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Movie Review - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)

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Introduction

The classic film “Three Coins in the Fountain” reflects life as it was in the 50’s in a delightfully pleasant way.  The wardrobe of the three women was tailored to that time, and the innocent, almost prudush, dialogue evoked memories of an era that is irretrievable.  It was interesting, almost laughable, to see the women carrying heavy luggage that did not have wheels.  Also, a film showing a woman smoking a cigarette may have been acceptable at that time, but it is no longer common in films that are made today. 

                                   

Louis Jourdan

                                                            Louis Jourdan - Wikimedia

It is interesting that Clifton Webb got top billing in this movie.  He was extremely popular in that day, more so than the other five major characters in the film.  All did an excellent job, however, and seemed to enjoy every minute of making this film which was actually shot in Italy.  The scenery was breathtaking, particularly the gondola scenes on the waterways in Venice, as well as St. Mark’s Square with its preponderance of pigeons.  The hillside scenes were also captivating.

The opening shots include pictures of the Fountain of Trevi as we listen to Frank Sinatra singing the title song, “Three Coins in the Fountain” which won an Academy Award that year for Best Music, Original Song.  It actually beat out “White Christmas,” which is startling.  The legend of the Fountain of Trevi asks that you throw a coin in the fountain while standing with your back to it.  Your wish must be that you will return to Rome again one day.

 

Fountain at Trevi

                                                   The Fountain at Trevi - Wikimedia

Three Love Affairs

The film tells the story of three love affairs that took a long time to get off the ground.  The first involved a newcomer to Rome, Maria Williams (Maggie McNamara) who had accepted a job as a secretary in a U. S. agency in Rome.  At a party that evening given by her boss’s wife, she was attracted to a handsome man who is introduced to her as Prince Dino di Cessi (Louis Jourdan).  As an aside, the talented and pretty Maggie McNamara was seldom seen again in motion pictures, and retired from her career at an early age.

Maria was hired to take the place of Anita Hutchins (Jean Peters) who planned to return home to marry her fiancé in America, believing it is not possible for poor secretaries in Rome to attract rich eligible men.  She had fallen for Giorgio Bianchi (Rossano Brazzi), a translator who worked at the firm, but company policy stated that employees may not fraternize with each other.

                                    

Dorothy McGuire

                                                         Dorothy McGuire - Wikimedia

The last of the trio is Miss Frances (Dorothy McGuire) who has worked for the past 15 years for the American author John Frederick Shadwell (Clifton Webb), and has been in love with him secretly all that time.  When her housekeeper brought her a cat to keep her company, Miss Frances was insulted since cat owners had the reputation of being lonely old maids.  She, too, decided to return to America and informed her boss of her plans.

A Trip to Venice

Out of the blue, Maria received a phone call from Prince Dino asking her if she would like to go to Venice with him.  Maria was warned by the girls that the Prince had a reputation as a Casa Nova and always asked a girl to go to Venice for a day, but always had car trouble, causing them to stay overnight in the city.  His conquests were known as “Venice girls.”  Miss Frances knew how badly Maria wanted to see Venice, and whispered to her that she would go along as a chaperone.  The arrangement did not suit Dino but he accepted it anyway.

Meanwhile, Maria did a great deal of research on the Prince and found out his favorite Italian dish, his favorite wine (Lacrima Christie), his love for modern art, and the fact that he played the piccolo.  Maria professed to the same tastes, and started taking piccolo lessons.  She also claimed to be part Italian.  Dino was elated that they had so much in common, and asked Maria to meet his mother.  Anita had informed Maria that, in Italy, an invitation to meet a swain’s mother was usually followed by a proposal.  Dino’s mother, the Principessa (Cathleen Nesbitt) was quite taken with Maria and indicated her approval to her son.  When Dino hinted to Maria that he was interested in marrying her, Maria confessed that she had researched his likes and dislikes to pretend that they were suited to each other.  Dino was hurt and disillusioned and stopped seeing Maria.

     

Clifton Webb

                                                             Clifton Webb - Wikimedia

Breaking Company Rules

Anita confessed to Maria that she did not really have a fiancé in America; she just used it as an excuse to leave the agency.  Her romance with Georgio was going nowhere.  Nevertheless, she accepted Giorgio’s plea to attend an Italian Festa at his family’s farm in the country.  Georgio and several of his cousins picked her up in a broken-down truck without brakes, but unfortunately they were spotted driving through the city by Anita’s boss, Mr. Burgoyne.

At the Festa, Anita and Georgio took the truck for a ride, and Anita was hurt when the car got out of control going down a hill.  Georgio rescued her and told her of his love, mentioning that he planned to go to law school.  The next day, Mr. Burgoyne fired Georgio for disobeying the company policy of fraternizing with fellow employees.  All of his future plans had to be put on hold.

Mr. Shadwell Proposes

Meanwhile, Mr. Shadwell, disturbed that his efficient secretary had plans to leave him high and dry, proposed to her with what sounded like an offer of convenience. Eager to be with him under any circumstances, Frances accepted his proposal.  The next day, Shadwell visited his doctor only to learn that he had a terminal illness which might possibly be cured if he underwent a treatment that was only available in the States.

St. Mark's Square in Venice

                                                    St. Mark's Square in Venice  - Wikimedia

All three love affairs appeared to be doomed beyond repair.  Do not forget, though, that the Fountain of Trevi has magical powers.  The impossible can be unraveled quickly in a fictional tale.  Love does, indeed, conquer all.

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