Roman Holiday (1953) / Romance-Comedy
MPAA Rated: Not rated (I'd give it a PG for some mild innuendo)
Running Time: 118 min.
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, Margaret Rawlings, Tullio Carminati, Paolo Carlini
Director: William Wyler
Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo (as Ian McLellan Hunter), John Dighton
Review published May 29, 2004
Roman Holiday is a famous and important film for many reasons, probably most for introducing the world to the incomparable Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade), here in her first major starring role, and one which won her an Academy Award. With oodles of cast chemistry, inspired direction by veteran William Wyler (Ben-Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives) , and impressive locale work, shot completely on location in Rome, this ranks as one of the best romantic comedies ever made.
It's a modern-day twist on a fairy tale, where the princess wishes to be a normal young girl, rather than the other way around. Hepburn plays Princess Ann, much beloved royalty whose every move is followed by the country, and every day is completed scheduled with monotonous formalities and appearances, which have begun to grow tedious for a young woman looking to have some excitement in her life. She wants to have some fun and spontaneity in her life, so one night while she is visiting Rome, Ann makes her escape from her handlers and heads to the streets of the city, where a handsome new reporter, Joe Bradley (Peck, Spellbound) stumbles upon her. There appears to be no place for her to go, so Joe takes her to his apartment for the evening, but the next day he discovers he may be onto the scoop of a lifetime when he realizes that the woman in his pad is none other than the most beloved figures in the world. His plan is to entertain her while she is in town, without letting her know he is really just trying to get the inside info on the woman for his article, and she also hides her identity in hopes of being seen as the average girl in the free world.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this rather old fashioned romance is how funny it actually is, while still maintaining a sense of subtlety throughout. This is not a story driven plot, but rather, a collection of charming and amusing moments that, when added up for the duration, becomes something quite substantial. The character development involved is flawless, as we grow to like, and in some senses love, the main players, thanks in large part to the terrific Academy Award winning screenplay by Dalton Trumbo (Spartacus, Papillon), here credited as Ian McLellan Hunter due to a blacklisting that forced him to write under a pseudonym. Even with the quality writing, none of this could have worked if overplayed by the director or if stars were cast who weren't as likeable, and on all fronts, Roman Holiday is a resounding success.
Roman Holiday is a cinematic treasure, and essential viewing by anyone who loves great romantic comedies, classic films, William Wyler, Gregory Peck, and especially, anyone who loves Audrey Hepburn. It's a near perfect story, with a beautiful ending, and every bit the modern fairy tale it sets out to be. As the years go by, Roman Holiday remains ageless, a true timeless classic.
©2004 Vince Leo