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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Three Coins in the Fountain (1 Viewer)

Michael Osadciw

Jun 24, 2003
Real Name
Michael Osadciw



Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 1954

U.S. Rating: NR
Canadian Rating: G

Film Length: 104 minutes
Genre: Romance/Drama

Aspect Ratio:[*] Cinemascope 2.55:1 (anamorphic)
Colour/B&W: Colour

Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround[*] English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono[*] Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono[*] French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $14.90

Release Date: November 2, 2004

Film Rating: :star: :star: :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

Starring: Dorothy McGuire (Miss Frances), Maggie McNamara (Maria Williams), Jean Peters (Anita Hutchins), Clifton Webb (John Frederick Shadwell), Louis Jordan (Prince Dino di Cessi), Rossano Brazzi (Georgio Bianchi),

Directed by: Jean Negulesco
Written by: John H. Secondari (novel), John Patrick

You’ve Never Lived Until You’ve Loved in Rome!

Three Coins in the Fountain is based on the book “Coins in the Fountain” by John H. Secondari and comes in as disc number twenty four in FOX’s Studio Classics series. It is now available on DVD with completely restored picture and sound from High Definition masters. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.55:1, this was the first Cinemascope feature filmed outside of the United States. For it’s time, it has a fairly unusual beginning for a film featuring four minutes of breathtaking scenery of Rome in the Cinemascope format.

The story of the film is about three American women in Rome who are working as secretaries because of the opportunity of financial stability abroad. Since the exchange rate is in their favour, they can work making U.S. dollars while having a higher financial status in Rome. When Maria, the newcomer of the three, arrives on Italian soil, she is immediately taken around town. With her roommates Anita and the older Miss Francis, they stop at the Fountain of Trevi to make a wish and throw a coin in the water, a wish to find love and to stay in Rome for another year.

This is a romance story for each of the three women. They fall in and out of love with a Prince, an average Italian Joe, and a boss. While secrecy, lies and deceit sometimes plague each of their relationships, and love sometimes seems to be faint, life comes around and has a few more surprises in store for each of them. It is a charming romance with a well-written screenplay and must be a part of your FOX DVD Studio Classics collection.

Three Coins in the Fountain went on to become the top grossing film of 1953-1954. While it lost Best Picture to ”On The Waterfront”, it did win an Academy Award for best colour cinematography and best song. It has a powerful cast and has excellent performances that have been remembered over the years. Since this film, there have been two remakes loosely based on the story.

:star: :star: :star:
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The video has gone under extensive restoration since the last transfer in 1990. For this release the original cut negative was used as the primary source with some use of B-rolls taking the place for faded sections of the film. An answer print was created by the combination of these elements after extensive repairing and hand washing the prints was completed. The film went on to be color timed, and upon approval a 35mm interpositive master was struck and transferred to HD tape where the film underwent an extensive visual improvement processing. On a frame-by-frame basis, care was taken to reduce remaining blemishes, tears, and dirt from the IP. It was this final visually corrected HD master used for the transfer of this standard definition DVD. The resulting image is fabulous compared to what was previously available to us.

Clearly, there is more resolution than the previous transfer offered, but not as much as some of the best restorations available today. The film must have been badly neglected to be in such tough shape before this restoration process. While some blemishes remain, the film is almost devoid of any major artefacts and edge enhancement. Most scenes look absolutely phenomenal offering a faithful look through the wide camera lens capturing the lush landscapes of Italy. Filmed using FOX’s Cinemascope anamorphic processes, the wide 2.55:1 film captures all of the beauty. The width of the film comes at a small sacrifice; the geometry of the film is noticeably distorted at sides. Pans of landscape or people show changes in width of the objects on screen from normal to skinny at the far edges.

The overall saturation of the film is a little on the pink-blue side. This is noticeable in some faces as well as darker areas of the picture. The picture also has a slightly dim look. This does look more natural than the previous transfer that had washed out colours, a washed out black level, clipped whites, and a green-blue tint. There is also picture degradation present between the many dissolves in this film. The colours become faded and resolution is lost giving the picture a momentarily edgy look.

