Play It Again: Roman Holiday

Play It Again: Roman Holiday. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

Though many cite Breakfast at Tiffany’s as their favourite Audrey Hepburn film, for me it’s always been the black and white romance, Roman Holiday. Combining Hepburn with the eternally handsome Gregory Peck and under the direction of the marvellous William Wyler, Roman Holiday is a classic in every sense of the word and won three Academy Awards. Hepburn plays the sheltered Princess Ann from an unspecified country, who falls for American newspaperman Joe Bradley (Peck) while on a European tour.

Of course this story isn’t without its twists and turns, with Joe concealing his career from Anya (the name she uses to conceal her own identity) in an attempt to score an exclusive interview. Joe convinces Anya to spend the day with him in Rome, even asking his photographer friend Irving (Eddie Albert) to follow them around and document their travels. Of course, the two begin to fall in love.

What makes this film pull on the old heart strings is firstly the delightful pairing of Hepburn and Peck (Cary Grant was the original choice for Joe; he declined because he thought himself too old to play Hepburn’s love interest). Secondly, the film teases you with this unlikely love story set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most romantic cities, and then brings you back to reality with an ending that we don’t often see in Hollywood these days; an ending that is more likely to happen than your standard Happily Ever After.

Interestingly, Hepburn was not the first choice to play Princess Ann, with the role reportedly written for Elizabeth Taylor. After Hepburn performed a screen test the cameras kept rolling, capturing candid moments which landed her her first major American film role, and catapulted her star power around the world.

Written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood at the time and had fellow writer Ian McLellan Hunter attach his name to the film. This was rectified in 2003 when Trumbo’s name was rightfully returned to the film’s credits, and an honorary Oscar was awarded to the late Trumbo’s wife.

Discuss: Roman Holiday!

One Response to “Play It Again: Roman Holiday”

  1. I agree, this is my favourite Hepburn film too. And it still stands up to watchers today. Beautifully crafted, lovely to watch.

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