Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Wyler|
|Produced by||William Wyler|
|Story by||Dalton Trumbo|
|Edited by||Robert Swink|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$12 million|
Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Audrey Hepburn as a princess out to see Rome on her own and Gregory Peck as a reporter. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; the screenplay and costume design also won.
The script 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, a crown princess from an unnamed European nation, is on a state visit to Rome, becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life, and secretly leaves her country's embassy. The delayed effect of a sedative makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley, an expatriate reporter for the "American News Service", finds her, without recognizing who she is. Thinking that she is intoxicated, Joe lets her spend the night in his apartment.
The next morning, Joe hurries off late to work and gives his editor, Mr. Hennessy, false details of his attendance at the princess' press conference. When Hennessy informs him that the event had been cancelled, and shows him a news item about the princess' "sudden illness", he realizes who is asleep in his apartment. Seeing an opportunity, Joe privately calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich, to ask him to secretly take pictures. Joe then tells Hennessy that he'll get an exclusive wide-ranging interview with the princess and asks how much that would be worth. Hennessy offers to pay $5000 for the article, but bets Joe $500 that he won't be able to get it.
Joe hurries home, and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to show his guest, "Anya", around Rome. However, Ann declines Joe's offer and leaves. Enjoying her freedom, she explores an outdoor market, buys a pair of shoes, observes the people and daily-life of Rome, and gets her long hair cut into a short style. Joe follows, and "accidentally" meets Ann on the Spanish Steps. This time, he convinces her to spend the day with him, and takes her to a street café, where he meets up with Irving. They visit the Mouth of Truth, where Joe tricks Ann into thinking that his hand has been bitten off, and later tour the Colosseum. When Anya tries to drive Joe on a Vespa through heavy Roman traffic they are all arrested, but Joe and Irving show their "fake" press passes and the group is set free.
That night, at a dance on a boat that her barber had invited her to, government agents called in by the embassy spot Ann and try to forcibly take her away. Joe, Irving, and the barber rush in to save her from the abductors, and Ann joins in the fight that breaks out. As police arrive and subdue the agents, Joe and Ann run away, but Joe is ambushed, falls into the river, and Ann jumps in to save him. They swim across and kiss as they sit shivering on the riverbank. Later at Joe's apartment, while drying their wet clothes, they share tender bittersweet moments. Knowing that her royal responsibilities must resume, Ann asks Joe to drive her to a corner near the embassy, where they kiss again. She bids a tearful farewell, and returns to assume her duties as a princess.
Hennessy comes to Joe's apartment, suspecting that the princess was not ill as claimed and that Joe was telling the truth about the interview. Joe, however, has decided not to write the story, although Irving arrives and is confused by the change of plans. Joe tells Irving that he is still free to sell his photographs. Joe and Irving then leave to attend the postponed press conference at the embassy and surprise Princess Ann.
Through vague public words, Joe assures Ann that no press exposure will come from their day together. At the end of the interview, the princess unexpectedly asks to meet the journalists, speaking briefly with each. As she reaches Joe and Irving, Irving presents her with his photographs as a memento of Rome. Joe and Ann then speak, with her final words to him being "so happy". After Ann reluctantly departs, and the press leaves, Joe stays for awhile, and then 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 did not choose her until after a screen test. Wyler was not able to stay and film this himself, but told the assistant director to ask the cameraman and the sound man 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 role, as she had appeared in Dutch and British films from 1948 and on stage, including the title role in the 1951 Broadway adaptation of Gigi. But it was her first major film role and her first appearance in an American film. Wyler wanted an "anti-Italian" actress who was different from the curvy Italian stars of that era like Gina Lollobrigida: "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."
The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on August 27, 1953, grossing $165,000 in its first week. The film also opened the same week in two theatres in Portland, Oregon on a double bill with Murder Without Tears, grossing $14,000.
It was the second most popular film at the US box office during September 1953 behind From Here to Eternity, grossing almost $1 million.Roman Holiday earned an estimated $3 million at the United States and Canadian box office during its first few months 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.
The film has been very well received, with a 97% "Certified fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 58 reviews with an average rating of 8.41/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "With Audrey Hepburn luminous in her American debut, Roman Holiday is as funny as it is beautiful, and sets the standard for the modern romantic comedy."
|Academy Awards||Best Motion Picture||William Wyler||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Audrey Hepburn||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Eddie Albert||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton||Nominated|
|Best Story||Dalton Trumbo||Won|
|Best Art Direction - Black-and-White||Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography - Black-and-White||Franz Planer and Henri Alekan||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design - Black-and-White||Edith Head||Won|
|Best Film Editing||Robert Swink||Nominated|
|Bambi Awards||Best Actor - International||Gregory Peck||Nominated|
|Best Actress - International||Audrey Hepburn||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||Roman Holiday||Nominated|
|Best Foreign Actor||Eddie Albert||Nominated|
|Best British Actress||Audrey Hepburn||Won|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||William Wyler||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama||Audrey Hepburn||Won|
|Huabiao Film Awards||Outstanding Translated Foreign Film||Roman Holiday||Won|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||Won|
|National Film Preservation Board||National Film Registry||Inducted|
|New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Audrey Hepburn||Won|
|Online Film & Television Association||Hall of Fame - Motion Picture||Roman Holiday||Won|
|Venice International Film Festival||Golden Lion||William Wyler||Nominated|
|Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Written American Comedy||Ian McLellan Hunter, Dalton Trumbo and John Dighton||Won|
The Academy Award for Best Story was initially given to Ian McLellan Hunter, since he took story credit on behalf of Dalton Trumbo (who was blacklisted). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences later credited the win to Trumbo, and in 1993 Trumbo's widow, Cleo, received her late husband's Oscar.
The film was remade for television in 1987 with Tom Conti and Catherine Oxenberg, who is herself a member of a European royal family. An unofficial Tamil-language adaptation, titled May Madham, was released in 1994.
The Richard Curtis film Notting Hill has been likened to "a 90's London-set version of Roman Holiday". There are a number of allusions to it in the film, in which the princess character is replaced with "Hollywood royalty" and the commoner is a British bookshop owner.
Paramount Pictures has since licensed three adaptations of Roman Holiday into musicals: