"Three Coins in the Fountain" won Oscars for Best Cinematography (Milton R. Krasner) and Best Music, Original Song (Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn).
After the success of 20th Century Fox's CinemaScope intros "The Robe" and "How To Marry A Millionaire" in 1953, the studio engaged veteran scribe John Patrick to adapt John H. Secondari's best-selling novel, though how much fluffy material from the book was actually retained isn't detailed in Janine Basinger's straightforward commentary track. Basinger does kick start the DVD with a lengthy and amusing sociological take on the romance genre, which in this case presented three independent American women working in Europe, and enjoying the cultural goodies of their romantic second home.
Basinger also traces Fox's periodic exploitation of the single women triptych formula, and the similarities between " How To Marry A Millionaire" and "Three Coins in the Fountain" are more than obvious, particularly since the studio cast a similar trio of actress at key stages in their careers. As Basinger explains, Dorothy Maguire had smoothly moved into more mature roles (here presaging the older-woman-needs-love-too sub-genre before 1955's "All That Heaven Allows" made it the central focus); Jean Peters was still a popular draw after almost a decade as one of the studio's B-level leading actresses; and tragic icon Maggie McNamara, billed in the trailer as "the wise young girl from 'The Moon is Blue,'" was on the verge of breaking into the big-time before going absolutely nowhere soon after the release of her third picture.
Basinger's track moves from a strong first half to a gradual variation on previously discussed topics, though listeners will still get a good mix of cast bios, a snapshot of the 'Scope craze, and Victor Young's music score (though she does err in partially crediting Young for scoring "The Ten Commandments").
Milton Krasner's career move from moody black & white dramas to 'Scope travelogue photography in "Coins" gets a lot of deserved attention from Basinger, and the included restoration comparison illustrates the major upgrade Fox took to find a decent print and bring the film back to its glory.
A major moneymaker in its day, "Coins" also followed the "Millionaire" formula by adding an extended music prologue before the Fox logos. Designed to show off true stereophonic sound via Frank Sinatra's rendition of the film's Oscar-winning theme song, the prologue's also an elegant jab at the Cinerama travelogues that forced studios to develop their own rival widescreen systems. Unlike the Cinerama films, however, "Coins" has a story and human interrelations, though their wafer-thin importance is further diminished by Krasner's gorgeous cinematography. The cinematographer's eye yields painterly compositions, and Fox's radiant transfer will ensure "Three Coins in the Fountain" DVD will remain an excellent demo disc for widescreen TVs.
In 1964, the film was remade by the same director as "The Pleasure Seekers," moving the locale to Madrid, Spain, and unifying the women's ages to accommodate starlets/hotties Ann-Margret, Carol Lynley, and Pamela Tiffin.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan