This time of year is high stress for me at work and very busy so in the evenings, I am attempting to unwind and keep anxiety at bay by watching old films: revisiting some and checking off those on a long and always updated list I have of “movies I want to see”
Three Coins in the Fountain was a revisit. This film is well-known for its ultra-saccharine song, swelling film score and location shooting around Rome and Venice. Indeed, having soaked up Venice in Summertime the other night, it was a delight to see Rome through a colourful 1950s kaleidoscope.
Three American women are in Rome working as secretaries: well-paid with a good exchange rate in their favour, they hope to find romance and love. Maria arrives in Rome to replace Anita at the United States Distribution Agency as Anita plans on returning state side shortly. Anita shares a lovely, spacious villa with Miss Frances, a woman in her late 30s who works as secretary for a reclusive American writer.
The three women stop on the way to work one morning to cast wishes into the famed Trevi Fountain. After this fateful moment, three whirling stories of romance beguile the women.
Anita is well aware of the rules at her Agency which forbid her from fraternizing with the local employees. However, gorgeous Georgio ( Rossano Brazzi), a translator in the office, has obvious eyes for her and Anita makes a rare exception to visit his family in the Italian countryside. At a posh cocktail party, Maria meets the handsome Prince Dino ( played suavely by Louis Jourdan) and, face it, what girl doesn’t want a real, life prince? Then there is Miss Frances, a self-proclaimed old maid abroad who has harboured a secret love for her employer Shadwell (the older and distinguished Clifton Webb) during her 15 years in his employ.
The three women make mistakes in their path toward love: Anita has lied to her workplace and acquaintances about having a fiancée waiting at home which causes a bit of a “this would only happen in the 1950’s” scandal when her boss sees her in Giorgio’s company. This results in Giorgio’s firing and a blight in his path to study as a lawyer. Maria is so smitten with the charming prince that she researches him on the sly to discover his tastes of food, wine, opera and modern art. Though they share no commonalities in actuality, Maria goes above and beyond to ensure he thinks her his soulmate. When Prince Dino discovers this charade he is heartbroken, threatening their attraction. Finally there is Miss Frances whose only mistake seems to be in her silence. Miss Frances and author Shadwell are all but an old married couple in their familiarity with each other, their mutual respect and their anticipation of each other’s needs. It’s one of those gorgeously interwoven stories where the audience recognizes their perfection as a unit and waits for the two erstwhile lovers to catch up. When an unexpected twist is thrown in Miss Frances’ path, she and Shadwell must overcome their reticence to take their relationship outside of its comfortable bounds and leap into the unknown.
This is a very light and fluffy movie with declarations of love pronounced without development of relationships or character; but it is a GORGEOUS movie and reminded me a lot, what with its female-centric story, of The Best of Everything (film by the same director): taking the plight of the working girl in the 1950s---championing women in their 30s independently owning villas and providing their own sustenance without the aid of men --- and making their way in a foreign world.
The film is also gorgeous: the Rome setting, the moments in the countryside, the quick trip to Venice: all lusciously filmed. To add, the clothes! Dear god, the CLOTHES! The 1950s was a fabulous era for fashion and if you have a penchant for its style you will find that the wardrobe choices take on an almost separate character. Consider a moment when Miss Frances, abloom with the prospect of love, buys a new dress: well shaped to her hourglass, with a slight v-neck: a dress for a much “younger” woman ( apparently in 1950s Italy, late 30s was old). It’s a re-birth for the smart, savvy and straight-forward Miss Frances and it is worn on the day when she sends caution to the wind, downs a few double-scotches, secures her true love and jumps into a fountain…..
Her story, I argue, is by far the most beguiling of the three threads: as is her simmering chemistry with Clifton Webb.
Anyways, a great time had by all! Cheesy; but good.