Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Holidays In Rome A Royal Treat

Roman Holiday

I have a tendency to rifle through other people’s DVD collections upon first visiting their home. My wife claims that I am “judging” individuals based on the type of movies they watch. The truth is I have a genuine curiosity of what type of films people enjoy. Considering that my small collection of DVDs includes titles that would make many scratch their head, I am the last person to cast stones. Another reason I enjoy going through other people’s collection is that I often discover new, to me, films to see.

When I came across a copy of Roman Holiday at a friend’s place recently, she was shocked that I had never seen, let alone heard of, a film that she considered a “classic.” While I try to see as many films as I can, I will be the first to admit that there are a slew of films, classics and otherwise, that I have yet to see. Frankly it would take me an entire lifetime to catch up on all the ones I missed. Fortunately my friend was willing to assist me in my ongoing film education by loaning me her copy of the film. (Thanks again, Mel!)

Directed by William Wyler, Roman Holiday tells the tale of a princess, Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who is fed up with the dullness of Royal protocol. Ann is suppose to be on a European tour but her Royal duties have left her little time to actual explore the world outside. One night Ann sneaks out her hotel and runs into Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an American report whose in Rome to interview the princess. Not recognizing Ann at first, Joe is more concerned with getting the young woman off the cold and dangerous streets. Once Joe realizes who Ann really is, the allure of getting an exclusive story becomes too great to pass up. With Ann wanting nothing more than to experience Rome like an average tourist would; Joe tries his best to keep his true motives secret. He even enlists his photographer pal, Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), to discreetly capture Ann’s exploration on film. As Ann and Joe spend the day together feelings start to develop. Joe is forced to question whether getting the story is more important than following his heart.

Roman Holiday follows the timeless formula in which relationships are formed based on secrets and lies; and characters incite comedic mishaps while attempting to keep their secrets hidden. One of the most enjoyable scenes in the entire movie comes when Joe tries to convince his boss, Mr. Hennessy (Hartley Power), that he was at the press interview with the princess. Mr. Hennessy already knows that the interview with the press was cancelled, yet he relishes in the fact that he has caught Joe in a lie that is getting bigger by the moment. It is in this scene where Gregory Peck’s comedic timing shines. For me this scene edges out Joe’s drink spilling encounter with Irving for funniest moment of the film.

As fairytale romantic comedies go, Peck is everything you would expect from a leading man in this type of film. He gets to play broad comedy as well as being the suave gentlemen. The relationship between Joe and Ann is fascinating despite the pairings obvious differences. Unlike Peck, Hepburn does not get that many scenes were she can really let loose comedic wise. With the exception of a few moments here and there, Hepburn is forced to stick to the confines of what you would expect from a princess.

Despite this, Audrey Hepburn still manages to bring some nice dimensions to her character. The strength in Hepburn’s performance lies in her ability to say so much through mere facial gestures. There is a wonderful moment towards the end when certain secrets are revealed and Ann must not break character in front of the press. Hepburn goes through so many emotions in that one scene. Speaking of the ending, I will merely say that the film ends the way I hoped it would. If the film had been made in more recent times, I doubt it would provided such a satisfying finale. While Roman Holiday is a fairly traditional romantic comedy in terms of plot, the performances are what raise this film above its modern day contemporaries.


  1. You're right made today this movie would lack the subtlety Wyler's masterpiece has.
    Just take a look at "Notting Hill" which is arguably a remake of this done for modern audiences who wouldnt' have gotten the richness in the original's ending.

  2. @Jose - You raise a good point in regards to Notting Hill. I think we have become a culture that only see happy endings as grand romantic gestures/speeches. There is nothing like that at the end of Roman Holiday. Yet the impact was so much more powerful, and dare I say more romantic, than Notting Hill or any other rom-com.

  3. I, too, love to peruse other people's DVD collections. It really passes the time while other people are small-talking up a storm.

    So glad to have stumbled upon your review of Roman Holiday. It's been a favorite for years. Hepburn and Peck are fantastic--subtle, but very emotionally effective.

    As for the ending, I believe it demonstrated a shift for the more realistic in Hollywood storytelling in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Twenty years prior to Roman Holiday, It Happened One Night was released and won Best Picture. It's very similar in plot to Roman Holiday, but has a drastically different ending/outcome. So the contemporary shift back to lighthearted, crowd-pleasing storytelling may be merely a return to screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s. It's not so much a broad battle between "now" and "then," but more of a reflection of what audiences want, how they feel, and what Hollywood is willing to deliver. That said, Roman Holiday certainly has one of the best endings I've ever seen.


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