Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
“You’ve Never Lived Until You’ve Loved in Rome!”
Director: Jean Negulesco
Cast: Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters
Synopsis: American girls dream of finding romance in Rome, but there is none for secretaries, Anita tells her replacement at the USDA. But Maria soon meets Prince Dino de Cessi at a party…
The fact that this 1950s hit begins with a succession of travelogue shots of a near-deserted Roma while Frank Sinatra croons the hit song Three Coins in the Fountain tells you pretty much all you need to know about what this film is about. Confined for nearly forty years to unimpressive sets made up to look like cosmopolitan cities, Hollywood realised that if it was to fight back against the growing threat of television it would have to spread its wings and show its audience the real thing.
Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters and Maggie McNamara play three American secretaries living in an improbably sumptuous flat in Rome. All are pre-occupied with romance. Peters falls for a humble man of the country (Rossano Brazzi), working in her office as a translator as he studies at night to become a lawyer. Trouble is, inter-office romances are strictly forbidden today and Brazzi loses his job because of their romance. McNamara goes the other way, and determines to bag herself a playboy prince (Louis Jourdan) by studiously learning, in true bunny boiler fashion, all of his likes and dislikes. McGuire, the older of the three, carries a torch for the novelist (an improbably cast Clifton Webb) for whom she has worked for fifteen years.
The stories are typical 1950s fluff, with McGuire’s story probably edging it in terms of engaging the audience (even though Webb was a committed homosexual who did little to disguise his fey mannerisms in any role he played). Rome is the real star of the picture, but it’s a Rome that appears to have survived some kind of devastating pandemic, so deserted are its streets.
(Reviewed 7th February 2012)