On The Spanish Steps

Piazza di Spagna in an 18th-century etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, seen from south. The street on the left is Via del Babuino, leading to Piazza del Popolo.

 
 

The Spanish Steps or Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.

The monumental stairway of 135 steps (the slightly elevated drainage system is often mistaken for the first step) was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy, and the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, both located above — to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi located below. The stairway was designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi.

 
 

In the piazza, at the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821; it is now a museum dedicated to his memory, full of memorabilia of the English Romantic generation.

 
 

At the top the stairway ramp up the Pincio which is the Pincian Hill. From the top of the steps the Villa Medici can be reached.

During Christmas time a 19th-century crib is displayed on the first landing of the staircase. During May, part of the steps are cover
ed by pots of azaleas. In modern times the Spanish Steps have included a small cut-flower market. The steps are not a place for eating lunch, being forbidden by Roman urban regulations, but they are usually crowded with people.

 
 

 
 

In the Piazza di Spagna at the base is the Early Baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the ugly Boat), built in 1627-29 and often credited to Pietro Bernini, father of a more famous son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who is recently said to have collaborated on the decoration. The elder Bernini had been the pope’s architect for the Acqua Vergine, since 1623. According to a legend, Pope Urban VIII had the fountain installed after he had been impressed by a boat brought here by a flood of the Tiber river.

 
 

The film Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, made the Spanish Steps famous to an American audience

 
 

The apartment that was the setting for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (José Quintero, 1961) is halfway up on the right

 
 

The Steps were featured prominently in the film version of The Talented Mr. Ripley(Anthony Minghella, 1999) starring Matt Damon in the title role

 
 

To watch Morten Harket’s Spanish Steps music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

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A Joy for Ever

A THING OF BEAUTY (ENDYMION)

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing…”

John Keats

 
 

Stills from Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953). Enjoying her freedom, on a whim, Anya gets her hair cut short in a barbershop. Joe follows and “accidentally” meets her on the Spanish Steps, Rome (Italy)

A Supposed Lie Detector

Alfred Hitchcock at La Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) in Rome

 
 

La Bocca della Verità is an image, carved from Pavonazzo marble, of a man-like face, located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, Italy. The sculpture is thought to be part of a first-century ancient Roman fountain, or perhaps a manhole cover, portraying one of several possible pagan gods, probably Oceanus. Most Romans believe that the ‘Bocca’ represents the ancient god of the river Tiber.

The most famous characteristic of the Mouth, however, is its role as a lie detector. Starting from the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. The piece was placed in the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the 17th century. This church is also home to the supposed relics of Saint Valentine.

 
 

Joe (Gregory Peck) shocks his royal friend (Audrey Hepburn), pretending to have lost his hand to the Mouth of Truth

 
 

The Mouth of Truth is known to English-speaking audiences mostly from its appearance in the film Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953). The film also uses the Mouth of Truth as a storytelling device since both Hepburn’s and Peck’s characters are not initially truthful with each other.

 
 

This scene from Roman Holiday was parodied in the film Only You (Norman Jewison, 1994) starring Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei

Millers and Montands

Let’s Make Love  (George Cukor, 1960) is a musical comedy film made by 20th Century Fox. It was produced by Jerry Wald from a screenplay by Norman Krasna, Hal Kanter and Arthur Miller. It starred Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand and Tony Randall. It would be Monroe’s last musical film performance.

Norman Krasna was inspired to write the script after seeing Burt Lancaster do a dance at a Writers Guild award ceremony and receiving a loud applause. He came up with the idea of a story about a very wealthy playboy like Jock Whitney who hears about a company putting on a show that made fun of him and becomes enamoured of the theatre and a girl in the play.

Krasna felt that only three actors were suitable to play the male lead — Gary Cooper, James Stewart and Gregory Peck — because all were so obviously not musical performers, making it funny if they sung and danced. Peck agreed to play the lead, and then Marilyn Monroe was signed opposite him, even though Krasna would have preferred Cyd Charisse.

Arthur Miller revised the script so that more emphasis was given to Monroe, his wife. This led to Peck dropping out.  Rock Hudson was considered an ideal replacement based on his ability to play comedy, but Universal would not release him.  So, Montand was cast instead after starring in The Crucible (Raymond Rouleau, 1957), based on a play also written by Miller. That pleased Monroe, who wanted Montand for the part. Krasna felt he was miscast because he could actually sing and dance, and so ruined the joke, but Monroe was enthusiastic about Montand. The two stars wound up having an affair during the making of the film.

 
 

Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand at a press conference for their film Let’s Make Love ( in French : Le Milliardaire), together with Simone Signoret and Arthur Miller their respective spouses.

 
 

A picture is worth a thousand words

 
 

Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand at the press conference for their forthcoming film.

 
 

Simone Signoret and Yves Montand relax in the bungalow of their Beverly Hills Hotel, where they were staying while he was filming Let’s make Love with Marilyn Monroe.

 
 

Miller and Montand

 
 

Marilyn Monroe and Simone Signoret

 
 

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller give a private dinner for Yves Montand

 
 

Yves Montand, Simone Signoret and Marilyn Monroe in Montand’s Beverly Hills Hotel apartment

 
 

Montand and Signoret

 
 

Signoret, Montand and Monroe at a Beverly Hills Hotel

 
 

Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller

 
 

Signoret and Monroe at a private dinner party during the making of Let’s Make Love

 
 

Photo series by Bruce Davidson, 1960