoying life in sunny Marrakech. Lambert, who would live in Tangier from 1974–1989, also wrote the Another Sky screenplay. Cinematography by Walter Lassally (Something for Everyone, James Ivory's Heat and Dust and The Bostonians).

Rare screenings: 'Another Sky' & 'Sons and Lovers'

“A Tribute to Gavin Lambert” will also feature a rarity: the 1955 drama Another Sky, Lambert's sole directorial effort, which he also wrote.

In the Paul Bowles- and Josef von Sternberg-influenced film, a young British governess (Victoria Grayson, in her only big-screen role) is seduced by both the desert heat of Marrakesh and a local street musician (Tayeb, a non-professional also in his only film appearance). The dramatic ending is reminiscent of von Sternberg's 1930 classic Morocco. (Update: See Glenn Erickson's dvdtalk.com review.)

Lambert himself would be seduced by Morocco. He lived in Tangier from 1974–1989, remaining close friends with fellow writer Bowles (The Sheltering Sky).

Also part of LACMA's tribute is Jack Cardiff's British-made, 1960 family drama Sons and Lovers, which Lambert adapted from D.H. Lawrence's 1913 novel.

Less well known than other English-language 1960 releases like Spartacus, Elmer Gantry, The Sundowners, and The Apartment, Sons and Lovers received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Lambert and T.E.B. Clarke), Best Actor (Trevor Howard), and Best Supporting Actress (Mary Ure). Also in the cast: Dean Stockwell, Wendy Hiller, and Heather Sears.

Gay characters on screen & in real life

Gay themes and/or gay/bisexual characters were not infrequently found in Gavin Lambert's work, such as his books on the lives and careers of gay filmmakers Lindsay Anderson (This Sporting Life, If….), and George Cukor (Gaslight, Best Director Oscar winner for My Fair Lady, 1964).

His 1963 Hollywood-set novel Inside Daisy Clover also features a key gay character. Directed by Robert Mulligan, the 1965 film version, which Lambert himself adapted, will be getting a LACMA screening. The comedy-drama stars Natalie Wood as a 1930s teen movie-musical star à la Deanna Durbin, Christopher Plummer as her studio boss/father figure/lover, Robert Redford as her gay movie-star husband, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Ruth Gordon as her eccentric mother.

Among the subjects of Gavin Lambert's other biographies are MGM superstar Norma Shearer (Best Actress Oscar winner for The Divorcee, for the period 1929–1930), revolutionary (and bisexual) stage and silent era star Alla Nazimova (War Brides, Salome), and his Inside Daisy Clover star, Natalie Wood.

Nicholas Ray & Mart Crowley

Off-screen, Lambert was reportedly involved with Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger Than Life director Nicholas Ray (the latter title, in which Lambert had an uncredited hand, is part of the LACMA series) and with The Boys in the Band playwright Mart Crowley.

“A Tribute to Gavin Lambert” continues through Feb. 11.

See also: “Gaslighting Abuse 21st-Century Style: George Cukor Classic 1944 Thriller Remake in the Works.”

Los Angeles County Museum of Art website.

Jeremy Spenser and Vivien Leigh The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone image: Warner Bros.

Victoria Grayson Another Sky image via mubi.com.

“Gay Author & Screenwriter Gavin Lambert Movies Rose Garden & Roman Spring” last updated in December 2018.

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