Written by Veronica Hurtado
The Oscar-winning movie Roman Holiday directed by William Wyler in 1953 is considered to be a classic romantic-comedy. Yet, this black and white classic that gave the iconic classic beauty of Audrey Hepburn a start in Hollywood and earned her an Academy Award win for Best Actress and it gave the legendary actor Gregory Peck, best known for his later role in To Kill a Mocking Bird, his first role in a romantic-comedy does not hold its greatness today.
The movie’s plot takes place in Rome, Italy as Hepburn plays Princess Ann, who takes off on a break from her royal duties during a European political tour without permission while staying in Rome. There, she meets a handsome journalist named Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, who wants to take advantage of the situation because he recognizes she is royalty. Along their encounter, she also meets Irving Radavich, who is Bradley’s photographer played by Eddie Albert. She never confesses to either of them to be royalty nor does Bradley or Albert that they are journalists. After spending a day site-seeing in Rome and getting in trouble, the Princess and Bradley fall in love only to discover that they can’t be with each other because the she is royalty and he is not.
I have to say that I love Audrey Hepburn and that this is the first time I have ever seen Gregory Peck act in a movie, yet this is not their best performance. In this movie I could see why both actors later became stellar performers. Their performance is good, but not great. I have seen Hepburn’s later work (My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany’s) which is much better. Her acting debut in this film captures Hepburn’s talent to become the great actress she later became. Regarding her leading man, Peck, it seems as if he was playing a roll designated to someone like Cary Grant, which he executed well, but was missing his own flare.
Overall there were moments where Hepburn’s acting was a little dull or overly dramatic. For example, in the opening scene when Princess Ann ambassador to Italy host’s a ball in honor of the Princess visit, she is shown dressed in her ball gown, standing up in a platform greeting all the foreign dignitaries as they are presented to her. Yet, as she greets them in all serious etiquette another shot shows the Princess legs under her dress playing with her shoes. Since the dress is long, it is invisible to everyone else what is she doing underneath her dress. Yet, while she takes a shoe off, outside the gown she is greeting everyone. Hepburn’s does convey that the protocol is routine and that it is tedious and boring to greet a long line of dignitaries. Yet, it almost feels as if it lacks a fake smile. It just maybe that I am used to seeing a less rigid form of monarchs who put on a fake smile and not used to the formal rigor of the 1950’s.
In the scene when Princess Ann and Bradley are visiting the headstone, Joe tells the Princess that people say the mouth of the headstone has bitten hands off people who stick their hands on it. He dares the Princes to put her hand and she does so with some hesitation and fear only to later dare Bradley to put his hand. He puts his hand in the mouth of the stone head and hides it under his sleeve. When he pulls his arm out of the stone head’s mouth there is no hand and scares the Princess. The Princess natural reaction is of fear and she screams, but it’s a bit overdone. It doesn’t seem logical for the Princess to be that scared, I was expecting the princess to definitely be scared and to scream for medical or police assistance; yet she didn’t. Instead, she gave a frightened scream and almost ran away from the stone head. In that instant, Bradley grabs her from leaving only to show he was just playing a trick on her. Again, maybe I have seen too many scary movies to be this critical of her reactions.
Since this is a romantic-comedy, I could not leave the kissing scenes out. I have to say that they were dull and unromantic because the characters were too still at the kissing moment. It doesn’t help that we are talking about 1950’s Hollywood, but there are movies with better kissing scenes made way earlier like Casablanca (1942). Lastly, the goodbye between the Princess and Bradley, it seemed forced it didn’t come across as natural. There were tears, but not convincing enough that both were truly sad. Bradley was a little stiff in this scene too, but then again men were not supposed to cry.
The movie is a classified as a romantic comedy drama, yet I didn’t think it was the dialogue was funny enough, it’s cute-funny. The movie does have some physical comedic moments between Bradley and Radavich. Despite of the dull bits, this movie was a good movie, it was entertaining to watch.
Serg’s Thoughts on Roman Holiday: It is the classic that set the standard “The royal needs a holiday” plot. Audrey Hepburn is always a delight, even if this performance is nowhere near her wonderful Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Gregory Peck just being the stoic indivdual he usually is in films. It is a film where you suspend your disbelief and enjoy the romance that blossom between these two, no matter how whirlwind it is. It’s light and soft with some tensions, but it does depend on if the viewer strongly believes these two can carry on together.
Next week, Film A Week will dive into the mind of David Lynch with his classic, Blue Velvet with odd twists, Dennis Hopper and a Roy Orbison song or two. We are about to get Lynched.
Film A Week 27: Blue Velvet (1986)
Saturday, July 13th