Three Coins in the Fountain Review
In the 1950s, the film industry had its fair share of problems. The studio contract system that had been in place for decades was now long dead and audiences were staying home more often to watch this new trend called television. In order to bring people back to the theaters, improved stereophonic sound was added and people could watch movies on a much larger screen. One of the films to be released with this new technology was Three Coins in the Fountain.
The movie was a smash hit when it was released and helped reinvigorate audiences’ interest in going to the movies. The film was soon followed by other successful romance films such as Magnificent Obsession and Peyton Place. Three Coins in the Fountain was like a love letter to the city of Rome and even, in a way, movies with its lavish sets, dramatic scenes, and a soundtrack with Frank Sinatra and, of course, three love stories when a single story was the norm and what was expected.
Three Coins in the Fountain details the adventures of three USA secretaries living in Rome who make wishes in the Fountain of Trevi in the hopes of staying in Rome and finding love. This film has schmaltz and clichés one would expect in a film of this genre. I do not have a problem with clichés if they are done well and thankfully this happens to be the case with this movie.
To have an American work and live in Europe was an unusual circumstance in the 1950s and I appreciate how true to the times this film is in terms of its mores and social structure. For instance, sexual harassment of women in the streets of Rome is common and there is the classic double standard that in a hetero-normative relationship it is okay for the man to lie but if the woman does it, then she should be shamed and discarded.
In the 1950s, women could vote and go to college to work as teachers or nurses, viewed as “women’s work” at the time, and even live on their own. American companies were obligated to ensure the physical safety and morality of their employees by any means necessary. This is illustrated in company rules that forbid employees from dating each other as well as how the boss acts as a pseudo-father figure to all the secretaries who work under him. The romance may not always be realistic but at least, when it comes to historic accuracy, this film is an accurate depiction of the times.
The cinematography is fantastic and since it earned Three Coins in the Fountain an Oscar, I am not the only one who thought so. There are so many beautiful scenes of Rome and Venice that not only complement each other but also help add to the atmosphere. The buildings, people, and communities are shot in such a way it is as if one is seeing them for the first time. Some say the cinematography is more like one would expect of a tourist group and well, yes this is true and is precisely the point. I imagine that many people in 1954, after seeing this film, decided to take a trip to Rome and other parts of Europe. It certainly had such an effect on me.
The characters are not the most complex but they are still enjoyable with really talented actors and actresses portraying them. Maria is very prim and proper, played perfectly by Maggie McNamara. Dorothy McGuire plays Miss Frances who is the eldest of the three women and losing hope of ever marrying the man she fell in love with and has worked under for the past 15 years. To Frances’ annoyance, he is oblivious to her long held affections. Jean Peters plays Anita who wants to return to America and is ready to give up on finding love.
Prince Dino is played by Louis Jourdan who is worldly, of high culture and has a scandalous reputation. He wants to find love but only if it is with a woman who is not after his fortune. Clifton Webb plays John Frederick Shadwell, an older man, and writer who has been out of the spotlight for years without inspiration. Finally, Rossano Brazzi plays Georgio Bianchi who works as a company translator by day and is a law student by night. He is also hopelessly in love with Anita and has been for some time.
Each of the three love stories has a different dynamic and each one is immensely entertaining. Of the three stories, I personally enjoyed the story of John and Frances and Anita and Georgio the most. Frances and John have worked together and been good friends for years. Like so many good romances, theirs bloomed out of a strong friendship and it shows in every scene they have together. They know each other well and have a good grasp on how the other will act and react in certain situations. I felt their connection and their chemistry was great.
The romance between the beautiful Anita and the adventurous Georgio has a very real feel to it and the additional risk of being employees and their boss finding out just added to their story. Some of my favorite scenes in the film involve these two characters, specifically the scenes with Georgio’s jovial and wonderful family. I enjoyed watching Anita interact with his family and fitting right in despite just meeting them. I enjoyed watching them bond and I really felt their connection. The buildup for their relationship was also well written and I thought their personalities complimented each other nicely.
The only romance I personally did not care for is between Maria and Prince Dino. It was not terrible or unbearable but compared to the others, it felt a little forced. In addition, I do not like the element of deceit in this relationship and found it difficult to watch at times. Overall, the romances were quite entertaining with a fairy tale like element to them.
If one is looking for a movie to drag them through the difficulties of reality then Three Coins in the Fountain is not that movie. However, if one is looking for a brief, relaxing escape, is able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride for what it is, then this is that movie. This is the kind of film that can carry the audience away to another world that is more like a dream, one in which they can enjoy the beautiful view that is Rome.
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”Pin this article to read later! And make sure to follow us on Pinterest.