Roman Holiday is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the moving blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!
Onto my review of the first film I can cross of my Shame List is Roman Holiday (1953):
When I was watching Roman Holiday, I couldn’t help but enjoy each scene, taking in everything I could. No doubt, it’s a movie I’ll revisit again and again, which confirms my purchase of a DVD copy before I had even seen it.
Growing up, I fondly remember watching Audrey Hepburn play the infamous role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964), and the image of a dirty, cockney woman turned into a stately, prim and proper socialite was burned into my memory. Years later, following my college years, I decided to give Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) a try given its reputation. I got to see another well-known side of Hepburn, although I couldn’t help but wonder what the “wow” factor was of the film. But that’s a whole other post altogether.
My only knowledge of Roman Holiday before viewing it is that it starred Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the leads, and that they fell in love but never got together. I was excited to see this movie for that little insight alone, yet I was shocked when the movie opened and Hepburn was playing a princess and Peck was working for the press.
The opening scene, as no doubt many have recalled and talked about, is famous for its simplicity: Princess Ann is on the last leg of her European tour. She’s exhausted, yet she knows how to paste on her happy face and polite voice because she’s so accustomed to doing so. She’s just arrived in Rome, about to sit down when a huge line of Roman higher ups and citizens await to greet this famous princess who’s just arrived in town. She’s plays it calm, only occasionally lifting her right foot out of her shoe to ease the strain of standing and walking in heels, when she accidentally nicks her shoe, unable to retrieve it without drawing attention. One by one, her assistants emote looks of panic as they realize the gravity of the situation: with all eyes on the princess, no one can subtly collect her shoe.
And that is just the first of many memorable scenes that make Roman Holiday so sweet, enjoyable, and of course a staple in classic film history and a model for so many romantic comedies. Multiple modern romantic comedies came to mind as I watched Roman Holiday, explaining the inspiration directors and actors have aspired to imitating in the last few decades.
When reviewing Roman Holiday, as well as others on my Shame List, I know I’ll run into a problem Dan realized when he recently reviewed Fight Club (1999) at his blog: it’s hard not to reiterate in a review what everyone else has already said about a critically-revered film that’s already had everything discussed and dissected in it. Roman Holiday is a beloved film, and I’m so happy to experience why everyone else who has seen it appreciates it for its beauty, simplicity, and mark on film history.
Of course, Gregory Peck stands out in this film, not only for his acting skills and his tall, dark handsomeness, but also because he stands head and shoulders above all the other guys. This is especially noticeable in the end scene when he’s standing in the middle of the front line of press writers and photographers. I imagine William Wyler purposefully set the scene so that Peck stood out in the group. That scene also captured how well both lead performers were able to express their characters with just their eyes, and it made me wonder when the last time I was so moved by a scene that said so much without many words.
When Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) leaves the royal hall, the scene shows one man taking his time as he strides down the beautiful, rich walls that make up just the hall of where royalty presides. After this end scene, I think of the contrast of the earlier scene with Princess Ann entering Bradley’s room for the first time, and even under the influence of a heavy drug that’s taken its toll, she still inquires if his room is the elevator.
Both leads know how to employ physical comedy, and I can imagine Eddie Albert received his share of scrapes and bruises from constantly getting knocked down or pushed over. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Hepburn impaling a guitar by smashing it over the head over a Secret Service agent while fleeing a dance party.
Despite their best efforts and logical influences, Joe and Ann fall in love in front of us, even if it’s just for a few hours. True love isn’t on display until Bradley pretends he never got the story, because he cherishes his time with Ann more than winning a bet and making some much-needed extra cash. Extending the photos as “scenic photos from Rome” as a gift to Ann reveals Irving’s (Eddie Albert) sincerity as well.
I also really enjoyed all of the fashion, especially on Hepburn (no wonder she’s considered a fashion icon). The dress she wears in the final scene is a great example of how beautiful an outfit can be in black and white. Even with her sporting long and short hair styles throughout the film, her face shines without a single imperfection to be spotted, and it’s assuring that’s her fashionable status is well-earned if she just cracks a smile. I doubt her barber (Claudio Ermelli) really acted too much when melting over the gorgeous actress, like most men did in the film.
Roman Holiday is my favorite Audrey Hepburn film I’ve viewed thus far, and it makes me want to see more of her films. I don’t need any more encouragement to view more Gregory Peck films, although Roman Holiday only confirms my need to see him in more.
All images found via Google Images.
I give Roman Holiday
ON SCREEN, crossing my first film off my Shame List.
It’s your turn now. What did you think of Roman Holiday? Would you consider it a classic or a must-see film? Or does it make it on your Shame List? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!