THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN was quite popular in 1954, grossing around $5,000,000 over the summer as people flocked to theaters and drive-in’s to see a frothy plot of romantic comedy about three American secretaries finding love in Rome, but it was really just an excuse for a CinemaScope on-location travelogue around the Eternal City and environs (side trip to Venice as bonus). A very pretty theme song (sung by Frank Sinatra) backs things: it became a big hit.
Viewed decades later, it reveals a very silly and old-fashioned array of implausible situations, prehistoric attitudes (whatever it takes to get a husband–do it, that sort of rot), and overacting. Maggie McNamara and Jean Peters must have taken subtlety classes from Jennifer Jones. Dorothy McGuire, as the more mature of the trio, is a shade better, just idling her time; ditto Clifton Webb, looking as foppish as allowed, as the dandy McGuire is enamored of. The other men in question are Louis Jourdan and Rossano Brazzi, both devilishly handsome in the best 50s Euro-import style, and their likeable performing gives the film some life beyond its scenery. Mainly, it’s the color showcase of statues, fountains, palaces and the like that matter most in the 102 minute lark. Directed by Jean Negulesco, it wheedled an unwarranted, unsuccessful Best Picture nomination (denying a spot on the roster for A Star Is Born and Rear Window, among others), but did take home the trophies for the bright cinematography and that catchy song.