Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)

In director Jean Negulesco's Fox's light, glossy, vapid and Technicolored CinemaScopic sentimental, escapist romantic travelogue - the big-budget film told about the blossoming of love affairs for three romance-minded American secretaries (Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, and Maggie McNamara); wearing designer clothes and living lavishly in an unusually-uncrowded Rome ("The Eternal City"), they became romantically involved with three Italian men (Louis Jourdan, Clifton Webb, and Rozanno Brazzi) while working there; the film was based on the 1952 book Coins in the Fountain by John H. Secondari, and later remade as the musical The Pleasure Seekers (1964) with Ann-Margret, Carol Lynley and Gene Tierney that was set in Madrid, Spain; it received three Academy Awards nominations (including Best Picture, although Rear Window (1954) was missing from the nominees!) and won two Oscars: Best Color Cinematography (for Milton Krasner) and Best Song:

  • before the title credits, the film opened with Frank Sinatra (uncredited) singing the Oscar-winning title song "Three Coins in the Fountain" during a 4-minute, picturesque prologue - it was a montage of Rome's (and Italy's) many spectacular water fountains; the lyrics began: "Three coins in the fountain Each one seeking happiness Thrown by three hopeful lovers Which one will the fountain bless?..."
  • one morning in Rome in the early 1950s, young American Maria Williams (Maggie McNamara) arrived for a new job as a secretary at the U.S. Distribution Agency (USDA); she would be working for Mr. Burgoyne (Howard St. John) and replacing Anita Hutchins (Jean Peters) who was returning to the US; Anita met her in a blue convertible at the train station, and drove Maria to the elegant and luxurious Villa Eden (serviced with maids and cooks), where she was awed by the lavish place where she would be working: ("Oh, what a beautiful way to live"); she was told: ("Secretaries live very well in Rome"); there, she met the emotionally-repressed Miss Frances (Dorothy McGuire) who had been employed for 15 years as the secretary for the great American author John Frederick Shadwell (Clifton Webb), a stuffy, anti-social and elderly ex-pat who owned the villa; Miss Frances cooed about their pleasurable lifestyle in Italy with its favorable exchange rate: "You're paid at the agency in dollars. The rate of exchange is in your favor"
The Film's Three Main Female Characters:

Maria Williams (Maggie McNamara)

Anita Hutchins (Jean Peters)

Miss Frances (Dorothy McGuire)
  • after breakfast, the three females drove into the city, but first stopped at the famous Trevi Fountain; the custom was to throw a coin into the pool over one's shoulder and make a wish ("a penny's worth of hope") - yet it would come true only if one wished to return to Rome; Anita declined to make a wish since she was leaving Rome to be married in the US
  • at the USDA where they were dropped off while Miss Frances returned to the villa, Anita introduced Maria to their boss Mr. Burgoyne; invitations were being offered for a swanky afternoon cocktail party at the Burgoyne's home; Anita also introduced Maria to the agency's translator Giorgio Bianchi (Rossano Brazzi), one of her co-workers for two years; it was obvious to Maria that Giorgio was handsome and romantically charming, but Anita feigned lack of interest in him, and claimed it was office policy that American and Italian employees weren't allowed to fraternize ("Secretaries are not allowed to go out with local employees"), to avoid labeling the American girls as trampish
The Three Main Male Characters:

John Frederick Shadwell (Clifton Webb)

Giorgio Bianchi (Rossano Brazzi)