I applaud the restoration team who spent the 35+ hours working on the restoration because they’ve done a fabulous job. While I personally don’t consider this title to be of reference quality compared to other discs, it is reference quality for this film. After seeing a demonstration of Lawrence of Arabia on Blue-Ray disc at Sony Studios in L.A., I would really like to see what Blue-Ray HD can provide us for this film.

AUDIO QUALITY :star: :star: :star:
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Along with the Cinemascope presentation, Three Coins in the Fountain was presented in glorious Stereophonic sound. While a mono soundtrack exists on this DVD (sounding heavier than the multi-channel mix), the Dolby Digital 4.0 surround soundtrack attempts to replicate the wide soundstage that would have accompanied the wide screen in the theatre during the film’s release. The 4.0 soundtrack is encoded with channels Left, Center, Right, and mono Surround. The L-C-R combination work to create phantom imaging of sounds and dialogue at all times throughout the movie. All dialogue is directional based on the actor’s place on screen. Sitting in the middle of your two front speakers will give you a wide soundstage emulating reality while watching the big screen. I am fortunate enough to be using an eight-foot screen between my main channels, with my Left and Right channels imaging just to the sides of my picture width. So the use of the ‘directional technique’ works very well for me as dialogue, sound effects, footsteps, etc, are panned across the soundstage with the images on screen. These pans move from Right channel to Center, to Left. I wish more modern films were done this way rather than the typical center-channel dominance with the occasional off-stage cue in left-right channels and two big holes between the center channel and the mains.

Despite how fun listening to this soundtrack is, there are two problems with this approach. The first is the more obvious: most people will be watching this movie on smaller screens and don’t have a wide visual area to complement their wider speaker placement and the wider soundstage of this soundtrack. Even before I bought into such a large screen, I still appreciated wide soundstage movies regardless of my small screen size. I encourage studios to continue preserving older soundtracks with directional dialogue rather than folding it all down in the center speaker as we have seen with many titles already. It takes the fun out of the film when that happens, as well as the historical quality of the film’s presentation at the time.

The second problem I see with a directional soundtrack is the odd imaging between the main speakers that aren’t the same height. My center speaker is just below my screen and much below the tweeters of my main channels. The different position and tonal quality of my horizontally mounted Martin-Logan Cinema compared to my absolutely wonderful sounding Focus Audio tower speakers can’t quite create a perfect image between Left-Center and Center-Right. If the listener has three identical speakers behind the screen than this problem wouldn’t exist. I do have a 6th Focus Audio tower taking the place of the Logan for multi-channel music listening of SA-CD and DVD-Audio, but it would distractingly sit in front of the screen while watching the movie. The easiest (and better sounding) solution to make movie soundtrack imaging better is by turning off the center speaker. You can do this my telling your pre-amp-pro/receiver that you have no center, or in my case, my Mirage LFX-3 crossover allows me to variably change the center-channel from ‘hard-center’ to phantom center. Logically, because of the directional nature of this soundtrack and the positioning/limitation of the center channel, it was in phantom mode that I chose to evaluate the audio of Three Coins in the Fountain.

Aside from being directional, the dialogue is surrounded by the ambience of the environment in which the actors spoke in. Some of it sounds closely mic’d, but for the most part the room resonance is adequately reproduced. Voices do sound thin and tinny, and there only several instances when they have more body to them. Thus, both dialogue and sound effects are dated sounding, and they don’t always conform to what happens on the screen. I’m not sure why, but sometimes when the person is standing on the right, their voice will come from the left of the screen. Also, when Dorothy McGuire throws her coin in the fountain, there is no “plop” sound as there was with Maggie McNamara’s coin. I don’t believe this was intentional, or else only one coin would have been thrown in the fountain since Jean Peters’s character chose not to throw one in (thus there were only two coins thrown in the fountain). There are a few instances of these kinds of audio ‘mess-ups’.

