“I’m not referring to Annie Oakley, Dorothy Lamour, or Madame Chiang Kai-shek. I’m referring to Princess Ann.”
William Wyler’s Roman Holiday stars the great Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley and The Belgian Beauty, Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann. Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1963 at the 35th Academy Awards for his brilliant portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Audrey – probably best known for her Academy Award nominated performance as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which we presented & I introduced here at Rave on May 7 – received the Best Actress Oscar for today’s movie in 1954 at the 26th Academy Awards. Both stars were also Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Academy Award winners. And their on screen chemistry is incredible.
Roman Holiday is a romantic comedy about the princess of an unnamed country on a diplomatic tour of Europe. She hates it. She is young & wants to enjoy her life, but every detail of it is scheduled for her. The stress begins to wear on her in Rome, her last stop, and she breaks down in tears. To relax her, her doctor gives her an injection of a new sleep medication. Amongst its other effects, it gives Ann the nerve to escape her royal reins for a night on the town. Very late that night, American journalist Joe Bradley happens upon & awakens her from a nap at the Forum. At first he thinks she’s just a silly drunk, but soon realizes from her outfit & demeanor that there’s more to her than meets the eye. He hails a cab & agrees to share it with Ann to get her home safely, but she claims to live in the Colosseum. And so her Roman Holiday begins. Many other historic sites are shown in the film: The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, and The Mouth of Truth.
Roman Holiday was nominated for 9 more Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director (both to 3-time Oscar Winner Wyler, who produced the film also), Adapted Screenplay (Ian McLellan Hunter & John Dighton), and Supporting Actor (for a fabulous performance by a bearded Eddie Albert). It took the Oscar for Best Story (Dalton Trumbo’s first of two) and Black-and-White Costume Design (the fifth of an amazing eight for the legendary Edith Head).
Although the credits read “introducing Audrey Hepburn”, this is not her first movie, just her first Hollywood production. The film’s staying power is witnessed by numerous references in pop culture, many revolving around the Mouth of Truth scene. Tributes to the film are common in East Asia, particularly Japan.
The themes of the film – societal pressure, class segregation, the grass is always greener, the relative insignificance of money, maintaining confidences, and most importantly love found & lost – are as timeless & unforgettable as a mysterious Roman Holiday together. So go to your favorite video store, rent a copy, crack open a nice bottle of red wine & watch it with your significant other. E Salute! Una sera romantica nella Città Eterna!!