Jill and I will both be upfront that many films on our collective “List of Shame” (a term that seems to have originated with Dan Trachtenberg of the Totally Rad Show) involve three hour epics and films made before 1970. Until yesterday, Roman Holiday was one such film.
Admittedly, we sometimes find it difficult to watch older movies because we have to be “in the right mood,” which generally means we’re both awake enough to not be rendered unconscious by pre-ADD pacing. We’re just not used to it, and it can require diligence.
However, this was not a problem at all for the 1953 romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The film starts out at a nice pace, and keeps it going through the conclusion. Hepburn’s character, Princess Ann, is on a grand European tour when she decides she’s had enough of the smile-and-wave charade, and sneaks out of the palace for a day of fun around Rome. She meets an American reporter, Joe Bradley (Peck), who is assigned to write a story on the princess, although at first glance he doesn’t recognize the strange girl asleep in his apartment.
While it is the two leads that get the most attention, the supporting cast is excellent as well, with Eddie Albert standing out as Irving Radovich, Joe Bradley’s photographer friend. Aside from Albert’s character, the supporting cast isn’t fleshed out all that much, but they shine as character actors and add depth to the story. I especially enjoyed Margaret Rawlings as Countess Vereberg, the Princess’ heavy-handed overseer.
The first thing I noticed about this film is that the writing is fantastic, and really funny. The quips and one-liners are top notch; you just don’t always get to experience such dialogue today. There is also a decent amount of physical comedy, which is rarely of this quality in any of today’s films, not to mention the current style of romantic comedy, a genre which is basically poisoning itself. The films of this era told classic stories with interesting characters and broad comedic range. The timing between Peck and Albert is fantastic, especially considering Peck was known for his more serious roles.
Roman Holiday is Hepburn’s debut as a lead actress, and it garnered her a much deserved Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also earns it’s number four spot on AFI’s Top Ten Romantic Comedies and 100 Passions, because it’s vibrant, funny, and warm. A worthy viewing experience that I would recommend for anyone.