Three Coins In The Fountain (1954)
Howard St. John
Gaston Glass, Assistant Director
Director of Photography
From a novel by John H. Secondari
John de Cuir
Walter M. Scott
Paul S. Fox
Charlie Le Maire
Sol C. Siegel
Twentieth Century Fox
The advantage that Rossano had in Three Coins was in being the only male lead to bring an unapologetically hot-blooded and honest passion to the screen … he may have, indeed, been the third male lead, but by far the most exciting one: Clifton Webb played an emotionally repressed author opposite an equally emotionally-repressed Dorothy McGuire; Louis Jordan played a shallow, insincere, self-absorbed prince to Maggie McNamara’s equally shallow, insincere, self-absorbed (and highly foolish) American princess. Rossano Brazzi and Jean Peters, on the other hand, play the couple whose fiery passion for each other, despite all the obstacles thrown in their path, nearly scorches the remainder of the cast into oblivion. That this role brought Rossano to the attention of his American audience is hardly surprising: he is open, honest, gregarious, delightful, passionate, honorable, captivating, genuinely lovesick – and utterly unforgettable. And of course no one – before or since – has ever done a love scene better than Rossano Brazzi.
As a result of the reaction to his role as the lovesick translator Giorgio Bianchi, the American Movie Classics network now introduces the film, 42 years later, as “Three Coins In The Fountain, starring Rossano Brazzi”, a turn of events that neither Rossano himself, or the producers asking for Vittorio Gassman could have anticipated when Brazzi was offered this role as the “third male lead”. You can’t help feeling a certain fondness for this one – without it, it’s quite possible he would never have made the career comeback that has made him accessible on film (and we wouldn’t be here, paying tribute to him, either!)
Giorgio is the translator in the same office in which Anita (Jean Peters) works. Their boss, the stuffy, pretentious Mr. Burgoyne has taken it upon himself to forbid “his” girls from socializing with the local Italians … ah yes, the good ol’ paternalistic days! Anita has had to invent a fiance and impending nuptials back in America to escape this repressive office, and unbeknownst to her, Giorgio has been in love with her for quite some time, but can’t bring himself to tell her this. Hearing of her “engagement”, he resigns himself to having lost her.
Even her replacement, Maria (Maggie McNamara) has noticed his infatuation with her and tells Anita this; Anita denies even noticing him until Maria praises his lovely brown eyes. “They’re not brown; they’re blue.” Anita corrects her, before catching herself. Hasn’t noticed him, eh? Giorgio later rescues the two of them from another overly amorous Italian they bump into on the street, and invites Anita to a festa at his family’s farm celebrating his sister’s engagement. As it is her last weekend in Rome, Anita accepts.
The following scenes are especially charming in that Rossano, throughout his career, would be far more likely to play counts, barons, or elegant and wealthy businessmen of one sort or another — in Three Coins, Giorgio is poor, and from a rural farming family — he escorts Anita to the “festa” (holiday, celebration) in a battered truck, packed with his cousins, brothers, nieces and nephews — a loud, cheerful crowd, unfazed by the absence of horns or, more importantly, brakes, or the fact that they were late picking her up because “a wheel fell off”.
Watching Giorgio’s sister celebrate her impending wedding is almost too much for the lonely Anita, and she almost confesses to Giorgio that her fiance in America is fictional. Instead, an accident with the truck prompts Giorgio into passionately declaring his love for her. However, they were spotted leaving town by Mr. Burgoyne, who fires Giorgio … and it takes all of the clout of Clifton Webb’s character to rectify Burgoyne’s actions and reunite the two lovers at the end of the movie.
The film won several Oscars: one for Milton Krasner’s photography, and the other for the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne title song. It was the first film shot in Europe using Cinemascope, and was re-made by the same director twice: as The Pleasure Seekers in 1964, set in Spain, and as Coins In The Fountain, in 1990, set back in Rome.
Rossano Brazzi and Jean Peters in Three Coins In The Fountain, from the lobbycard, © 1954 by 20th Century Fox Corporation, U.S.A.
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