My twin daughters, 13 year olds, surprised me last Saturday evening and asked to watch a classic movie, preferably one with Audrey Hepburn in it. I was glad to help them search our Netflix Streaming site and was very glad when I found Roman Holiday. So we popped up some popcorn and settled in for a well-crafted film, starring Audrey Hepburn in her first film role, and for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award in 1954. This movie has two protagonists: Princess Anna(Audrey Hepburn) and American newspaper journalist, Joe Bradley(Gregory Peck). Princess Anna is young, 19 or 20, and she is tired. She is on a whirlwind tour of major European cities and in each one, she has to attend meetings, press conferences, visit schools or farms or museums, make speeches, and at night she has to preside over balls hosted by her country’s embassy. Her life is tightly wound around a schedule. In one amusing scene at the embassy in Rome, she is standing forever shaking hands with all the dignitaries at the ball, and her feet hurt. Her beautiful ball gown is long enough to conceal her feet, so she decides to take off one shoe and rub that sore foot on the shin of her other leg, and as she finally gets an opportunity to sit in a throne-like chair on the dais in front of all the guests, her dress length is shortened by the sitting and her empty shoe is revealed! Joe Bradley, is a cynical newspaper man. We don’t know how long he has been assigned to the Rome Bureau of his newspaper, but he does wish to eventually be reassigned to the American Bureau, at a higher position than what he currently has. He doesn’t mind Rome and has learned the language and gets along fine with his landlord. Fellow co-worker, photographer Irving Radovich(aptly played by Eddie Albert) is his poker playing buddy and they help each other out with loans of money and hanging out together when off-duty.
After the ball in Rome is over, Princess Anna is tucked in for the night, and she works herself up into hysterics about her rigidly run life, never getting to have any fun for herself or making her own decisions. Countess Vereberg, the lady in waiting, immediately calls for the doctor who gives the princess a sedative. After they leave the princess so she can go back to sleep, she gets up and dresses and decides to slip out of the embassy and see Rome for herself and on her own terms. Unfortunately the sedative begins to take effect and that is where Joe finds the princess, alseep on a bench in front of a building. Being a gentleman, he tries to wake her but only gets responses that don’t make sense to him, so he deposits the princess into a cab and reluctantly takes her to his apartment and lets her sleep it off on his sofa. Joe has assumed that this young woman is simply drunk and that he had better offer her shelter for the night instead of letting her sleep it off on the street.
The next morning, Joe finds out that he has overslept and missed the press conference with Princess Anna. He rushes off to work and there finds out by looking at a picture in the morning newspaper, that the supposedly “sick” princess who had to cancel her press conference is really the young lady asleep on his sofa! Joe decides to do a story about the princess and her time exploring Rome, and gets his photographer pal Irving to come along to take pictures with his new toy, a cigarette lighter with a camera hidden in it. Joe tells his boss that he’ll have an exclusive story to give him about the princess that will bring in a lot of money when the other news outlets beg for it. Thus begins Joe’s odyssey of helping the princess tour Rome and break free of her scheduled life, with Irving taking pictures along the way, all unknown to the princess as to who Joe and Irving really are. She has not told Joe who she is, that she is just Anna Smith and he hasn’t told her who he really is, telling the princess that he is a fertilizer salesman!
The majority of the film is the fun Princess Anna is having touring Rome with Joe. Many shots of famous Roman sites are in this film and there is a cute segment of the princess trying to drive a Vespa scooter. A famous site that is visited is the “Mouth of Truth”, which is a face carved in stone that has an open mouth in the carving. Joe tells Anna that legend says if a liar puts his or her hand into the mouth, it will get cut off. Both challenge one another to place their hand in the mouth and the scene builds on the tenseness each character has developed about the lie they are living, by not revealing who each of them really is. Anna’s day of sightseeing is done but she is not ready to go back to the embassy. She tells Joe about a dance near some boats that the hairdresser who cut her hair invited her to. Off she and Joe go to the dance, with Irving tagging along to get some photographs. The embassy has meanwhile flown in secret agents from the home country and they have found the princess at the dance. A melee results as Anna and Joe manage to get away and as they flee they realize they both have fallen in love with each other. What will happen? Will they reveal who they really are to one another? Will Princess Anna be allowed to marry an American who is obviously not royalty? Will Joe be willing to give up his life to live in a palace? Will Joe turn the story into his boss along with Irving’s pictures?Will Irving sell his photographs to make himself some extra money? Will the newspaper story harm the Princess? I am not giving away the answers because I want the readers of this blog to find this movie, view it and see the answers for themselves!
Roman Holiday was directed by William Wyler and the screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and Edith Head won the Award for Best Costumes. Two side-notes about the film: First, Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in the late 1940s for communist party sympathies, so even though he wrote the screenplay, his name couldn’t be listed as the actual writer. Another writer agreed to let his name be used in Trumbo’s place in the credits, and this writer sent all payments for the film to Trumbo. I also assume that this same writer after he accepted the Oscar, had it sent to Trumbo. 60 years after the movie was released, Trumbo was finally given posthumous credit for having written it. Second, Elizabeth Taylor was the first choice to play the princess, but after Hepburn’s screen test, she so wowed the director and the crew that the part was hers. Roman Holiday is a very charming movie. A gentle romance-comedy that is tastefully done and very well-acted. I am glad that it was the movie that my twin daughters chose!