The Academy Award winning song Three Coins in the Fountain, written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn and sung by Frank Sinatra (uncredited), sounds clear and undistorted like the rest of the theme music throughout the film. The music is also the source of what appears in the surround channels. They are quiet enough to not make much of an impact in this largely front soundstage-driven film.

SPECIAL FEATURES :star: :star:
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The DVD contains an audio commentary from film historian Jeanine Basinger. She has a lot of knowledge to give as we view the film, and it is very interesting, but she sounds a hair mechanical because it’s quite obvious she’s reading a prepared paper while she’s recording the commentary over the film. This makes her commentary sound a little rehearsed and less naturally flowing.

Other features include a 2.55:1 squeezed and cropped to fullscreen 1.78:1 teaser and theatrical trailer of the movie, both about three minutes each, as well as a widescreen 2.55:1 theatrical trailer of the film. The latter looks better than the first two which really look dreadful.

A neat feature included on this disc is a restoration comparison between the 1990 transfer and the 2004 transfer complete with brief notes on the restoration process. The differences are very noticeable between the two in split-screen viewing and will make you appreciate the work of those behind the restoration.

Lastly, FOX Movietone News and an Academy Awards clip is preserved here (under one minute each) as well as previews for other FOX Studio Classics such as All About Eve, An Affiar to Remember, Grapes of Wrath, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.


Beautifully shot in the hills of Italy and in the streets of Rome, Three Coins in the Fountain looks wonderful on this standard definition DVD. The restoration work is outstanding and gives this film a chance to look new again. With such a classic available restored, I recommend giving this disc a spin.

Michael Osadciw

Joe Caps

Senior HTF Member
Dec 10, 2000
the prologue sung by Frank Sinatra - leads you to believe that all thos fountains are around Rome. Actually, most of thos fountains are about 20 miles outside of Rome on a mountain that holds the Villa Deste, built by Cardinal Deste around 1300 (?). Down the side of the moutain he put in gardens and put in over 200 fountains, most of these fountains are here but NOT in Rome.
The 2:55 trailer has some great shots NOT used in the final film.
When the gang returned from location shooting in Italy, they then did the interiors at Fox studios in L.A.
Several of the sets are from the Fox film, the Robe.
the Villa (interior) that Clifton Webb lives in is Marcellus Gallios hous from the Robe.
The Burgoynes coktail party also takes place in a different part of Marcellus Gallios house from The Robe.
the Apartment in which the three women live is a redressed set of the apartment from How to Marry a Millionaire.
Three Coins in the Fountain - now considered a misnomer because the Jean Peters character does NOT throw a coin in - shes returning to America.
Originally there WAS a third coin thrown in. In the original ending that was shot ( and one that Darryl Zanuck thought was too much of a downer) - all three couples reunite at the fountain of Trevi (as they still do in the film) the legend of the fountain of Trevi is that when you throw your coin in, you will return to Rome.
At this point in the original ending, the Clifton Webb character, who has been told by his doctor he has only a year to live, throws a coin in the fountian - end of film.


Supporting Actor
Apr 23, 2002
Wonderfully detailed review.

I wish I had more fondness for this film
aside from the theme song.
Perhaps this is my opportunity to view it again
under more optimal cirucumstances.

I continue to be grateful for these "white box"
studio classic releases.
I wish they would revisit
the rodgers and hammerstein titles in
this format with extras,
anamorphic releases, etc.

Robert Harris

Senior HTF Member
Feb 8, 1999
Real Name
Robert Harris

Your quote: "I applaud the restoration team who spent the 35+ hours working on the restoration because they’ve done a fabulous job."

Just wondering where the 35+ hours came from, as I've never heard of a restoration taking that period of time, although in truth, all restorations take 35+ hours.


Craig S

Senior HTF Member
Mar 4, 2000
League City, Texas
Real Name
Craig Seanor

When we visited Fox back in September they mentioned to us that they were working on new editions of the R&H titles.

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