This romantic comedy is one I return to again,again, and (oh, yes)again. Funny, poignant, romantic and very moving, this film is one of those rare ones that has something in it for everyone.
Princess Ann(Audrey Hepburn)is the heir to her (never named) countries throne. During a state visit to Italy, Ann stops off in Rome, and one night she sneaks out of the embassy she is staying in, desperate for a few hours of freedom. She is discovered by American reporter Joe Bradley(Gregory Peck)sleeping on a street bench, he takes her back to his apartment and it begins to dawn on him just who she is. Will he use her to create the story of his career or not?
Gregory Peck is terrific as Joe Bradley, the reporter out for a story when he finds the runaway Princess Ann. At first he is only interested in her because of the story her presence would generate, but as he spends more time with her he finds himself wanting to protect her; the pair slowly realise they are falling in love, but can either of them give up the lives they at currently living(the answer to this may well surprise new viewers who think they know how it will end)Peck is at his most handsome and likeable here, and his performance is one of my favourites of his.
Not only an enjoyable film, Roman Holiday is also responsible for making Audrey Hepburn a big film star. Audrey had featured in a small number of film roles when she was cast in the lead role of Princess Ann(a role originally intended for British actress Jean Simmons). Audiences took Audrey to their hearts and she became an instant star. The Academy gave her the Best Actress Oscar for her enchanting performance. I still find it hard to believe that she had done so little acting before this, as Audrey is so natural on screen and is superb in a very emotional scene(that farewell hug in the car). She perfectly conveys the strength, charm, innocence, vulnerability and enthusiasm of her character.
William Wyler’s film does a good job of conveying how constricted and lonely a royals life must be. Yes they live in luxury, travel far and wide and have great wealth, but they are expected to devote their lives in service of others and often can’t marry who they choose, and are under constant scrutiny. An extremely unenviable lifestyle, and it is from this life that Ann wishes to find some respite from.
Filmed in and around Rome, the film always makes me long to visit Italy, but in a way makes me feel like I have done so. I also always get a craving for ice cream after the scene of Ann and Joe meeting on the steps.
Eddie Albert provides solid support as Irving, Joe’s friend and cameraman. Irving takes many photos of Ann on her Roman Holiday, any one of which would be perfect for the front page, but will he ever let them see the light of day?
I love this film so much, it can move me and make me laugh like no other, the characters are likeable and the ending is far from predictable. I think it is the ending that helped make it so special, it wasn’t another regular fairytale, the realism throughout helps make it believable.
My favourite scenes are that farewell hug in the car(gets me every single time, and I firmly believe it always will), the mouth of truth sequence(improvised by Gregory to get a genuine reaction from Audrey), the “sorry honey, but I haven’t worn a nightgown in years” scene, and the scene where Ann reminds her staff that she is more than aware of her duty.
I want to give a shout out to screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for his beautiful story. Sadly due to the fact that he was blacklisted in the 50’s, he was never credited on the opening titles of this for many more years.
Another shoutout goes to Edith Head for her stunning costumes. Ann’s royal evening gown deserves particular praise.
I also like that Gregory and Audrey became lifelong friends during the making of this, they made me believe so much that they cared for one another on screen, and it’s nice to think that they became special to each other off screen. Gregory also met his future wife Veronique during the making of this, the couple remained married until his death in 2003.
As ever, if you’re a fan please share your thoughts below. If you’ve never seen this, then I hope you’ll check it out soon.