ROMAN HOLIDAY, 1953
Cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, Margaret Rawlings
A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.
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An iconic romantic comedy that first introduced audiences to the now legendary and renowned Belgian actress Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday is the quintessential film that perfectly captures comedy and romantic moments without bordering on cliché or melodrama. Since Audrey Hepburn, there hasn’t been anyone quite as stunning, charming, and delightful to see on screen. No one comes close.
Her charm was so captivating that Gregory Peck, who originally wanted to be billed as the solo talent, considering he was a big name at the time, changed his mind and asked that Audrey share equal billing. A move practically unheard of at the time.
Hepburn plays a princess named Ann, but changes her name to Anya to avoid recognition, who decides to go AWOL in Rome, after feeling trapped in her endless mundane life of royalty and everything that follows it. She meets, in a drunken stupor, Joe (Peck) and unwillingly to leave her alone because of her current state, he takes her home allowing her to sleep at his place. I can’t help but think that in today’s times this would either be frowned upon, or Joe simply would have called a taxi to avoid any trouble, or possible misunderstanding.
Joe is an American journalist, and when he discovers he has the princess at his home, he calls his friend Irving (Albert) a photographer to take pictures. The next day, Joe and Anya spend the day together and gradually fall in love, all while Irving takes secretly pictures of the two. There a great scene and one of the most memorable moments in movie history, in which Hepburn breaks character.
Joe takes Anya to the Mouth of Truth, a famous spot in Rome of a lion carved face with a large mouth. Joe first puts his hand in it, and then urges Anya to do the same. She does, only to have Joe pull the lever frightening her. Hepburn actually screams in that moment not realizing Peck was actually going to pull a practical joke on her. It’s a famous scene, one which has been used in popular movies and has also led to a wide attraction to the Mouth of Truth since the release of the film.
Besides the charm of the actors, Wyler captures the beauty and allure of Rome. The film was shot of location rather than the back lot of a studio, where most films even today, are filmed for budget reasons. The scenery adds to the mystique and charm of Roman Holiday. The setting almost becomes a character itself providing both elegance and class.
The ending of the film is probably what best sets it apart from other romantic comedies because it’s not necessarily a happy ending, but rather a realistic outcome that adds credibility to the film. Plus, the introduction of Audrey Hepburn, for any fan of hers, or even those that admire classic romantic comedies, must see Roman Holiday. There are only a handful of movies that accomplish what this movie has in a genre filled with shallow clichés and thin stories. Roman Holiday, despite its age, is still one of the best, and if not, the best of its genre.