A sheltered princess escapes her handlers and falls in
love with a dashing journalist on the streets of Rome.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Directed by William Wyler
Written by Dalton Trumbo, Ian McLellan Hunter, John Dighton
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert,
Hartley Power, Margaret Rawlings, Harcourt Williams
Oscar Wins - Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn),
Best Story, Best Costume Design
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(Eddie Albert), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay,
Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing
The first thing I noticed about this celebrated American classic was how unapologetically similar it is in plot and character to 1934's It Happened One Night, which does a much better job of marrying comedy, romance, and random hijinks. That isn't to say Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck don't shine here. They certainly do. But the film hasn't aged as well as people who saw it in 1953 would like to believe. I think it's weird that this film is so revered as the beginning of the American romantic comedy, especially when Frank Capra had already done almost this exact film not even twenty years prior. Ultimately, it's the performances and the commitment to realism that keep the film from drifting into dull territory.
Hepburn, in her first major starring role, plays Princess Ann, the heir to the throne of some unnamed nation. She's on a nonstop tour of European capitals, and in Rome, she gets a little antsy. She escapes her handlers and winds up on the streets, where she is taken in by a kindly journalist named Joe Bradley (Peck). Once he realizes who she is, Joe sees this as the perfect exclusive. But the more time he spends with Ann, who is experiencing the real world for the first time, the more he likes her, and soon they fall in love. It's a bit sudden, but most cinematic love stories are. But the film acknowledges that a romance would never work. He's a journalist and she's a princess, with obligations to the crown. The film ends with broken hearts, which didn't often happen.
Roman Holiday has its moments, but it borrows a lot from a superior movie and struggles to keep your interest for its surprisingly hefty runtime. I think a good chunk of it could've been cut for time, and I would've liked to explore Princess Ann's side of things a bit more. This film has lasted this long because of Hepburn and Peck, and their timeless chemistry.