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Saturday Matinee: Three Coins in the Fountain #book2movies

When they talk about classic fifties movies, the schmaltzy kind with a romantic swelling score, iconic fashion and the glamorous locations audiences across the globe eat up, Three Coins in a Fountain has to be in the top ten list. 

Three Women in Search of a Man

Three Coins in the Fountain based on the book by John Hermes Secondari, was written by John Patrick who has an enormous list of credits spanning six decades, including Tea House of the August Moon for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. 

I watched the movie the other night, while my husband was busy doing something on his computer on the other side of the room. For me, still fairly fresh from a European trip that took us to both Rome and Venice, seeing the locations from the film was a kick. I kept interrupting him, calling him over to watch. 

The Trevi Fountain, Rome as we saw it 

Look, look! We were there. And there! Albeit the Roman locales don't seem quite the same these days. Rome—and Venice—do look especially fantastic in the movie, filmed in Cinemascope (a first) the way they must have appeared some sixty years ago and minus the tourists. 

Maria  (Maggie McNamara) and Anita (Jean Peters) at the Spanish Steps

We had the tourists. Hardly any of the visitors we saw wore snazzy A-line skirts and crisp short sleeved blouses.

The Spanish Steps looked beautiful even with the crowds 

The story is simple and oh, so fifties. Three American women working in Rome and chasing their dreams. In the 50's that mostly meant catching a husband. Not for everyone to be sure, but mostly. 

Maria pretends she loves modern art to catch Louis Jourdan

We have the new girl in town, the seemingly naive Maria, played by Maggie McNamara who lays a trap for the highly desirable man about town, Prince Dino di Cessi. The debonair Louis Jordan plays the role of the prince, a character type he would  reprise in Gigi, that of the playboy who falls for the good girl. 

In real life Jean Peters was married to Howard Hughes

Maria is taking over for Anita (Jean Peters) who's going back to America because after however many years—I forget just how many but too many in her opinion not to have found a husband—she needs a change. In reality Anita is in love with Georgio (Rosanno Brazzi), the handsome but poor Italian interpreter she works with. Even in the 50's, these employees were forbidden to date. That's not a spoiler, her love is obvious the moment we see the two together, a fact Maria blurts right out. Peters, by the way, would go on to marry Howard Hughes and disappear from Hollywood altogether.

Dorothy McGuire is also known for one of my favorite films The Enchanted Cottage

Then there is Dorothy Mcguire as Miss Frances, the eldest of the three women. In the lingo of the day, she's an old maid (even if she is still pretty gorgeous). Miss Frances is the devoted and super efficient private secretary to Clifton Webb's famous expat writer. Is there a chance you haven't seen this sentimental favorite? Just in case I won't ruin their story, it's the one that gets me teary.

Those clothes! 

The costume designer was Dorothy Jeakins who had a huge list of credits spanning several decades including The Sound of Music and The Way We Were. In all she had nine nominations and five wins under her designer belt. Her work here wasn't nominated but the clothes are still nifty 1950 stuff. Everyone has gorgeous apartments and fantastic wardrobes, because the dollar and the rate of exchange, don't you know.

Room for one more? Movie apartments we love.

Contrived to be sure, but delightfully so. Like a movie version of comfort food. We know exactly what we'll get and we gobble up every morsel. 

Three Coins in the Fountain was nominated for three Academy Awards; Best Picture, cinematography and song. Two out of three ain't bad, it won the latter two. The song—if you're of a certain age, it's playing in your head right now—was sung by Frank Sinatra although he's mysteriously uncredited.The film has been remade twice, once in 1970 and again in 1990, both of which you should ignore.

Watch the trailer for the original 1954 film—more of a tease than trailers of today which give everything away—and if you like what you see, stream the movie on NetFlix, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google and Vudu. Three Coins in the Fountain is available on Netflix DVD too

Will you too, 'fall head over heels in love, as women do'?