Film Review: Roman Holiday – 8/10

‘I don’t know how to say goodbye. I can’t think of any words...’

Despite being one of the most iconic actresses of all time, I had never seen an Audrey Hepburn movie before Roman Holiday. This is partly because she was hardly a prolific actress and partly because the kind of films she made – centered around romance – are not the usual preserve of a man with a heart of stone like me. And this is a shame, because Roman Holiday is great, and she is great in it…

Ann (Hepburn) is a bored and sheltered princess who escapes the shackles of her position in order to enjoy a wild weekend in Rome with journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). As this is Hollywood in the 1950s, Peck is obviously old enough to be Hepburn’s father, but it’s best not to dwell on this for too long.

Director William Wyler, working from a screenplay from legendary writer Dalton Trumbo (albeit uncredited until years later due to being blacklisted in Hollywood), has a few aces up his sleeves. Aside from Hepburn and Peck, he also has Eddie Irving providing the comic relief as Joe’s photographer friend Irving (it is also worth noting that Irving looks for all the world like a time traveller who has wandered on set from the future with his hipster beard and casual clothing – it’s disconcerting to see a male character from this era not indulging in a full three piece suit). To return to Hepburn briefly, her Oscar winning performance here is perhaps one of the finest ever from an unknown actress. Peck knew it (demanding that she received top billing), and soon the whole world knew it too.

Perhaps most importantly, Wyler also has the city of Rome at his disposal and he makes full use of it. It is fascinating to see that people were allowed to just lounge around inside the Trevi Fountain, and the famous Mouth of Truth scene ensured that Rome would receive thousands of movie geeks on a pilgrimage for years to come.

Roman Holiday is beautifully written, enthusiastically performed and utterly irresistible. One of the best romantic comedies of the era.