Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on September 2, 1953
Directed by William Wyler
Written by Dalton Trumbo, John Dighton, and Ian McLellan Hunter
Cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, Margaret Rawlings, Paolo Carlini, Claudo Ermelli, Alfredo Rizzo, Paola Borboni, Gildo Bocci, Catherine Wyler, Judy Wyler
One of the great romance comedies of all time…a fun, sweet, and thoroughly engaging trip around the most scenic and memorable locales of Rome, with Audrey Hepburn simply superb in her first film role, as a young princess who grows tired of the royal routine and escapes to the nighttime streets of Rome, wanting nothing more than to experience life from the other side of the royal walls.
Along the way she meets Gregory Peck, in a rare comedic role (and doing a grand job of it), playing a news reporter who at first is oblivious to her identity, but soon clues in and realizes the journalistic and money-making possibilities of the situation; to capitalize on this, he convinces her to spend the day with him as her tour guide, having a ‘holiday’ and sharing in all the simple things she yearns to do. Invited along for the ride is Peck’s photographer friend Eddie Albert, who covertly records the events using a tiny cigarette lighter camera.
All of this was set against the backdrop of 1950s Rome, which was portrayed as a warm, comfortable, and enjoyable place to be, and has you wishing it could’ve stayed stuck in time, just as it was, forever. The three leads made a wonderful screen trio, and Peck and Hepburn were a great match as friendly acquaintances who slowly become attracted to each other over the course of a day.
The comedy, romance, and travelogue aspects were presented in equal doses, and director William Wyler brought everything together smoothly, creating a multitude of wonderful moments and touches that were both festive and charming, and blended from scene to scene with ease; his black-and-white photography at key locations throughout the city—the Spanish Steps, the Wall of Truth, and the Trevi Fountain, to name a few—added a simple, bygone charm to the proceedings, and I don’t think filming in color would’ve made for a better option.
In fact, it may not have been an option at all; apparently, Wyler’s insistence on shooting on-location in Italy, instead of on studio sets in Hollywood, eliminated the budget for color film! Thankfully, there were enough finances left over for the writers; the award-winning screenplay was not only exceptional in its storytelling, but was a showcase for dialogue that the actors delivered to perfection.
I thought everything about Roman Holiday was nothing short of perfect, from its joyful opening credits to its heartbreaking but necessary conclusion. As you may have guessed, I absolutely love this movie, and it’s been a staple of my ever-changing all-time favorites lists for many years. If you’re at all a romantic at heart—or perhaps even if you’re not—then this film is not to be missed. (10/10)