Sep 03

FRANK SINATRA – “Three Coins In A Fountain”

Popular13 comments • 2,463 views

#22, 17th September 1954

One of the many reasons I turned this project from whim to reality was that I reckoned it would give me a ‘way in’ to liking older artists more. Listening to Frank Sinatra in the context of lots of other less famous people doing sort-of-similar things would persuade me further of his genius. And it nearly worked, too. It’s reminded me of how distinctive Sinatra is, but “Three Coins?” isn?t a particularly great advert for him.

For one thing the song has no real drive beyond its central image – a pitfall of taking singles from musicals. It’s a beguiling and romantic image, but when the single ends the image is cut short when it needs to burst into cinematic life. Of course, I’m perhaps being unfair – to the moviegoer of 1954 it did just that. Even then though the record is flawed: the ripe arrangement is a bit unsympathetic to Sinatra, who is at his finest when he can afford to turn down his singer’s projection and almost be speaking (to the audience, to himself). “Three Coins” makes Sinatra fight the strings too much for my taste as it heads for the “Make it mine” refrain. The result is an oddly unsatisfying record.



  1. 1
    Dan M. on 14 Nov 2007 #

    I believe that you’re slightly mistaken to say that this song was from a musical. If I’M not mistaken it was the credits/theme song from a non-musical romantic drama. I’ve never heard the Sinatra version myself, but a version on a collection of Oscar-winning “best songs” was pretty powerful.

  2. 2
    Dan M. on 14 Nov 2007 #

    Oh, great feature by the way!

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Nov 2007 #

    Early chick flick prototype in fact; three ladies (deploying the usual Hollywood cliched subtext of secretary = frustrated virgin) go to Rome to find a man and they get Clifton Webb (who IRL wasn’t too interested in ladies), Louis Jourdan and Rossano Brazzi.

    Nelson Riddle did the arrangement and his strings do over-colour the record to a degree, but on the evidence of In The Wee Small Hours the following year he refined his approach fairly rapidly – now the orchestra breathes in and out with the singer.

  4. 4
    intothefireuk on 4 Sep 2009 #

    Hugely distinctive – Sinatra’s voice exudes charm, warmth and ease. He’s pretty horizontal throughout most of this track although, as has been noted, the strings aren’t perhaps as comfy a bed as they should be. I vaguely remember the film as Mum was a huge Sinatra fan and I think we did actually own this song (although I didn’t, of course, hear it until years later) so it’s pretty familiar to me. Not one of Sinatra’s more memorable excursions into easy but solid all the same.

  5. 5
    rosie on 30 Sep 2010 #

    And it wasn’t even written to fit with the film, particularly. Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne were commissioned but not given a sight of either film or script, so they just wrote a song around a title.

  6. 6
    swanstep on 1 Oct 2010 #

    This is just a poor song isn’t it? Lazy, boring lyrics (from people who often wrote fantastically) and a kind of momentum-free melody. Sinatra and the arrangers try to paper over that, but don’t really succeed. Not a patch on anything on In the Wee small hours or Songs for Swinging lovers surely.

    I saw the film a long time ago and wasn’t especially impressed by it either. It certainly felt to me like it was rather lamely trying to reproduce the previous year’s huge hit, Roman Holiday – tricky, since that’s a damn near perfect film – with ‘wide-screen color’ as the big, novel selling point. But that’s a *terrible* selling point at least for us now given that Henri Alekan’s glorious b/w photography of Rome in RH is pretty much the greatest thing ever, and also chimes for us with all the great b/w Fellini and Antonioni movies up through the mid ’60s. Oh well…

  7. 7
    wichitalineman on 1 Oct 2010 #

    TCITF captures Sinatra’s voice intriguingly midway between the Columbia croon that made him famous, and the powerpoint presentation bark which he used on many of his Capitol recordings. I might be wrong but I think this is one of the very first Sinatra/Nelson Riddle collaborations. And I agree that it doesn’t gel quite as it could, but I love the “make it mine” climax; he sounds truly lonesome.

  8. 8
    wichitalineman on 1 Oct 2010 #

    Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s did write one of the greatest opening lines to a pop song on Let It Snow – “Oh the weather outside is frightful” – which, granted, knocks Three Coins In The Fountain into the water with a plop.

  9. 9
    Eli on 20 Dec 2010 #

    Oh, I do like Sinatra – but not even he can rescue mediocre material. This song is merely okay; I think the movie is the best explanation for its success. For some reason, he revisited the song when he had his own label, Reprise.

    Even legends like Sinatra were victims of the ‘hit parade mentality’ – in 2010, everyone knows You Make Me Feel So Young, which opened Songs For Swinging Lovers. But no one knows this.

  10. 10
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISC WATCH (Up to 11/04/11)

    Harriet Cohen, Pianist (1955)

    Hetty King, Comedian and Musician (1969)

    Norman Thelwell, Artist(1973)

    Anna Moffo, Soprano (1976)

    Jule Styne, Musician (1979)

    Britt Ekland, Actress (1994).

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 28 May 2011 #

    A pedant notes: Three Coins In THE Fountain isn’t it?

  12. 12
    chrisew71 on 28 Mar 2018 #

    Back in the ’90s, they released a box set collecting all of Sinatra’s Capitol singles. It was a good reminder that in between the classic albums, he was still a pop artist, with all the good and bad that entails. Some of it was great, but it was clear very little of it was approached with the same level of care as the albums. Kind of weird to hear Sinatra tackling rock & roll and novelty songs at a time when he’s arguably at his artistic peak. This song is about as average Sinatra as you’ll find.

  13. 13
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Rather pleasant, I would go up to a 7/10 here.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page