Roman Holiday holds a special place in my heart. I was nine years old visiting my grandparents in Arizona where after days of swimming I announced I was bored. My grandmother, Olive, said she would put on a movie. I was excited until - ugg - a black and white movie. Boring. Nine year old me had no interest. Fifteen minutes later however I was hooked and I wanted to see more of this Audrey Hepburn. The trajectory for my love of old Hollywood had begun. I went on to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's and Sabrina. My grandmother must have had the box set. The rest is history.
This was Audrey's first major role. The entire cast and crew halted production until Audrey's gig playing Gigi on Broadway was over. She had made a commitment, and Paramount really wanted this star in the making, so production started once she was available.
This film is the classic story of a princess who escapes the castle to find love. Audrey plays Princess Ann on tour in Rome and is tired of her royal duties. She wants to dance and enjoy life like a commoner, and during an episode is given some sleeping pills from the royal doctor. Once alone, Princess Ann escapes the Colosseum and sets out to have some fun. Problem is, her meds are kicking in, and she finds herself asleep on a city bench.
Enter Gregory Peck. He plays Joe Bradley, an American news reporter who after losing what was left of his money, stumbles upon Ann. He thinks she is drunk and tries to send her on he way, but ends up taking her home (pretty risque for 1953) out of pity. She takes the couch and he takes the bed. The next day Joe learns of her identity and does what he can to get a news story out of her while going along with her story about being a student playing hooky. The holiday begins.
When I ever get to Rome I will be doing my best to copy this outfit Audrey wears right down to the sandals. So chic.
While Gregory tries to get the story of a lifetime and boost his post at the newspaper, he (gasp!) falls in love with Ann. They drink champagne, get into a bar fight, tour the city, and are even arrested by the police for speeding in a Vespa. With help from photog Eddie Albert, the men capture a princess living her life like she always dreamed. They have their story, and with pictures too. But should Joe publish them? It's clear that Ann is in love with Joe, but what about her people that depend on her as their leader?
In the end, they fall in love and get married. Just kidding, not in this movie. There is a somber and unexpected ending to Roman Holiday, but it makes the movie even more splendid because it is real.
Audrey and Gregory began a strong friendship after this film that lasted until her untimely death. He knew she was going to be a huge star after the release of this film, and once principle production completed he insisted Audrey share top billing with him, even though he was a well known and established actor. His agent thought he was crazy, but he insisted.
This film won Audrey her first and last Academy Award for Best Actress. Roman Holiday also won for best costumes (Edith Head) and screenplay. Dalton Trumbo wrote Roman Holiday, but was not allowed to take credit due to being blacklisted for not cooperating with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for Trumbo and accepted the award. Forty some years later Trumbo was honorably credited as the writer and Oscar winner.
Audrey temporarily lost her Oscar after winning and after some fretful minutes, the award was found in the ladies room and returned to the proud Hollywood newcomer.
I've had Roman Holiday in my collection for years (decades, really) and I've still never seen the whole thing -- just bits and pieces, and the end. I really need to remedy that; so many people hold it in such high regard. I like knowing that Hepburn and Peck were lifelong friends after the movie. Thanks for this interesting and informative post!
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