“A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.”
Director: William Wyler
Writers: Dalton Trumbo, Ian McLellan Hunter, John Dighton
Staring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert
Release Date: September 2, 1953
Roman Holiday is a simple story with an emphatic impact. Audrey Hepburn, in her first major motion picture, plays Ann, the young princess of an unnamed land. She is on a political public relations trip and her patience is getting test with the rigorous routine and schedule. While in Rome, Ann escapes her temporary residence and finds herself wandering the streets among the common folk. Fatefully she meets Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), a down on his luck American reporter who is happy to land himself a true front-page story. Bradley shows Ann around town and a beautiful connection is created.
Let’s skip right to the end. Sorry, I do not feel bad for spoiling a movie that came out in 1953. Roman Holiday is a very good movie in its own right, but the final moments levitate it to grand. Joe Bradley and Princess Ann do not end up with one another, and that is the proper way to end it. The entire escapade plays out like a dream to both parties, and in the end, there is a perfect dose of reality. While the memories that Bradley and Ann created with one another seem fantastical, they are indeed real. The subtle eye contact they share at Ann’s press conference is endearing, and when photographer Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert) hands Ann the photos of their adventures together, it will force even the scroogiest grouch to smile.
The lessons that a short-lived love can teach are numerous, and we see growth in both Bradley and Ann when they finally do go their separate ways. Joe Bradley doesn’t write a sure-fire front page story and instead makes the decision to keep his experiences with Ann away from the public eye. He doesn’t take the money that is being touted in front of him. Ann returns to her residence and faces the ire of her advisors, but she does so standing her own ground. She makes sure to point out that she understands her role as the princess, for she returned from her open plains dream to her caged nightmare. The difference now is that her political prison now has a window; there is a light that she can look at and remember the fond memories of her first ever day and night on the town.
Audrey Hepburn is an angel in Roman Holiday. She should have a statue made of her and placed outside with all the Renascence artwork. Hepburn’s portrayal of Princess Ann was her first ever major motion picture role, and it is her only Academy Award. she was nominated five times, but this is her only victory. She was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993, in case you need a trivia fact.
This is a quick side not here. I have only seen two Audrey Hepburn movies. Roman Holiday and Charade (1963). I need to change this as soon as possible.
Now Hepburn can’t do it all on her own. Gregory Peck is more than happy to do his part in Roman Holiday, but he is even more ecstatic to let Hepburn cook. According to IMDB, Peck informed the producers of the movie that Hepburn was going to win the Oscar and that she should be the one to receive top billing. The producers and studio agreed to put Hepburn on the poster, and she did indeed win the Oscar.
Also, who about this for Peck. Before filming Roman Holiday he had just broken up with his first wife. Going through is not fun for anyone. While filming in Italy, Peck met someone by the name of Veronique Passani. They would later marry and stay together for the rest of his life. Talk about serendipity!
Going into Roman Holiday, I had associated Peck as a more hard-nosed serious character portrayer. I personally associate him with The Omen (1976), but here Peck shattered my expectations and lived up to the dashing charmer he needed to be.
Looking at the IMDB for Roman Holiday, I was educated to the fact that there was once an Academy Award for Best Writing in a Motion Picture Story. Not best screenplay, Original or Adapted, but just Best Story. Roman Holiday won for that and also for Costume Design for a Black & White film. The only reason that Roman Holiday was made in Black & White was because the production studio gave director William Wyler less money because he demanded that it be shot on scene in Italy. Guess what, Wyler was absolutely right. If you want to appreciate the costume design more, look at the colored renditions of the film’s stills. Just gorgeous.
Roman Holiday vaults up the ranks as one of my favorite romantic movies of all time. Audrey Hepburn (still can’t believe that this is her first major role) absorbs everything around her. It is impossible to not be pulled into her vortex of innocence, beauty, and childish bliss. Roman Holiday was the winner of three Academy Awards but its lasting impact is more than any trophy can measure. This movie is a testament to how love and happiness at its simplest can also be its most beautiful form.
STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)
P.S. My New Year resolution for 2022 is to watch at least one Oscar nominated (or contending for current award season) movie a week. Roman Holiday was the start of that for me, of what a hell of a way to kick it off.
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