Favorite things about… Roman Holiday (1953)

(Image: Wichita Orpheum)
(Image: Wichita Orpheum)

The favorite film:
Roman Holiday, a 1953 romantic comedy directed by William Wyler and released by Paramount Pictures

The synopsis:
Princess Ann is feeling stifled by the confines of her royal family’s conventions. While on a publicity tour of Europe, Ann makes a plan to rebel against those restrictions and sneak out of her room to explore Rome. She falls asleep on a bench when a sedative the doctor gave her earlier in the night begins to kick in. She’s found by American newspaperman Joe Bradley, who takes her back to his apartment so she can rest, not realizing who she is. Joe soon realizes that none other than Princess Ann herself in his room, and he promises his editor that he’ll have an exclusive interview with her… without letting her know that he knows who she really is.

The cast:
Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann
Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley
Hartley Power as Joe’s editor, Mr. Hennessy
Eddie Albert as Joe’s photographer friend, Irving

Fun facts:

  • First comedic role of Gregory Peck
  • Dalton Trumbo wrote the original screenplay for the film but was not able to take credit because he was blacklisted. Ian McLellan Hunter took the credit, even accepting the Oscar that should have been won by Trumbo. The award was never returned to its rightful owner; Trumbo’s wife was given a statuette after his death, but it wasn’t the original.
  • Frank Capra optioned the story in 1949 with the intention of casting Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor in the lead roles. He gave up the rights to Paramount because his own production company was struggling financially, and he was replaced as director because he was worried about working with a blacklisted writer.
  • Cary Grant turned down the role of Joe Bradley because he felt he was too old to play Audrey Hepburn’s love interest. The pair would later work together on one of my favorite films, Charade.
  • The film was originally intended to be filmed on the backlot, in color. Color was sacrificed in favor of black and white so they could have the budget to film on location in Rome, at Wyler’s insistence.
  • Gregory Peck met his second wife, Veronique, just before filming Roman Holiday. She was a reporter assigned to interview him for a Parisian publication. They married in 1955 and remained married until his death in 2003.
  • The “Mouth of Truth” scene was famously improvised by Gregory Peck, and Audrey’s reaction to the gag is genuine. Peck had seen Red Skelton pull the same joke once, and he and Wyler decided to use it without telling Audrey. This is the only scene that was filmed in a single take.
(Image: haphazard-stuff.blogspot.com)
Forget Vespa rides through the city. Today… they ride on CARPET. (Image: haphazard-stuff.blogspot.com)

Favorite things:

  • News-y narration in the opening
  • Princess Ann slipping her foot out of the shoe… and losing the shoe
  • Ann sneaking out of the house
  • Gregory Peck’s face
  • Joe noisily rearranging the apartment while Ann sleeps
  • Joe trying to trick Hennessy into thinking that he’s completed the interview, not knowing that all of the papers are reporting that Princess Ann has fallen ill
  • Joe’s snarky and adorable Italian landlord
  • Ann freaking out when she wakes up in Joe’s apartment
  • The script is so great. Full of witty dialogue.
  • Joe’s landlord snooping on Joe and Ann as they say goodbye
  • Joe following Ann through the market like a Grade A stalker
  • The hairdresser freaking out about cutting all of Ann’s hair off… but then getting really excited about it
  • Joe trying to steal the little girl’s camera
  • Eddie Albert’s beard
  • Audrey & Gregory’s adorable chemistry
  • Ann flying away on the Vespa
  • Audrey’s reaction in the “Mouth of Truth” scene
  • Joe & Ann dancing
  • PARTY BRAWL
  • Joe and Ann’s heartbreaking goodbye (major sappy fangirl tears)
  • Joe spilling his drink on Irving and tripping him in order to stop him from giving the photos of Ann to Hennessy
  • Ann’s face when she sees Joe at the front of the hoard of reporters
  • Irving taking Ann’s picture with his lighter at the press conference
  • Irving giving Ann photos from her day with Joe

Quotes: (I really failed at writing quotes down while I watched this one, so there are many more great lines than these, but these are the few I took note of!)

