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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Classic Film Review: Roman Holiday (1953)

Roman Holiday stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in one of her first major roles. Princess Ann (Hepburn) is tired of her monotonous existence touring counties, repeating the same speeches and generally being sheltered by her guardians on the way. One night she slips out of their grasp into the city of Rome. However, the sedative she's been prescribed to help her sleep kicks in belatedly and she's found by journalist Joe Bradley (Peck) slumbering on a bench. Unable to get any sense out of her, he is forced to take her back to his apartment. The next morning he realises just who she is and sets out to get an exclusive, with help from his photographer friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert).

Hepburn is wonderful in this film. Her natural elegance shines through in the role and she and Peck have an excellent rapport. Peck himself is just perfect in an understated performance that does everything right. From the amusing scenes as he tries to get Ann home to the painful final scene, Peck is downright brilliant. So, for that matter, is Eddie Albert as his friend. I had difficulty placing Albert at first (I knew him from Oklahoma) but as the fiery, and sometimes clueless, Irving he's excellent. Even the supporting roles are superb - Margaret Rawlings performs wonders with her eyes in her scenes as Countess Vereberg while Alfredo Rizzo is hilarious as the taxi driver almost given responsibility of the drugged Princess Ann. I can't think of an actor who let the film down in all honesty.

Apparently Roman Holiday was filmed in black and while so that the wonderful scenery wouldn't overshadow the stars. If this is true then I'd point out that Paris didn't overshadow Hepburn a few years later in Funny Face (1957). However, the lack of colour doesn't hinder the beauty of the film and perhaps it was the right decision. There are also a couple of excellent touches throughout which attest to the care this film was created with, my favourite being the use of mirrors towards the beginning. All in all, this is a beautiful comic romance although, it has to be said, the ending is tinged with sadness.

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