The movie I am recommending you today is total perfection. It’s a cinematic kiss. One that will wake you out of any malaise or dissatisfaction you’ve been under.
“Best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for a while,” Dr. Bonnachoven prescribes Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) as he injects her with a sedative for the young royal is exhausted with her scheduled and confined life during a whirlwind good will tour of Europe in the classic romantic comedy “Roman Holiday” (1953). She sneaks out of the embassy before the drug takes effect – and falls asleep on a bench on the streets of Rome – where she’s found by American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck.) Not knowing who she is and incapable of getting herself home, he lets her crash in his apartment. While she still sleeps, Joe goes to his newspaper offices and finds out the Princess’ identity – and realizes he can make good money by getting an exclusive story, “the private and secret longings of the Princess.” Joe hides his identity and convinces Ann to spend an entire day touring Rome – doing all the things she has always wished she could do. Love sneaks up on them.
Three time Oscar winning director Director William Wyler – “Ben-Hur” (1959), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), and “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) – was known as a perfectionist who demanded several takes sometimes even forty. He also developed a reputation for getting great performances out of his actors. He holds the record of having directed thirty-six Oscar nominated performances. Out of those, fourteen won which is also a record – including Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Charlton Heston and Barbra Streisand. He hadn’t done a comedy in 20 years when he undertook “Roman Holiday.” Wyler handles this film with great subtlety and a perfectly stately pace. The film will have moments of slapstick and great physical comedy – yet it’s all grounded. I don’t recall laughing out loud in so long.
The movie was shot on location in Rome and at the famous Cinecittà studios where legendary Federico Fellini made his movies. Following World War II, the Italian capital emerged as a major hub for international movies taking advantage of lower costs. This period became known as “Hollywood on the Tiber” where films like “Quo Vadis,” “Ben Hur” and “Cleopatra” were shot. In “Roman Holiday”, we experience the Eternal City as the Princess does – the camera treating us as wide-eyed visitors. It’s all stunning – a much needed guided tour for us that are sheltering. We get night scenes of the Fori Imperiali, a haircut by Fontana di Trevi, a gelato stop at the Piazza di Spagna, a wild Vespa ride through Piazza Venezia, a bit of fun at the Bocca della Verità – and a nighttime dance by the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Most importantly, we get to experience one of the most glorious pairings in cinema history – Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Peck – one of the most intelligent actors – is allowed to let loose and when he starts to fall in love – watching him become smitten is beautiful. Hepburn – making the greatest Hollywood feature debut – is indescribably extraordinary. This is one of the performances any real film lover needs to see more than once in their lifetime. She has a sincerity – truthfulness – and delivery that seem effortless. Her knack for physical comedy is scrumptious. Please note her whacking the secret agents with the guitar – and the first morning as she walks out of the apartment, watch her interact with the street vendors. There’s a sense of natural wonder and innocence that is so real. Her beauty emanates from inside. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
We need love and laughter at this moment in our lives – and “Roman Holiday” provides plenty of both. The last press conference at the Palazzo Colonna – a perfect example of the incredible directorial pacing of William Wyler – will simultaneously make you laugh and break your heart. This movie will linger with you forever.
Joe Bradley: “You should always wear my clothes.”
Princess Anne: “It seems I do.”
Available to stream on Amazon Prime, Flixfling and CBS All Access and to rent on Google Play, YouTube, FandangoNOW, Vudu, Microsoft, Redbox, iTunes, DIRECTV, Flixfling, Amazon and AMC Theatres on Demand.
Screenplay by Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton
Story and Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo (originally uncredited)
Directed by William Wyler
Starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn
Dalton Trumbo Finally Recognized for “Roman Holiday”
“Dalton Trumbo, the writer behind the original story for the 1953 film starring Hepburn and Gregory Peck, was part of the Hollywood Ten, a group of industry writers and directors who were accused of being Communist sympathisers by the US House of Representatives’ Committee on un-American Activities. The Ten and others were blacklisted in the late 1940s and ’50s by Hollywood film studios concerned that hiring them would be bad for business. The blacklist ruined many careers and some writers, like Trumbo, used surrogates for their work. “It is not in our power to erase the mistakes or the suffering of the past,” Writers Guild of America West President Chris Keyser in a statement. “But we can make amends, we can pledge not to fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor, even if that pledge is really only a hope. And, in the end, we can give credit where credit is due.”
The WGA is a trade organisation that represents film, TV and other writers, and it regularly decides issues on screenwriting credit when, and if, disputes arise. We can pledge not to fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor, even if that pledge is really only a hope. Following his blacklisting, Trumbo moved to Mexico to work anonymously and used fellow screenwriter Ian McClellan Hunter as a frontman for his writing in Hollywood.