  • Ann (when the doctor is sent for): “It’s no use! I’ll be dead before he gets here.”
  • Taxi driver: “You know bambino… WHAAAAA!”
  • Joe: “Naturally, she thought that the indirect would not be as direct as the direct. That is, not right away.”
  • Joe: “I plan to enter her sick room disguised as a thermometer.”
  • Ann (upon waking up in Joe’s apartment): “Did you bring me here by force?!”
  • The hairdresser: “OFF. OFF. Off…”
  • Irving: “HIT HIM AGAIN, SMITTY!”
  • Joe: “Why don’t you go home and… SHAVE.”
  • Ann (when asked what her favorite place has been to visit): “Each in its own way was unforgettable. It would be difficult to… Rome. By all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.”

Bonus .gifs because they’re fun:

(via thefilmfatale.tumblr)
(via thefilmfatale.tumblr)
(Image: masha-ghomon2013.tumblr)
(via masha-ghomon2013.tumblr)
(via twirleenough.tumblr)
(via twirleenough.tumblr)
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17 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Roman Holiday (1953)

  1. This is such a glorious and sweet film. I had seen most of it but never sat down and watched it through until recently. Shame on me. I loved it and spotlighted with a review recently. The cast, the script, the locations…It’s a gem.

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    1. It’s definitely very sweet. I consider it one of the “mood booster” films that I can put on at any time if I need a pick-me-up, haha. I’ll be sure to check out your review!

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  2. Such a fun movie. So cool seeing Gregory Peck in a comedic role too. And I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t love Audrey Hepburn to death. Great write-up. I didn’t know a lot of those fun facts too. Yet again, I’m still coming around when it comes to classics. Thus, my surprise of one I can actually leave a comment on!

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    1. I know of a few people who don’t like Audrey… but for most of them, their only reason for not liking her is because she’s so well-known. She was an incredibly talented and charming lady. In my book, those who devalue her talent due to her popularity are just as bad as bandwagon fans who have never seen a single of her films but claim to love her.

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  3. It’s funny how there seemed to be a number of times where Cary Grant was up for the role of Audrey Hepburn’s love interest in different movies and he always turned it down, but I’m glad he ended up doing Charade!

    Anyway, I adore this movie, and Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn really made a great team with both the comedy and romance.

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  4. So many wonderful moments in this film. It always seems like it would’ve been so much fun to make.

    I’m glad they shot in B&W on location. Rome looks gorgeous in this film.

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    1. Rome looks so wonderful. I don’t think the film as a whole would have been as effective had it not been shot on location. There’s only so much you can do on a backlot or soundstage!

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  5. Roman Holiday is a favorite of mine for a lot of the reasons in this wonderful post. There are so many lovely little things about it, but one I must mention is the way Audrey Hepburn says, “Pajamas!” in the first scene in Joe’s apartment – it always makes me laugh. And those gifs you included are priceless!

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  6. One of my favorites, Lindsey, and one I can watch again and again. Shoot, I can watch the opening credits again and again, strictly for the scenic shots of Rome and that wistful song that plays over them. So many wonderful moments, and choice bits of dialogue, and Gregory and Audrey were simply perfect together. And I’ll admit, I get a little misty when Audrey says, “I will cherish my visit here in memory for the rest of my life,” and gives Gregory that look that tells him absolutely everything about how she feels.

    And yes, Natalie, that crazy way Audrey says “Pajamas!” never fails to crack me up.

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    1. It’s incredibly high on rewatchability! I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been weeks when I’d watched it twice or more… it’s just that good. As soon as it ends I’m ready to watch it again!

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      1. Sometimes when I have a few minutes I’ll just watch a particular scene, just for the happy vibe it gives off, and for the feeling of what it might’ve been like to visit Rome in the 1950s. Strange, I know, but it works.

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        1. Not strange at all! I hit up the TCM website and YouTube all the time to watch little clips of this and other films. When you don’t have time to watch the whole movie it’s very convenient!

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  7. I have seen this movie before, but that gif of Audrey hitting the guy with the guitar reminding me of a scene that was used in Paprika. I just never found the connection before.Great Post

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