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Jean Negulesco
Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, Louis Jourdan, Maggie McNamara, Rossano Brazzi, Howard St. John Kathryn Givney
Writing Credits:
John H. Secondari (novel), John Patrick

You've Never Lived Until You've Loved in Rome!

Three American women living in rome find their fortunes beginning to change when, after making three earnest wishes at the Trevi Fountain, thier love-lives seem to improve.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.55:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 4.0
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/2/2004

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jeanine Basinger
• Movietone News Footage
• Restoration Comparison
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Three Coins In The Fountain: Fox Studio Classics (1954)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 10, 2004)

After World War II, Americans found that their dollars could go a long way in the recovering nations of Europe. Hollywood did nothing to discourage American tourism, and indeed aided that cause, as seen via escapist fantasy such as 1954’s Three Coins in the Fountain.

Following a musical interlude that introduces us to the beauty of Rome, we see the arrival of American Maria Williams (Maggie McNamara). She comes to Italy to work as a secretary at the US Distribution Agency, where she’ll replace Anita Hutchins (Jean Peters) as the assistant to Mr. Burgoyne (Howard St. John). We also meet another secretary, “Miss Frances” (Dorothy McGuire), who works for noted writer John Frederick Shadwell (Clifton Webb).

The trio get to know each other, and Frances and Maria throw coins into the Fountain of Trevi. You’re supposed to do this to get your wish - as long as you wish to return to Rome. Anita declines to participate because she says she’ll return home to America to get married; she doesn’t want to come back to Italy.

From there the movie follows three separate romances. First we see that Anita has the hots for Agency translator Georgio Bianchi (Rossano Brazzi). He feels the same way, but Burgoyne doesn’t allow secretaries to date local employees. They hang out and fall in love anyway, which causes some work-related problems.

Maggie meets local playboy and womanizer Prince Dino Dessi (Louis Jourdan) and hones in on him. She plays some games with him to circumvent his wolfish measures but then plots to win him. Maggie pretends to be his ideal woman and enacts her scheme.

Finally, we watch the slow-simmering romance between Frances and Shadwell. She worries she’ll become an old maid and Shadwell proposes - in a rather pragmatic, unromantic way - that they marry. She agrees, but when he learns that he’ll soon die of illness, he retracts his offer to protect her. The rest of the movie follows the ups and downs of the different relationships and how they pan out in the end.

When I read the DVD’s synopsis for Fountain, I thought it sounded suspiciously similar to the story for 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire. The package claims that “three American women decide it’s time to end their single status in romantic Italy. So they whimsically toss coins into Rome’s spectacular Trevi Fountain for luck in romance.” This summary messes up most of the movie’s details, as really only Maggie actively pursues a husband. Besides, only two of them throw coins into the fountain - Anita declines - and the Trevi’s rules don’t allow them to wish for anything other than to return to Rome!

So maybe Fountain wouldn’t be a Roman remake of Millionaire after all, though other factors raised my suspicions. Some superficial similarities occurred, such as the fact that both flicks were Cinemascope productions from Fox. A more telling commonality came from behind the camera: perhaps not coincidentally, Jean Negulesco directed both movies.

While the ladies of Fountain lack the mercenary overtones of the wealth-seekers in Millionaire, they also fail to deliver the same level of distinctiveness and entertainment. I thought Millionaire lacked consistent pleasures, but it mostly came across as enjoyable and amusing. I can’t say the same for the limp Fountain.

One massive problem with Fountain stems from its exceedingly weak storytelling. It seeks to tell three stories, and that’s what it does - one at a time. We see Anita/Georgio, then they disappear so we can focus on Maggie/Dino. From there we leap to Frances and Shadwell, and rarely the twain shall meet. This structure seems very awkward and artificial, and it keeps us at a distance from the action.

Not that the characters ever threaten to endear themselves to us strongly enough to make us care. The men never remotely begin to rise above the level of one-dimensionality. They’re thin stereotypes, with the struggling student, the crusty older writer, and the slick playboy. The various actors add a little spark to their roles, except perhaps for the bland Brazzi, but they don’t get much meat into which they can sink their teeth.

The female parts offer greater potential substance, but not by much. As with the men, they’re stuck with narrowly defined characters and don’t receive many opportunities to broaden things. All play their roles professionally but without much spark.