Hunter, whose name appears on the credits for “Roman Holiday,” submitted Trumbo’s script and collected the studio’s payment on his behalf. Hunter was later blacklisted, too. Chris Trumbo and Tim Hunter, sons of both screenwriters, approached the WGA in 2010 to propose that Dalton Trumbo be recognised as the original writer of “Roman Holiday.” The WGA found evidence supporting their claims and although the credited writers of the film are no longer alive, the guild made an attempt to reverse history.”The WGA has not undone the hurt, but it has, at last and at least, told the truth. That fact is a tribute to the friendship of two fathers and then two sons and to a thing we can hold on to, which is that the friendship was stronger than and outlived the hate,” said Keyser. (telegraph.co.uk)
Casting Audrey Hepburn
“Roman Holiday” costar Gregory Peck insisted that Hepburn receive the same top billing on the film, a project that she was almost overlooked for entirely. Producers initially imagined Elizabeth Taylor in the role. But the director, William Wyler, was so impressed by Hepburn’s screen test that he opted to cast the relatively unknown actress in the lead instead. As part of Peck’s contract, the film was originally set to feature his name above the title, with “Introducing Audrey Hepburn” to follow beneath in smaller font. Soon after filming began, Peck made a phone call to his agent and requested otherwise. “The real star of the picture is Audrey Hepburn,” Peck said. “We all knew that this was going to be an important star and we began to talk off-camera about the chance that she might win an Academy Award in her first film.” (She did in 1954.) The moment was also in part thanks to her legendary screen test. When the actress performed a scene from the film, the cameraman were told to keep things rolling after the director said, “Cut.” Several minutes of unscripted Hepburn was captured on film and the end result won her the part. “She was absolutely delightful,” Wyler said when he saw the test. “Acting, looks, and personality.” (vogue.com)
Filming “Roman Holiday”
“…Wyler resisted the studio’s suggestion to shoot most of the picture on the lot and insisted on filming in Rome. Studio interiors were filmed at the Cinecitti facilities in Rome. Paramount production files indicate that the following Roman locations were used in the picture: Via Ruggero Fauro; Ciampino Airport; Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Colonna, which were used for the embassy scenes; Piazza Venezia, where the motorscooter scene was filmed; Via Morgangni, the location of the wishing wall; Roman Forum; the Colosseum; the Bocca della Verit; Via Nuova; the Spanish Steps; Via dei Giardini; Palazzo Brancaccio, which provided the princess’ embassy bedroom; Piazza Ungheria, Via IV Fontane; Castel St. Angelo; Ponte Vittorio; Piazza de Trevi; Piazza Quirinale, where the police station scene was recorded; Piazza del Pantheon; and Via Margutta, the site of “Joe’s” apartment. According to Paramount records, the lengthy production cost approximately $2,092,487 and was about $700,000 over budget. Modern sources note that the picture was financed with blocked funds, which Paramount was allowed to use only after getting script approval from the Italian government.” (tcm.com)
About Director William Wyler
“Born to Jewish parents in Germany in 1902, Wyler became interested in American culture at an early age. His cousin, Carl Laemmle, was the head of Universal Pictures, and in 1920 brought Wyler to America. Before long he was living in Hollywood and working on films. Within five years he was an assistant director, concentrating much of his energy on short Westerns. By the early 1930s, Wyler had begun to direct features, and with COUNSELOR-AT-LAW (1933) he received his first taste of success. He followed it two years later with two films, a comedy written by Preston Sturges called THE GOOD FAIRY, and THE GAY DECEPTION (1935). By 1936, Wyler had teamed up with Samuel Goldwin to make the film, THESE THREE. The following year they made DODSWORTH, a film that dealt with a decaying marriage, and in 1937 DEAD END, about life in the slums. Working with Bette Davis throughout the early 1940s, Wyler created such classic films as THE LETTER(1940) and THE LITTLE FOXES (1941). During the mid-1940s, Wyler was in the Army, where he made a number of documentaries. Before leaving for the service he had had his most popular film, MRS. MINIVER, and upon returning he made what is considered his best, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). Both about wartime, MRS. MINIVER dealt with the lives of the British during the war, while THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES hit home with a serious look at the lives of three veterans returning home from the war. For Wyler, the 1950s were a time of great achievement. With ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), he not only directed a significant and popular film, he first presented Audrey Hepburn to an American audience. With major releases such as THE DESPERATE HOURS (1955) and THE BIG COUNTRY (1958), he set the scene for his unprecedented success with a re-make of BEN-HUR (1959). It won eleven Oscars and remains a classic today. Throughout the 1960s Wyler continued to make films including THE COLLECTOR (1965) and FUNNY GIRL (1968) starring Barbara Streisand in her film debut. Already in his late sixties, Wyler directed THE LIBERATION OF L.B. JONES (1970) about racism in a southern town. Soon after, he retired, and in 1981 he passed away. Acknowledged by the Academy Awards and filmmakers everywhere for his lifetime commitment to the highest quality filmmaking, William Wyler stands out as a major source in the history of American dramatic cinema.” (PBS)