Roman Holiday is a 1953 romantic comedy 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.
The film was screened in the 14th Venice film festival within the official program.
In the 1970s, both Peck and Hepburn were approached with the idea of a sequel, but the project never came to fruition. The film was remade for television in 1987 with Tom Conti and Catherine Oxenberg, who is herself a member of a European royal family.
Filmed on location, several scenes show landmarks such as the Spanish Steps.
Ann (Hepburn), the crown princess of an unspecified country, has started a widely publicized tour of several European capitals. In Rome she becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life. Her doctor gives her a sedative to calm her down and help her sleep, but she secretly leaves her country’s embassy to experience Rome on her own.
The sedative eventually makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley (Peck), an expatriate American reporter working for the Rome Daily American, finds her. Not recognizing her, he offers her money so she can take a taxi home, but a very woozy “Anya Smith” (as she later calls herself) refuses to cooperate. 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 press conference for the princess. Joe makes updetails of the alleged interview until Hennessy informs him that the event had been canceled because the princess had suddenly “fallen ill”. Joe sees a picture of her and realizes who is in his apartment. Joe immediately sees the opportunity and proposes getting an exclusive interview for the newspaper for $5000. Hennessy, not knowing the circumstances, agrees to the deal, 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, Anya declines Joe’s offer and leaves.
Enjoying her freedom, on a whim, Anya gets her hair cut short in a barbershop. 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 pulls his hand out of the mouth, it appears to be missing, causing Anya to scream. He then pops his hand out of his sleeve and laughs. (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, Anya 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 Anya escape. Through all this, they gradually fall in love, but Anya realizes that a relationship is impossible. She finally bids farewell to Joe and returns to the embassy.
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. Irving plans to sell his photographs, but then reluctantly decides not to do so out of friendship.
The next day, Princess Ann appears to answer questions from the press, and is alarmed to find Joe and Irving there. Irving takes her picture with the same miniature cigarette-lighter/camera he had used the previous day. He then presents her with the photographs he had taken, discreetly tucked in an envelope, as a memento of her adventure. Joe lets her know, by allusion, that her secret is safe with them. She, in turn, works into her bland statements a coded message of love and gratitude to Joe. She then departs, leaving Joe to linger for a while, contemplating what might have been.
The role was originally written with Cary Grant in mind. Grant declined, believing he was too old to play Hepburn’s love interest (though he played opposite her ten years later in Charade.) 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.
This role was originally written for Elizabeth Taylor. Hepburn was cast after a screen test. After she had performed a dignified, subdued scene from the film, the director called “cut”, but the cameraman left the camera rolling, capturing the young actress suddenly become animated as she chatted with the director. 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 Anya’s costumes and even cutting her own hair (referring to a scene in the film).
The film earned an estimated $3 million at the North American box office during its first year of release.
- Academy Award for Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn)
- Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (Edith Head)
- Academy Award for Writing (Motion Picture Story) (Dalton Trumbo)*
- BAFTA Award for Best British Actress (Audrey Hepburn)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress — Drama (Audrey Hepburn)
- New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn)
- Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy (Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton)
* 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.
- Academy Award for Best Picture
- Academy Award for Best Director (William Wyler)
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Eddie Albert)
- Academy Award for Writing (Screenplay) (Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton)
- Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Hal Pereira & Walter H. Tyler)
- Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Franz Planer & Henri Alekan)
- Academy Award for Best Film Editing (Robert Swink)
- BAFTA Award for Best Film from any source
- BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor — (Eddie Albert)
- BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor — (Gregory Peck)
- DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (William Wyler)
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs – Nominated
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions – #4
- AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- AFI’s 10 Top 10 – #4 Romantic Comedy
Tributes and references in popular culture
- At least two different orchid cultivars share this name, Epc. Joseph Romans ‘Roman Holiday’ and Blc. Empress Worsley ‘Roman Holiday’.
- The “Mouth of Truth” scene was shown in the 2006 film You, Me and Dupree, with Dupree stating that the trick always gets him even though he knows it’s coming. The joke is also used in the film Only You and the 2007 film National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The scene was replicated in many Indian language films, the noteworthy being director Venus Balu‘s Tamil blockbuster May Madham, which was a loose adaptation of the film itself.
- In the Japanese anime series .hack//Sign, the character Tsukasa reenacts the “Mouth of Truth” scene, and comments that his mother was fond of the movie.
- In the Japanese anime movie Paprika, the chaotic dreams of Detective Toshimi Konakawa are represented by quickly changing film scenes, one of which is the iconic fight at the dance with government agents from the film.
- In the Japanese anime series Strike Witches (Season 2), the movie is heavily referenced over the course of the episode “My Romagna”, including the “Mouth of Truth” scene.
- In 2011 Korean romantic-comedy drama, My Princess, the female and male leads, Lee Seol and Park Hae Young, both are watching Roman Holiday outside of her pension house with the “Mouth of Truth” scene appear in the background. It is shown in the second episode of the drama.
- Post-Hardcore band, Every Time I Die, has a song named after the film on their album New Junk Aesthetic.
- Both the film and the two starring actors make appearances (the film being only mentioned) in Rick Riordan‘s book, The Mark of Athena, when Percy Jacksonand Annabeth Chase go to Rome so she can finish the quest given to her by her mother’s Roman form.
- In the manga Gunslinger Girl, the character Henrietta refers to the dance fight scene when near the area the scene was set.
(with thanks to the talents of Edith Head, Audrey Hepburn, everyone at Paramount (circa 1953), movie lovers around the world thru time, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia & You Tube)