If you haven’t seen it:
Roman Holiday stars Audrey Hepburn as a princess who evades her bodyguards and goes off for an adventure in Rome. Gregory Peck plays a reporter who befriends her, and in doing so stumbles across the scoop of a lifetime.
This movie would be worth watching just for the delightful performances of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, but it is also funny, bittersweet, and a little exciting too. As well as all that, it is essential viewing for anyone who is planning an actual Roman Holiday any time soon!
And it’s refreshing to see a movie set in Rome that doesn’t feature a single gladiator being beaten to death in a giant amphitheatre!
If you have seen it:
Scroll down past the trailer for more.
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
Anne, a teenage Princess, is on an official tour of Europe with her aides and chaperons, in order to improve diplomatic relations for her country. By the time they reach Rome she is bored and frustrated with all the stuffy functions – she is so protected that she never sees anything of the places she is visiting. One night she slips away from her bodyguards and goes to explore the city.
A reporter, Joe Bradley, finds her asleep on a bench. At first he does not recognize her, but, worrying for her safety, takes her home with him.
The next day, when he realizes who she is, he decides to write a story about her, and arranges a lucrative deal with his editor. Then, not telling Anne that he knows who she is, or that he is a reporter, he offers to spend the day with her, showing her the sights of Rome. He also recruits his photographer friend Irvine to accompany them, and he takes candid photos of their adventures.
That evening they go dancing on a boat, and are spotted by secret service men, who try to escort her back to her people. Joe and Irving put up a fight though, and Joe and Anne manage to escape by jumping in the river. In the aftermath of the struggle, Anne shares with Joe her dreams of living a normal life without the overwhelming responsibilities, and they kiss. However, Anne realizes their relationship cannot go anywhere, and she returns to the emabassy.
The next day, Joe decides he is not going to write the story after all. Irving, respecting his friend’s feelings, also decides not to sell his photographs. Instead, the pair attend a press conference that Anne is giving at the embassy. When Anne realizes that Joe and Irving are newspaper men, she is shocked, but quickly composes herself. Even though Joe and Anne cannot communicate properly because of the formality of the situation, they understand each other well, and Irving gives her the photographs he took. Anne declares to the press, and to Joe in particular, that she will cherish the memory of her visit to Rome for as long as she lives. Then, she goes back to her people, and Joe goes back to his.
Steve Sunday Says:
Roman Holiday begins with the claim “This film was photographed and recorded in its entirety in Rome, Italy”, seconds before the opening shots of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament in London. It took a while then for this movie to win back my trust.
Eventually though, I forgot about this dubious start (or at least, I would have done if I had not been making notes) and the movie won me over. Gregory Peck was one of the most likeable movie stars of his day, and Audrey Hepburn’s character was so innocent and without guile, it would be difficult not to root for her.
It was good to see the sites of Rome too. I went there a few years ago myself, and as I was watching the movie, I was surprised to see how little certain places had changed in over fifty years. Then when I thought about it, they probably haven’t changed much in hundreds of years, or in some cases, thousands!
I thought the ending of the movie was quite powerful. I felt Anne’s suffering as she was moving down the line shaking hands with the reporters, moving closer to Joe, but unable to say what she wanted to say. I imagine many viewers would be willing Anne to shout “to hell with all this” and run off with Joe. The movie “Notting Hill” borrowed the idea for the press conference ending (actually, they borrowed lots of ideas) but they did give the audience the “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her” happy ending. However, I think I rather prefer the poignant ending of Roman Holiday.
Trivia Trish Says:
- Gregory Peck’s role was originally written for Cary Grant, but he passed as he thought he was too old for Hepburn.
- Roman Holiday was Audrey Hepburn’s first major role. After filming had taken place, Peck suggested that she be given joint top billing with him. He predicted that she would win an Oscar for her role, and he was right.
- The joke where Joe gets his hand bitten off in the “Mouth of Truth” was not in the script – Peck ad-libbed it, and Hepburn’s surprised reaction was genuine.
- The film came out at a time when a real-life princess was very much in the news. Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth’s sister) was involved in a much publicized relationship with a divorced commoner, who she was being forced to give up. The public’s fascination with this story helped to popularize Roman Holiday.
- The writer of Roman Holiday, Dalton Trumbo, was one of those blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for being a member of the American Communist Party, and for refusing to testify about the possible Communist sympathies of other writers. This committee, while powerful at the time, was later discredited (see the Robert De Niro film Guilty by Suspicion). Trumbo went on to write Exodus, Spartacus, and Papillon. His story was featured in the 2016 film Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston in the title role.
Main Cast and Crew:
Joe Bradley – Gregory Peck
Princess Anne – Audrey Hepburn
Irving Radovich – Eddie Albert
Directed by William Wyler