Three Coins in the Fountain (1954): Negulesco Romantic Comedy, One of Worst Movies Nominated for Best Picture

Jean Negulesco’s schmaltzy romantic comedy, Three Coins in the Fountain, introduced the song of the same title, which became an enduring tune, and more memorable than anything in the plot, direction, or acting.

Setting the movie in the exciting city of Roma is a grand idea: the picture is credited for increasing American tourism to Italy in the 1950s.  The movie also depicts a side trip to Venice.

Our Grade: C+- (** out of *****)

Adapted to the screen by John Patrik from novel “Coins in the Fountain” by John H. Secondari, the film centers on three American girls looking for romance in Rome, while employed at the American Embassy.

The three girls are actually mature women in age, Dorothy McGuire (better remebered for melodramas), Maggie McNamara (better known for “The Moon Is Blue”), and Jean Peters.

They fall for quintessential Latino lovers of the era, played by Gallic Louis Jourdan and Italiano Rossano Brazzi.

“Three Coins in the Fountain” was made several years before Fellini forever changed the imagery of that city and its decadent café society in films like “La Dolce Vita” and others.

The movie was a huge commercial hit, made on a budget of $1.7 million, it grossed over $10 million in the U.S. alone.


In 1064, the movie was remade by Negulesco as a musical, The Pleasure Seekers, starring Ann-Margret, Carol Lynley, and Pamela Tiffin.

In 1966, the story was made into a movie, directed and co-written by Hal Kanter (and Melville Sherelson), starring Cynthia Pepper, Yvonne Craig, and Joanna Moore.

The third version was the 1990 TV film Coins in the Fountain starring Loni Anderson.

Three Coins in the Fountain also inspired the 2010 film “When in Rome,” toplined by Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Picture, produced by Sol C. Siegel
Cinematography (Color): Milton Krasner
Song: Three Coins in the Fountain,” by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Oscar Awards: 2



Oscar Context

In 1954, “Three Coins in the Fountain” competed for the Best Picture Oscar with the court drama, “The Caine Mutiny,” the screen version of the play, “The Country Girl,” the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Sisters,” and the drama “On the Waterfront,” which deservedly swept most of the awards.


While “Cain Mutiny” earned Bogart his third and last nomination, it didn’t win any award.  The other nominees received one or two Oscars.  The most controversial one was the Best Actress to Grace Kelly, a favorite of the industry, who made several movies that year, including the Hitchcock classic, “Rear Window.”   Nonetheless, the feeling was that Judy Garland should have won the award for what’s considered her most accomplished dramatic performance in George Cukor’s masterpiece, “A Star Is Born,” the second screen version of the often-told Hollywood tale.




Shadwell (Clifton Webb)

Miss Francis (Dorothy McGuire)

Anita (Jean Peters)

Prince Dino Di Cessi (Louis Jourdan)

Maria (Maggie McNamara)

Georgio (Rossano Brazzi)

Burgoyne (Howard St. John)

Mrs. Burgoyne (Kathryn Givney)

Principessa (Cathleen Nesbitt)

Dr. Martinelli (Vincent Padula)



Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Picture, produced by Sol C. Siegel

Director: Jean Negulesco

Screenplay: John Patrick, based on the novel by John H. Secondari.

Cinematography (Color): Milton Krasner

Editor: William Reynolds

Music: Victor Young

Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler, John De Cuir

Costumes: Dorothy Jeakins

Song: “Three Coins in the Fountain,” by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Release date: May 20, 1954
Running time: 102 minutes