All February I’m adding reviews of romance films from my archive that haven’t been posted to the site. This one comes from July 25, 2009. Other than parts of “My Fair Lady,” it’s still the only Audrey Hepburn movie I’ve seen.
With so much garbage being dished out these days by Hollywood under the label of “romantic comedy,” films like “Roman Holiday” never grow old. The timeless fairytale elements like a princess trying to disguise herself as a commoner and the classic routine of two people being dishonest with each other while falling in love only gets better when played against the live backdrop of Rome.
One of the first films to truly shoot on location, “Roman Holiday” is that quintessential romance in a foreign country picture. In it, a young English Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), tired of her royal routine as an ambassador, sneaks away and into the path of American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). After Bradley realizes who she is, he crafts a plan to turn the coincidence into an exclusive story and spends a day with her going about Rome. It’s similar in premise to the 1934 Frank Capra classic “It Happened One Night” only less dramatic in terms of romance.
Little can truly describe what it is about Audrey Hepburn, but she is outstanding in the role that shot her to fame and earned her an instant Oscar. She has an allure and a beauty that is not unparalleled, but incomparable to any other star of the era. She looks youthful and childish at times but is also emphatically elegant and classy — she’s a unique talent.
Opposite her is a perfectly cast Gregory Peck, whose experience and maturity really shows in a role that is ultimately a supporting one. This is a story about Princess Ann and her discovery and he recognizes that, never taking focus from her in their scenes together.
William Wyler captures this excellent chemistry in a film that is really quite naturally entertaining. It doesn’t necessitate serious conflict — the premise alone and our anticipation of them both coming clean about their facades keep us going and even then, Dalton Trumbo (story) and Ian McLellan Hunter (screenplay) bring us that moment in a way that is implied rather than forced, avoiding clichés that most romantic comedies of today can’t seem to let go.
“Roman Holiday” is such a classy movie that despite moderate laughs and no deep conflict, manages to capture our attention and our lighter side. It’s one of those films that just sweeps you up and gives you something to enjoy without redundant or overbearing tactics that the genre has been so used to seeing for a century.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Directed by William Wyler
Written by Ian McLellan Hunter (screenplay), Dalton Trumbo (story)
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck