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Film / Three Coins in the Fountain

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Three Coins in the Fountain is a 1954 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Jean Negulesco, starring Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, Louis Jourdan, and Maggie McNamara.

It centers around three American secretaries working in Rome. Frances (McGuire), the oldest, has lived in Rome for 15 years as the personal secretary and Girl Friday to famous author John Frederick Shadwell (Webb). Anita Hutchins (Peters) is a secretary for the "United States Distribution Agency", which apparently is some sort of American press service. Anita is planning to return to the United States soon but has a mutual – and mutually-unacknowledged – attraction with Giorgio Bianchi (Rossano Brazzi), one of the interpreters at the agency. Finally there is the new arrival, Maria Williams (McNamara), Anita's replacement at the USDA. She seems most focused on finding a husband, and soon sets her cap for the wealthy Prince Dino di Cessi (Jourdan).

This film was made during the "Hollywood on the Tiber" era, when Rome became popular as a shooting location. It won Academy Awards for Best Original Song (see Title Theme Tune below) and Best Cinematography.

Remade as The Pleasure Seekers (1964), also directed by Jean Negulesco and starring Ann-Margret, which changes the setting to Madrid; and again as the Made-for-TV Movie Coins In The Fountain (1990), starring Loni Anderson.


  • The Alleged Car: Giorgio's family's car lacks a horn and also lacks brakes. When they need to stop, several family members jump out and push against the car until it stops.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Part of Maria's campaign to land Dino as a husband involves her pretending to like opera. They go to see a performance of Rossini.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Shadwell goes to a doctor because he's having headaches; he leaves talking about a "death sentence" and making plans for his own funeral. The words "brain cancer" are never said.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After finding out that he has terminal brain cancer, Shadwell goes to a restaurant and orders six double scotches (they won't let him order a bottle). Frances, who has found out his secret, meets him at the restaurant and orders six double scotches herself.
  • The Film of the Book: Adapted from the 1952 novel Coins in the Fountain by John H. Secondari.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Three humble secretaries live in a goddamned huge apartment with a sweeping view of the city. Handwaved as being due to the advantageous exchange rate between the dollar and the lira.
    Maria: This is your apartment?
  • Gold Digger: Maria is portrayed sympathetically but this is what she is, setting her sights on Dino and pursuing him aggressively in order to land him as a husband. She has an attack of conscience and admits this, and Dino dumps her.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Maria, the new arrival to Italy and the USDA, serves as an exposition sink, with Anita explaining the setting and introducing characters to her and to the audience.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Only two coins are thrown into the fountain. The whole idea is to wish to return to Rome, and Anita, since she's soon going home for good, declines to throw a coin.
  • Oblivious to Love: Shadwell has no idea that Frances is desperately in love with him, not even when he proposes a marriage of convenience to keep her in Rome.
  • Scenery Porn: The film certainly gets a lot of mileage out of Rome and the Italian countryside.
  • Title Theme Tune: Written by Jule Styne (music) and Sammy Cahn (lyrics), and performed by an uncredited Frank Sinatra. It became a big hit that year for both Sinatra and the Four Aces.
  • Wishing Well: The Trevi Fountain. The idea is that if you throw a coin in the fountain, and wish to return to Rome, one day you will.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Shadwell finds out that he's terminally ill.