When I was in my twenties, decades ago, I fell in love with a man that was just not meant to be. We were together for a few years, even though we both knew we could not live in either of our everyday realities. We clung to each other during that short time. We were passionate and romantic and spent most of our time enjoying each other’s company. But in the end, we still came from two different worlds. There could not be a meeting in the middle. We both felt a tremendous duty to our family and community. We walked away from each other much like Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) and Joe (Gregory Peck) in the beautiful rom/com, ROMAN HOLIDAY. Whenever I watch this film, I am flooded with snippets and flashes of our time together. They are much like the photographs Irving (Eddie Albert) placed in the Princess’s hands at the end of the film. Bittersweet moments that I hold deep in my heart for no one to see…until I watch ROMAN HOLIDAY again.
ROMAN HOLIDAY was filmed in 1953 entirely in Rome, Italy. The studio wanted it to be produced on a sound stage in Hollywood, but the director, William Wyler, would not hear of it. His concession was to film in black and white even though Technicolor was the standard. Wyler also wanted to get away from the U.S. since Joe McCarthy’s blacklist was in full swing. RH introduced Audrey to the world. Everyone knew she would be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. She was, and she won. Edith Head, the legendary costume designer, also won an Oscar. (During Edith’s career, she was awarded eight Oscars and 35 nominations.) When the filming finished, Audrey was gifted all her dresses, gowns, hats, shoes, and jewelry. I am so jealous.
One of the most romantic tidbits about the film happened in real life while on location. Gregory came to Rome depressed because he and his first wife just separated and headed to divorce. While in Rome, he met, by chance, another woman and fell in love. After his divorce, Gregory married her, and they stayed together until he died. Now that’s a love story. Audrey also met a man who would become her future husband as well. Love is in the air when in Rome.
ROMAN HOLIDAY has a unique story line. A stunning, overworked Princess travels to Italy for public relations work. She decides she wants to see how “ordinary” people” live. She needs a break from all her obligations and “have to’s.” She sneaks out of the castle, falls asleep on a city bench, and meets Joe, a reporter for global news. He is kind and lets her sleep in his apartment. He is a total “Never been with a man alone before. Even with my clothes on.” The next day he finds out who she really is but does not let on that he knows. The Princess is not saying either. Joe decides he could make a ton of badly needed money by writing an exclusive article about the woman behind the crown. He pulls his photographer friend into the deal, and they are off. What a glorious day they all spend together doing whatever the incognito Princess wants. Her wishes are easy…nothing fancy. One of the silly scenes brought them to the Mouth of Truth, where it is tradition to place your hand inside the mouth. If you are honest and truthful, nothing will happen. But if you are not, you could lose your hand. Gregory improvised the scene when he pulled out a missing hand hidden in his suit sleeve. Audrey was startled and screamed for real. The scene was completed in one take. All good days must come to an end. Kudos to the grace and elegance of Joe and Ann’s final moments. I loved learning that the line of reporters were real reporters. And the royalty that surrounded the Princess, in the beginning, were authentic members of royal families from all over Europe. Nice casting touches.
ROMAN HOLIDAY is 120 minutes of brilliant performances and a story that leaves audiences thoroughly entertained. The chemistry between Audrey and Gregory was spellbinding. Who wouldn’t want to lay their head upon his broad shoulders? And who in their right mind wouldn’t dream of holding Audrey Hepburn?
There are tender, poignant moments along with weaving viewers through the streets of a post-war Italy. The sights, the sounds, the warmth of the Italian people stood out in every frame. It was like showing home movies of your magical, recent vacation. The film showcased the lighter side of life for a few seconds with humor and pathos. RH is a movie any couple could sit together while cuddling and enjoy, even though “Life isn’t what one always likes…is it?” ROMAN HOLIDAY is a spectacular delight for any classic rom/com lover.
ROMAN HOLIDAY is available on TCM.