Prince Dino di Cessi (Louis Jourdan)
  • at the swanky Burgoyne party that afternoon, a notorious, self-absorbed womanizer Prince Dino di Cessi (Louis Jourdan) arrived in a silver Rolls-Royce convertible; he was described as "handsome, wealthy, and has one of the oldest titles in Europe"; Maria was warned by both Anita and Miss Frances about socializing with him - since he often took girls to Venice for romantic trysts: "He's known as 'the predatory prince.' And girls who are seen in his company more than once are known as Venice Girls...Once you're known as a Venice Girl, you might as well go home"; Dino told Maria that people often spread "bad things" about him, to disgrace his reputation; Dino urged Maria to ignore everything rumored about him: "If only half the things said about me were true, I'd be a happy man....There is a conspiracy against me in Rome"
  • while Anita and Maria walked back to the villa, the disillusioned Anita described to Maria the reasons for her own romantic failures in Rome: "If you're romantic, Rome is not the city for you....Well, wealthy Italians don't waste their time on secretaries, and the Italians that work at the agency are too poor"; she had found an excuse to leave her job - return to America to find a husband (she lied that she was engaged and had a fiancee in the US); Maria quipped that she had wasted a good coin in the Trevi Fountain
  • the two unescorted American females were pinched and followed by a fast-talking Italian man - only to be saved when Giorgio appeared, and offered to tour them himself: "Would you allow me to show you my Rome?"; while dining and drinking wine in an outdoor cafe together, they observed the palazzo where the piccolo-playing Dino lived with his mother; Giorgio invited Anita (before she left Rome) to attend his family's country farm festa (or celebration) the next day for his sister's engagement; Anita agreed although admitted it was against the agency's rules
  • the next day, Giorgio was late in picking up Anita in his cousin Enrico's broken-down open truck (without brakes or a horn) filled to capacity with many other relatives; they were seen from another vehicle by Mr. and Mrs. Burgoyne who expressed amazement at Anita accompanying the office interpreter
  • meanwhile, Maria accepted an invitation from the womanizing playboy Prince to fly her to Venice for the day only - and secretly maneuvered for Miss Frances to be her chaperone to guarantee that her reputation wouldn't be ruined
  • during Anita's celebratory time at Giorgio's farm with his family, the humble country boy Giorgio described to her how when he first came to Rome as a boy, he threw a coin in the Fountain of Trevi - and wished that he would return and become a lawyer, but hinted that he hadn't fulfilled all of his wishes; they decided to go down the hill to the valley with a pool and stream, but when Anita sat in the driver's seat of his cousin's brakeless truck, it went out-of-control and endangered her life; Giorgio vainly attempted to rescue her - and only a crash into a small tree saved her - and then he pledged his love to her: "I love you so much. I want to tell you that I love you" - and they kissed
  • at work after the weekend, Mr. Burgoyne asked Maria about Anita's questionable companionship over the weekend with Giorgio that had violated office rules; Maria divulged that Anita wasn't really engaged, and had "done nothing wrong," although Burgoyne suspected otherwise - he thought that she was having a deceptive affair with her co-worker (and might need to see a doctor due to an unexpected pregnancy!); that evening, Mrs. Burgoyne caused her husband to have more doubts about Anita: "Nice girls are human, my dear"
  • the following morning, Mr. Burgoyne fired Giorgio "without a recommendation"; Anita was terribly upset and incensed that Maria had betrayed her by speaking to their boss about her false marital claims; she packed her bag to move out of their apartment until she would actually depart from Italy
  • Anita located Giorgio in his lower-class, poor living quarters who admitted that he had broken office policies, but didn't regret their time together; he claimed that he deserved to be fired, and that he might have to change his legal career plans: ("Perhaps I shouldn't be a lawyer if I cannot honor simple office rules"); she apologized profusely: "I can't just go away, leaving you here to face a problem I created for you"; when he mentioned that she wasn't "free" and had to leave for America soon anyhow, she told him that she wanted to be with him and then admitted that she didn't really have a fiancee: ("I'm not going to be married. I'm not even engaged. I only told Burgoyne that as a excuse for leaving the agency")
  • Maria petitioned for Miss Frances to have Mr. Shadwell ask for Giorgio's job back; meanwhile, they drove to an art museum in Rome where Maria was pleased to learn that Prince Dino was there with Shadwell discussing paintings he was donating; after discovering that Dino loved modern art, Maria feigned considerable interest to impress him with her "sensitivity" as a way to get closer to him, and to follow Miss Frances' advice: ("You might end up meeting his mother....Meeting Mama in Italy is the first step to the altar")
  • Shadwell, who was a friend of Dino's, suspected that Miss Frances was acting as a meddling match-maker between the mis-matched Maria and Dino: "What are you trying to be, Mother Goose?...Let people lead their own lives. They have absolutely nothing in common"
  • as part of her ploy to hook Dino and highlight their commonality, the beguiling Maria dishonestly claimed she was almost "three-quarters Italian" - and then turned flirtatious: "You have an exciting mind. Something that handsome men rarely have, and the combination might be too much for someone as responsive as I am"; she began to collect information in a small black notebook about Dino's preferential likes and dislikes, including his favorite dishes, wine, opera, and love of piccolo music, and soon was astounding him with her similar choices: "It is astounding how much we have in common...I can think of nothing on which we disagree. It's amazing" - and he promptly suggested that she meet his mother on Sunday
  • the meeting with Dino's mother the Principessa (Cathleen Nesbitt) went well; afterwards, Dino confided in Maria that he wasn't at all suspicious of her: "She's the only woman I've ever trusted completely - until I met you"; Maria was so overwhelmed with guilt about her heartless deceptions and betrayals that she was compelled to confess her manipulative dishonesty: "I've lied to you from the first moment we met. I've done nothing to restore your faith or your trust. I went after you with a well-organized system.... I made a record of everything about you - what pleased you or what displeased you. And then I pretended to like everything that you liked - music and food, everything. And you, you were as trusting as a lamb. You didn't have a chance"; Dino was stunned by her crass admission and angrily drove her home
  • the romantic prospects for both Anita and Maria were now shattered; Anita returned to her apartment room after spending time with Giorgio's family at the farm; and although she was in love with Giorgio, she said that they had decided not to marry because he was "dreadfully poor" and it wouldn't work between them: ("He'd have to give up his studies or take me to live with his people")
  • and then in the next-door apartment bedroom, Miss Frances found the guilt-stricken Maria who was also packing to leave Rome after being shunned by Dino: ("I'm going home. I'm going back with Anita"); Miss Frances was actually relieved that she wasn't facing romantic heartbreak herself: "I'm glad I'm not young and vulnerable anymore"
  • now it was Miss Frances' turn to make a momentous decision and influence her own romantic ambitions - she would join Anita and Maria to go home; after 15 years of being an "old maid in Rome," she announced to Shadwell: "I've decided I want to go back to America"; bewildered by her sudden exit, he tried to discourage her: "What would you go back to? You've no relations. You'd live alone in a hotel room, go to concerts on Sunday, and work for some dull-witted business executive. What is attractive about that prospect?"; he objected: "How am I going to get along without you? I've come to depend upon you. I dislike change"; she told him the real reason: "The prospect of becoming a lonely old maid with a life behind her, a stranger in a foreign country isn't much to look forward to either"
  • to dissuade her from leaving, Shadwell casually made a "genuine" but "rash offer" - "Have you ever considered the possibility of marrying me?"; he described how it would be a marriage of convenience, based upon years of companionship and friendship: ("There would be no surprises. You know me too well. I have enormous respect for you. You add greatly to my comfort... The possibility of arousing unsuspected passion at my age would be not only disturbing but rather miraculous"); unbeknownst to him that she had always pined for him (and that she was desperately in love with him for 15 years), she casually accepted
  • later that day, the beaming Miss Frances told Anita and Maria (who were packed to leave) about her "absurd" marital plans with Shadwell: "I've decided to stay and get married....Isn't it ironic? You're both so young and so lovely, but of the three of us, I'm to be the bride"
  • early the next day, Shadwell received a diagnosis from Dr. Martinelli (Vicente Padula) of terminal illness and that he had only a year to live; he refused going to the US for treatment: "I have no desire to prolong uncertainty...There's never any preparation for a death sentence, is there?"; he immediately visited the US Consulate's Office to meet with Vice-Consul Mr. Hoyt (Willard Waterman) to discuss the procedural "red tape" preparation of shipping a body home after death; at the end of the short meeting, Shadwell shocked Hoyt by mentioning that he was referring to his own body
  • back in the villa, Shadwell abruptly told Miss Frances that he had mistakenly, impulsively, and unseriously asked for her hand in marriage; he admired that she had accepted his offer - to selfishly keep her employed - the "offer of a man who is interested only in keeping his secretary"; after retracting his offer, he urged her to accept their broken engagement: ("And you do forgive me for my selfish panic?"), and told her to book passage to the US as soon as possible, since he would be leaving shortly for Capri for the summer months
  • Miss Frances followed after Shadwell as he strolled through the statuesque ruins of Rome to the Caffe Flavia; there, she told him that she had just been informed by phone of his diagnosis by Dr. Martinelli; Shadwell claimed that he hadn't based his decision about their marriage on his health: ("It had nothing to do with it"); as he became drunk on six double-scotches while they discussed his refusal to be treated, he insisted he wasn't a believer in "wishful thinking" and only wanted to face the facts and remain in Rome until his untimely death: ("I've no intention of seeking a dubious year of grace...I shall accept my fate with as much good grace as I can muster"); he only asked that she take care of the details of shipping his body for burial back in America
  • Miss Frances became extremely emotional over his detached lack of sentimentality and moved to a different table to also order six double-scotches to commiserate with him: "My life is ending"; he followed the drunken and stumbling Miss Frances to a nearby fountain where she went wading in public; he assisted her in getting out of the water and returning to the villa, where he comforted her as she moaned: "I haven't got anybody. Nobody cares what happens to me"; she also spoke about trying to help her friends with their complicated romances - Anita with unemployed Giorgio, and Maria with the miffed Prince Dino: ("I want my Maria to have her prince. Every girl should have her prince. At least one"); as she recovered from drunkenness, he decided to assist her friends
  • Shadwell visited with his friend Dino at his palace to inform him that he was now leaving the next day to America, to marry Miss Frances after 15 years of loving her; he also explained how he knew about Maria's deceptions: ("She almost tricked you into marrying her, I understand"), and that it was justified that she should suffer: ("And you're quite right in letting her go back to America without a word. She deserves to be unhappy...These girls in love never realize they should be honestly dishonest, instead of being dishonestly honest"); when Shadwell stated: "She'll be out of your life tomorrow, and you'll never be bothered by her again," Prince Dino was provoked into recalling his true love for Maria - who he realized had gone to great lengths to pursue him and capture his interest; Shadwell continued on his way to visit the Burgoynes (off-screen - to arrange for Giorgio's job reinstatement)
  • the next day, as Anita and Maria were about to depart for the train station, Miss Frances phoned to invite them to meet her at the Trevi Fountain
  • in the film's concluding sequence, the two arrived at the empty Trevi Fountain (during cleaning), and the embittered Maria noted: "Clean out the old dreams. Make way for the new ones. That fountain is a fraud. When I tossed my coin in, I wished I could stay for a year in Rome. And here I am, leaving after a month"; after Miss Frances arrived to greet them, the fountain's waters began to flow once again as she exclaimed: "Look! The fountain's coming to life again"; all three couples were reunited with their partners as they admired the revitalized fountain (as a chorus reprised the film's title song)