Essentially, Fountain acts as little more than a promotional reel for Rome. It features lots of lovely photography and makes the area look terrific; I’m sure many folks hopped planes to Europe once they saw the flick.

Unfortunately, Three Coins in the Fountain fails to turn into a good movie. It lacks a substantial plot or meaningful characters, and it blends its different elements poorly. Add to that a clumsy, stilted ending and Fountain doesn’t go much of anywhere.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Three Coins in the Fountain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A strong transfer, Fountain consistently looked terrific.

Sharpness almost never faltered. Very few instances of softness occurred, as the movie usually came across very well. The vast majority of the flick was concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed just a sliver of edge enhancement. Print flaws remained minor. I saw a few specks and marks, but not enough to cause real distractions. The majority of the flick was clean.

Fountain offered a natural palette that the DVD replicated nicely. The tones consistently looked clear and vibrant. They maintained smooth tones and often appeared quite lively and rich. Blacks were equally firm and tight, while shadows seemed distinctive and accurately delineated. Despite the small number of defects and the smidgen of edge enhancement, I found myself very impressed by this transfer.

I thought that the Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack of Three Coins in the Fountain also provided a decent but erratic piece. The soundfield seemed fairly focused in the center channel, but it offered a variety of ways in which the audio spread to the sides. Music displayed generally solid stereo separation, and some effects also blended acceptably to the right and left forward channels. Surround usage was very modest and seemed restricted to general reinforcement of music and some effects.

Dialogue provided the main elements on the sides, a fact that was a mixed blessing. Quite a lot of speech emanated from places other than the traditional center spot, but I thought that the localization could be somewhat weak. The lines sometimes showed a reverberation that made speech seem to bleed together and become vague. In addition, a few lines popped up in the wrong spots. I liked that the mixers attempted to give us appropriately-located dialogue, but it didn’t work well in this instance; the tentative quality to the isolation made the speech seem less effective than it should.

Part of the problem related to audio quality. The track rendered the speech as somewhat echoed and processed, so much of the dialogue seemed moderately unnatural. I always thought that speech appeared acceptably clear and intelligible, but the reverberated tone of many of the lines made them somewhat distracting.

Otherwise, the audio elements appeared fairly well-executed. Effects appeared clean and relatively accurate, with acceptable dynamics and no problems related to distortion, which music seemed nicely robust. The score displayed distinct highs and showed moderate bass response, as did the effects. Though much of the film offered restricted range, it appeared acceptably rich and full for an older movie. The track also displayed light hiss at times, but the problems related to the speech caused the only significant concerns that led me to give the sound a still-positive “B-“. A smattering of supplements fill out Fountain. The meatiest component comes from an audio commentary with film historian Jeanine Basinger, who presents a running, screen-specific chat. She covers topics typical of this sort of track. Basinger goes into information about the cast and crew, notes about Cinemascope and the film’s genre, elements of the movie’s themes and societal depictions, and some story interpretation. Cast/crew notes dominate the piece, as Basinger mostly gives us a look at the careers of the various participants. She also spends a fair amount of time in a discussion of the way the movie matched the era’s mores. At times she does little more than narrate, and I’d have liked additional data about the actual creation of the flick; we don’t get much material in that domain. Nonetheless, the commentary usually proves informative and engaging.

Fox Movietone News presents one short reel. Called “Academy Awards”, it lasts 50 seconds. We see some of the prizes handed out, including two for Fountain. It’s insubstantial and not much of an extra.

We get a collection of ads. The disc includes three trailers for Fountain as well as promos for other Studio Classics. That domain contains promos for All About Eve, An Affair to Remember, Anastasia, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Finally, a Restoration Demonstration provides text that covers the work done for this DVD and then shows splitscreen images of a mix of different versions of the film.

Plodding and predictable, Three Coins in the Fountain provides little more than a dated chick flick. Sudsy melodrama abounds in this clumsy exercise in romance. The DVD looks great, however, and it provides relatively good audio. Not many extras appear, but we get a decent audio commentary. Fox deliver a good DVD of Fountain but I can’t recommend this tedious piece.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2222 Stars Number of Votes: 18
8 3:
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