Roman Holiday was Audrey Hepburn’s US big-screen debut and she won the Oscar for her portrayal of Princess Ann. She stars opposite Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley, an American journalist stationed in Rome. This is one of the earliest romantic comedies and helped establish the entire genre on a foundation we still see today. The movie has aged remarkably well and is well worth a watch if you have not seen it and enjoy romcoms.
We live in the #metoo era now. This movie, from 1953, is much less cringeworthy than I would have expected. Joe Bradley does play some mind games with Princess Ann, but it always appears as if she wants to go along with them. Joe quickly figures out how he can get an exclusive story about the world-renowned princess and pay off his debts. He takes the princess all around Rome to show her the sites in a way she would never be able to in her official capacity. He serves as a way to escape an oppressive life.
As expected, his business interests turn to romantic ones as she too falls for him. They both reveal their true selves under false pretenses, but it feels sincere. If this is the beginning of a relationship it is believable. The jokes are still funny today and the sheltered princess has her autonomy as a character. It would have been easy to make her a pea-brained child smitten with a good looking man, but the writers didn’t take that easy out.
This movie is single-handedly responsible for many of the crowds around Rome. The Spanish Steps are swarmed because of this movie. More importantly to the cinema, this movie gave us Audrey Hepburn. Gregory Peck turns in the wonderful performances he is well known for as well. It is a bit odd that he stands in front of the press gaggle as he towers over everyone else in his 6’ 3” frame. He never relies on his size to command attention or respect. Roman Holiday also set a high benchmark for the entire genre of romantic comedy. The movie can still serve as an escape to Rome today.