(l to r): Miss Frances, Maria, and Anita at the Trevi Fountain - Tossing in Coins

Miss Frances with Her Boss in the Villa, Writer John Frederick Shadwell (Clifton Webb)

In the USDA: (l to r) - Maria, Giorgio Bianchi, and Anita

The Three Ladies at the Swanky Burgoyne Cocktail Party

The First Kiss and Embrace Between Anita and Giorgio After Runaway Truck Incident

Anita - Upset that Giorgio Had Been Fired For Breaking Office Rules With Her

Anita and Giorgio: Pledging Themselves to Each Other

Maria and Dino: In a Rome Museum Admiring Art Work

Maria Collecting Information on Dino's Likes and Dislikes in Notebook

Maria and Dino at the Italian Opera

Maria and Dino Dining Together

Their First Kiss

Maria's Deceptions Uncovered: "I lied to you..."

Mr. Shadwell's Casual Proposal of a Marriage (of Convenience) to Miss Frances - She Accepted the "Rash Offer"

To Her Two Friends: "I'm to be the bride"

Miss Frances Getting Drunk with Shadwell After He Broke Off Their Engagement

The Drunken Miss Frances Wading in a Public Fountain - and Assisted by Shadwell

Maria and Anita At the Emptied Trevi Fountain

Miss Frances: "Look, the fountain's coming to life again"

Mr. Shadwell with Miss Frances

Prince Dino with Maria

Anita with Giorgio


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