Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Technicolor tripe

By Edward Copeland
On the Waterfront deservedly won the Oscar for best picture for 1954, something made even easier when you consider its competition: the good movie The Caine Mutiny along with The Country Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and the film I've chosen to discuss today, the beautiful but empty travelogue that is Three Coins in the Fountain.

Here are just a few of the titles that DID NOT get nominated for best picture in 1954: It Could Happen to You, Johnny Guitar, Sabrina, A Star Is Born, Suddenly, White Christmas and, towering above all the films that could have been nominated for best picture and wasn't — Rear Window.

It feels a little unfair to beat up on Three Coins in the Fountain for being listed, however undeservedly, as a best picture nominee because it certainly is a gorgeous film to look at in its early use of Technicolor and CinemaScope to paint a great travelogue of Italy in the 1950s. Too bad it hadn't been a silent movie.

Then again, you'd have missed some of the quips from Clifton Webb. The plot, and I use the term very loosely, of Jean Negulesco's film concerns three American women (Jean Peters, Dorothy McGuire and Maggie McNamara) working in Rome while wishing into the fabled fountain of Trevi that perhaps a husband will come their way.

Yes, Three Coins in the Fountain exists in the era where husbands were the only thing young single women obsessed about and when they were likely to offer each other a cigarette at breakfast, without asking, before inquiring about coffee or food.

There isn't much suspense as to where this film is headed as it sets up the women's three potential suitors (Webb (?!?), Rossano Brazzi and Louis Jourdan) and McGuire and Peters do what they can, though McNamara seems to be playing the same character she played in The Moon Is Blue. However, there is no denying the movie is lovely to look at, even if the story and most of the dialogue is torturous to endure.

Should this have been a best picture nominee? Absolutely not. Did Milton Krasner deserve his Oscar for color cinematography? Probably so, but I liked Robert Burks' work on Rear Window a great deal as well.

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I feel the same way as you do about the film, but you gotta admit - it is a catchy song.
Tough call between On the Waterfront and The Caine Mutiny. 51-49, but I'd have opted for the latter.
Of course, if it had been nominated, I'd have picked Rear Window over all of them.
I live about a 20 minute walk from where On The Waterfront was shot. I think the film is slightly overrated, but the best choice of the five, um, contenduhs, with The Michael Caine Mutiny a close second. (Bogie made a great Queeg.)

This is blasphemy for sure, but I can't stand Rear Window. I think it's the most boring film Hitchcock made, despite sexy Grace Kelly and Odie fave Thelma Ritter.
Odie, Odie, Odie. That is blasphemy. It's my absolute favorite Hitchcock, the only one in my Top 10. It's amazing all the little stories he's able to fold within the larger plot and I don't think he ever mixed suspense and voyeurism better.
You all might think this is blasphemous, too, but my pick for best movie of that year is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, easily the best of all the MGM musicals, even better than Singin' in the Rain in my humble opinion. (Interestingly, Stanley Donen got DGA noms for both pictures, but was overlooked for both by the Academy).
This film bugged me too, because it was so cruel to the women, for what was supposed to be a women's picture. It can't forgive McGuire for the crime of being unmarried in her 30s, and McNamara seems like an outlet for typical mid-50s American middlebrow narrowmindedness (anti-opera, anti-modern art, etc.). And by the end, like with most early CinemaScope films, I was begging for a closeup, just one, pretty please. But that is a catchy song.
I have to side with The Odienator - I think Rear Window is a good film, but not a great one. I've never felt it quite deserved its elevated reputation, and it certainly doesn't rank among my favorite Hitchcocks (or even as his best of the decade, since I'd rank Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, and North by Northwest ahead of it.)

The Academy wasn't terribly good about recognizing foreign entries back in the day - and some of the best films of 1954 were non-American productions. Two French masterpieces - Rene Clement's Forbidden Games and Max Ophuls' The Earrings of Madame de... - actually did receive nominations that year, for Original Story and Costume Design respectively. Henry Cornelius' charming British comedy, Genevieve was also nominated for its screenplay, although Frank Launder's truly uproarious The Belles of St. Trinian's was shut out entirely. All four films deserved more recognition from The Academy than they ultimately received, so that homegrown pap like Three Coins could be rewarded for its box office success.
Josh, is this your anti-blond bias rearing its head again? I do agree with everything Goatdog said. It is fairly offensive, especially when you consider that the "over the hill" woman has to settle for the entertaining but decidedly old Clifton Webb, who even admits in his proposal that it would just be a marriage of friendship since there'd be no way for him to admit he's gay in a movie such as this.
Well, I think Grace Kelly is fine in the film (if she had rated a nomination in 1954, it would have been for this as opposed to The Country Girl), and I liked her even better in Hitchock's To Catch a Thief, which is lesser Hitchcock, but fun anyway. And I LOVE North by Northwest - last time I checked, that one had a blonde leading lady as well.

So, sorry, you can't blame the anti-blonde bias here. I'm just not a Rear Window fan - I find the premise a bit coy, the characterization a bit simplistic and the suspense a bit lacking. It's still an okay film, but as Hitchcock's best? Not by the longest shot. To each his own...
EC, your Clifton Webb comment made me think of that Liberace movie, Sincerely Yours. That one had some woman trying to get Liberace's interest while he courted Dorothy Malone and did a tap dance number to rival Linda Blair's in Exorcist II. People in the 50's were blind, deaf and delusional if they believed Liberace was The Ladies Man.

Josh, I agree with you about liking Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief better. (Aside, Peter Bogdanovich introduced the screening of TCAT I saw in NYC a few years ago, and he also mingled at the after party, where I spoke to him briefly. He was wearing an ascot, like Fred on Scooby Doo. I said to myself, "now I know how to get all the hot ass in Hollywood despite looking like a director--wear an ascot.") I even think Kelly is fine in Rear Window. I just think it is so incredibly boring. Ooh! Let's watch people!!! Snore.

Now if Hitch made it today, Miss Torso would have been Miss Butt Ass Naked and it would have been called Body Double. Put that gun down, EC!
Not only is Rear Window one of Hitch's finest movies, it's one of the greatest films ever made. You guys are talkin' crazy. Where's the gun EC?
My biggest "If Only" is, if only it had been Grace Kelly in 'North by Northwest' -that woulld have been scintillating!
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