Roman holidays came out in 1953, it was directed by William Wyler, it starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and the screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo. Let me say it straight away: this film came out 65 years ago and it seems that it only came out yesterday. The dialogues are brilliant, there is a lot of slapstick comedy, the story is captivating, its cinematography makes Rome nothing less than spectacular… and Audrey Hepburn is unique. Without a doubt Roman holiday is one of the best romantic comedies in the history of cinema! Let’s talk about it.
Apparently, if we can enjoy Roman holiday as it is, we must thank Paramount, but not for the reasons you may think of. Wyler fought against the decision of the production company to shoot the film in Hollywood and decided to shoot on location, in Rome. Paramount accepted, but granted him a smaller budget than initially planned, which led to the choice of the then-not-well-known Audrey Hepburn as the protagonist! What a fortunate turn of events! Audrey Hepburn is simply perfect in this movie. The part of the bored princess who escapes from her golden cage to live a few hours of freedom was basically made for the very young Hepburn: she was young, beautiful, innocent… look at these photos!
Audrey Hepburn here is of an indescribable beauty, for me even more so than in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). So, you may ask, is the film’s success based only on her presence? No, it is not. Gregory Peck is also amazing in this, and, above all, there is a fantastic screenplay authored by Dalton Trumbo (when the movie came out he could not sign it with his name because he was in Hollywood’s black list, but in the DVD edition his name is finally where it should be).
The script is fantastic not so much for the story, which ultimately can be briefly summarized: a young and bored princess escapes from the building where she is staying in Rome and spends a few hours going around with a charming and penniless American journalist. What makes the screenplay fantastic is the brilliance of each scene: the dialogues are sharp, the actors’ interactions are studied down to the smallest detail, their movements are incredibly dynamic… and the whole film is a real love letter to Rome, which really shines on screen. Beautifully photographed, the eternal city demonstrates to be a profound but at the same time light-hearted place, with impressive monuments, crowded bars, traditional dances and music… and it’s funny to listen to the Roman extras talking with Gregory Peck trying to spit out a few words of Italian!
Moreover, even though it is “just” a romantic comedy, the film deals with several important and profound themes. This is not surprising given the screenwriter (I always recommend watching Trumbo, the 2015 film directed by Jay Roach with the talented Bryan Cranston playing Dalton Trumbo himself). Roman holiday deals with concepts like the freedom of choice, with choices made by others that affect us and whose consequences we don’t like. It deals with responsibility and the need of taking things not too seriously all the time. And there’s also some satire! Not only is the life of the noble princess extremely boring and uninteresting (and she is treated as a six-year-old girl by all those who serve her), but when the secret services come into play they are completely and utterly useless and ridiculous! The secret agents fail to go unnoticed anywhere in Rome and prove to be unable to complete their mission.
In short, for me this film is a must-see. Well written, well shot, well acted, and with an incredible Audrey Hepburn! If you have not seen it, get it asap! Ciao!