Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; the screenplay and costume design also won.
It was written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, though with Trumbo on the Hollywood blacklist, he did not receive a credit; instead, Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for him. Trumbo's credit was reinstated when the film was released on DVD in 2003. On December 19, 2011, full credit for Trumbo's work was restored. Blacklisted director Bernard Vorhaus worked on the film as an assistant director under a pseudonym.
Ann (Audrey Hepburn), the crown princess of an unspecified country, becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life, and breaks down at having to repeatedly answer "yes, thank you" and "no, thank you" to demands of her time. Her doctor gives her a sedative to calm her and help her sleep, but she secretly leaves her country's embassy.
The sedative eventually makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an expatriate American reporter for the "American News Service" based in Rome, finds her. Not recognizing her, he offers her money so she can take a taxi home, but a woozy "Anya Smith" (as she later calls herself) refuses to cooperate. Thinking she's intoxicated, Joe finally decides, for safety's sake, to let her spend the night in his apartment. He is amused by her regal manner, but less so when she appropriates his bed. He transfers her to a couch. The next morning, Joe, having already slept through the interview Princess Ann was scheduled to give, hurries off to work, leaving her still asleep.
When his editor, Mr. Hennessy (Hartley Power), asks why Joe is late, Joe lies, claiming to have attended the princess' press conference. Joe makes up details of the alleged interview until Hennessy informs him that the event had been canceled because the princess had suddenly "fallen ill". Joe sees a newspaper picture of her and realizes who is in his apartment. Immediately seeing an opportunity, Joe proposes getting an exclusive interview. Hennessy, not knowing the circumstances, agrees to the deal and offers $5,000 if the interview is all Joe claims it will be, but bets Joe $500 that he will not succeed.
Joe hurries home and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to show "Anya" around Rome. He also surreptitiously calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), to tag along to secretly take pictures. However, Ann declines Joe's offer and leaves.
Ann, enjoying her freedom, explores an outdoor market, buys a pair of shoes, and, on a whim, gets her long hair cut short. Joe follows and "accidentally" meets her on the Spanish Steps. This time he convinces her to spend the day with him. They see the sights, including the "Mouth of Truth", a face carved in marble which is said to bite off the hands of liars. When Joe shouts in mock pain and pulls his hand out of the mouth, it appears to be missing, causing Ann to scream. He then pops his hand out of his sleeve and laughs. (Allegedly, Hepburn's shriek was not acting—Peck decided to pull a gag he had once seen Red Skelton do, and did not tell his co-star beforehand.)
Later, Ann shares with Joe her dream of living a normal life without her crushing responsibilities. That night, at a dance on a boat, government agents finally track her down and try to escort her away, but a wild melee breaks out and Joe and Ann escape. While trying to rescue her from plainclothes government agents, Joe is ambushed and falls into a river after being struck. Ann dives in to save him, and they swim away together away from the agents, finally sharing a kiss as they sit shivering on the riverbank. Later, knowing her royal responsibilities must resume, the princess bids a tearful farewell to Joe and returns to the embassy. When she arrives at the embassy she is lectured upon the sense of duty she must display, but (visibly pained) retorts that without such a sense, she would never have returned.
During the course of the day, Hennessy learns that the princess is missing, not ill as claimed. He suspects that Joe knows where she is and tries to get him to admit it, but Joe claims to know nothing about it. Joe decides not to write the story, despite the considerable amount of money riding on it. Irving first plans to sell his photographs independent of the story, but eventually decides against it.
The next day, Princess Ann appears to answer questions from the press, and is surprised to see Joe and Irving there. Irving takes her picture with the same miniature cigarette-lighter/camera he had used the previous day. When asked by a reporter which city of her European tour was her favorite, Ann first makes a diplomatic "all were equally good" answer, but interrupts it with an impulsive "Rome! By all means, Rome."
At the end of the interview, the Princess requests to "meet" the journalists, shaking hands and making brief formal conversation. As she reaches Joe and Irving, the latter presents her with an envelope with the photographs he had taken, under the pretext of a generic memento of Rome. The three make several statements that hint at the truth and their dispositions, while feigning formality and the distance expected between the princess and two strange journalists. As the interview with the princess comes to an end and she reluctantly leaves, the crowd of journalists and reporters eventually disperses, and Joe walks away alone.
Wyler first offered the role to Hollywood favorite Cary Grant. Grant declined, believing he was too old to play Hepburn's love interest (though he played opposite her ten years later in Charade.) Other sources say Grant declined because he knew all of the attention would be centered around the princess. Peck's contract gave him solo star billing, with newcomer Hepburn listed much less prominently in the credits. Halfway through the filming, Peck suggested to Wyler that he elevate her to equal billing—an almost unheard-of gesture in Hollywood.
Wyler had initially considered Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons for this role, but both were unavailable. Wyler was very excited to find Hepburn, but he didn't choose her until after a screen test. Wyler wasn't able to stay and film this himself but told the assistant director to ask the cameraman and the soundman to continue recording after the assistant director said "cut" so that she would be seen in a relaxed state after having performed a dignified, subdued scene from the film. The candid footage won her the role; some of it was later included in the original theatrical trailer for the film, along with additional screen test footage showing Hepburn trying on some of Ann's costumes and even cutting her own hair (referring to a scene in the film). Roman Holiday was not Hepburn's first acting appearance ( who had appeared in Dutch and British films from 1948; and on stage, including the title role in a Broadway adaption of Gigi) but it was her first major film role and first appearance in an American film. Wyler wanted an anti-Italian actress who was different from the curvy Italian maggiorate like Gina Lollobrigida, and said that She was perfect .... his new star had no arse, no tits, no tight-fitting clothes, no high heels. In short a Martian. She will be a sensation.
|Eddie Albert||as Irving Radovich|
|Hartley Power||as Hennessy, Joe's editor|
|Harcourt Williams||as the Ambassador of Princess Ann's country|
|Margaret Rawlings||as Countess Vereberg, Ann's principal lady-in-waiting|
|Tullio Carminati||as General Provno|
|Paolo Carlini||as Mario Delani|
|Claudio Ermelli||as Giovanni|
|Paola Borboni||as the Charwoman|
|Laura Solari||as Secretary|
|Alfredo Rizzo||as Taxi Driver|
|Gorella Gori||as Shoe Seller|
The film earned an estimated $3 million at the North American box office during its first year of release.
Due to the film's popularity, both Peck and Hepburn were approached about filming a sequel, but this project never got off the ground.
* Award was initially given to Ian McLellan Hunter, since he took story credit on blacklisted Trumbo's behalf. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences later credited the win to Trumbo. In 1993, Trumbo's widow Cleo received her late husband's award.
Paramount Pictures has licensed three adaptations of Roman Holiday into musicals: