- Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann
- Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley
- Eddie Albert as Irving Radovich
A beautifully charming, amusing yet bittersweet romantic comedy, Roman Holiday is a glorious and magical movie that weaves its charm on you from start to finish. With a career making role for the wonderful Audrey Hepburn and lovely chemistry with co-star Gregory Peck, this is a romantic comedy of a golden standard that they just don’t make like this anymore.
The plot revolves around the young Princess Ann, who is heir to the throne of an unspecified European country. She is on a tour of Europe and the latest exhausting trip has taken her to Rome. But beneath the courteous bows and wide smile, the young Ann desires freedom from stifling regulations and wants to live a life where she isn’t told what to do or where to go. One night and on the spur of the moment, she sneaks away from her royal life and ventures into the Eternal City. Unfortunately she become dazed due to being given a sedative by her doctor earlier in the night to calm her stress, and she falls asleep on a bench. She is found by American reporter Joe Bradley, who not recognizing who she is, takes her back to his apartment so she can rest as he believes that she is merely drunk. The next morning, Joe discovers thanks to his friends at the newspaper that the woman in his apartment is in fact the Princess, whose chaperons have said that she has been taken ill in order to avoid a scandal as they search for the runaway princess. Joe sees the opportunity to get a story from Ann that could fetch in a lot of money. With the help of photographer friend Irving, he charms Ann by concealing his job and takes her on a days long adventure around the wonderful city. Yet while in the beginning he intended to just get a story from the yearning princess, his heart stops him in his tracks as he falls for the beautiful Ann and reconsiders his actions. The incognito Ann also questions herself as she herself grows enamored with Joe, despite knowing that her adventure can only last for a day.
The masterful William Wyler directs Roman Holiday with a sublime elegance and a certain magic that captures the beauty of the city and the sweet but very touching romance. The way he shoots the Rome locations as a graceful attraction unfolds is a marvel to behold and features some stunning shots of the iconic city. He keeps the humorous escapades in check as well as highlighting a bittersweet undertone due to the fact that Ann and Joe are from different backgrounds and the chance of accepted romance( despite the obvious attraction that slowly grows )coming into fruition is unlikely. There is romance here, but it’s more subtle and tender rather than going overboard on overblown tragedy. It’s all superbly handled and makes the relationship between the two engaging and sublime and it certainly adds to the magical impact of the film that Hepburn and Peck work so beautifully together. In essence, Roman Holiday is a reversal of the Cinderella formula, with the luminous Ann wanting to escape her rich lifestyle and find the freedom that she craves. This subversion is a welcome change and adds to the smart script that rings true with its message of wanting to be free from constraints and wanting to live ones life as one chooses. A delightfully wistful and sweeping score gives voice to the burgeoning romance and freedom that is so yearned for as the magical 24 hours shared by Ann and Joe pass.
This was the movie that launched the young Audrey Hepburn into cinematic royalty, won her a well-deserved Oscar and it’s not hard to see why. Hepburn is beguiling, graceful and moving in her delivery as Princess Ann, imbuing her with a sympathy and charm to spare as she escapes protocol and lives life to her heart’s content for a day. You can’t take your eyes off Hepburn when she’s on screen because of how radiant and graceful she is. This is a true star making role of captivating beauty if ever there was one. She is ably supported by Gregory Peck as the opportunistic journalist Joe whose desire to get a story soon withers as he grows to understand and love the sheltered princess. In the hands of a lesser actor, the role of Joe could have become a real slime ball. But with Gregory Peck in the part, there is a decency there and he exudes more emotion with a glance than some actors can with huge lines of dialogue. Hepburn and Peck have a sterling amount of tender chemistry with one another and it shows so much on the screen. Eddie Albert is very funny as the photographer Irving, who is embroiled in events a little befuddled by what is going on.
Funny yet very touching, Roman Holiday is one of those movies that has not lost any of its nostalgic or romantic impact over the years and remains thoroughly beguiling and sublime.