Wayback Wednesday: Roman Holiday (1953)

Is it too late to make Audrey Hepburn an actual princess?

The way I watch movies is very similar to the way that I listen to music. Every once in a while I get into a certain “mood” or “vibe” and that totally dictates what I consume for the next few weeks. For example, I’ve been in a “give no fucks” mood musically lately and have been listening to the likes of Joan Jett and Megan Thee Stallion on repeat. When it comes to movies, I’ve been inspired to check out more buzzed about horror movies such as Midsommar (2019) and Ma (2019). It ws my first time seeing both and let me just say, neither one disappointed. This week the mood shifted and I’ve been feeling like what I needed was a big fat helping of vintage charm. Which lead to this week’s Wayback, Roman Holiday (1953).

Credit: imdb.com / Paramount Pictures

Roman Holiday tells the story of Ann, a princess visiting Rome on a diplomatic tour. Overwhelmed by the pressure that comes with royal life, Ann runs away so that she can have a chance to experience the wonders of a normal life. When she meets Joe Bradley, an American reporter, he takes her on an unforgettable tour of Rome that changes both of them.

While the idea of a woman of high stature experiencing what it means to be an ordinary girl with an average Joe is a common theme that appears in a lot of movies, I’m actually quite surprised that there has never been a straight up remake of Roman Holiday. I’m not saying that there should be a remake because this movie is perfectly divine as is, but I’m shocked at Hollywood’s restraint at resisting the temptation to redo the classic. I mean, couldn’t you see some executive in the 1990s pitching a remake of Roman Holiday starring Tom Hanks and Winona Ryder? And instead of the cute pixie cut Audrey Hepburn gets, Ryder would have gotten like crimped hair or something? Then Hanks would have introduced her to Nirvana, high-waisted jeans, and that gross purple ketchup that Heinz really tried to convince us was appetizing. OOF. And I don’t even want to THINK about how soulless today’s version of this movie would be. Thankfully director William Wyler’s is the only Roman Holiday out there. This movie is so delightfully charming and beautiful to look at that I couldn’t imagine it any other any era than the 1950s. Like a vintage postcard or a perfectly preserved photograph, Roman Holiday is a piece of film history that easily transports you into Rome in 1953, and captures the feelings of wonder, romance, and curiosity that are at the heart of this movie’s story. It’s always astonishing to me when I discover that a beautifully stunning movie like this was made for a measly $1.5 million. That sum would barely cover the paycheques for many of today’s leading actors!

Clearly Wyler was wise in how he chose to spend the modest budget. Many of the movie’s most breathtaking scenes are exteriors of Rome, offering viewers an authentic tour of the Eternal City. Not many staged sets are used so it’s almost as if Roman Holiday is like a play being performed in real time, using the city itself as a stage. Honestly, it makes you as a viewer feel like you’re stepping into Ann’s shoes, embarking on a magical tour of one of the world’s most beautiful cities as you boldly explore your independence for the first time. Now, I know a lot of you would LITERALLY like to step into Ann’s shoes because the brilliant mind behind the iconic costumes of Roman Holiday is none other than the incomparable Edith Head. An eight-time Oscar winner for Best Costume Design and one of cinema’s most celebrated costumers, Head is simply the best. Her work is always gorgeously crafted, and the costumes she creates have cemented themselves as fabulously timeless. Hello, Ann’s royal ballgown?! Love it! Head also did the costuming for other Hepburn classics Sabrina (1954), Funny Face (1957) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). I think it’s safe to say that Hepburn wouldn’t be the style icon she’s revered as today without the help of the legendary Ms. Head. The way Roman Holiday sweeps you off your feet with its visuals makes this a strong recommendation of mine if you’re someone who’s looking to dip your toes into the waters of classic Hollywood movies. Of course, I could say that about most Hepburn movies.

WARNING. I am about to stan Audrey Hepburn to the highest degree. I’m sorry but when it comes to old movies, Audrey is my girl. Period. Roman Holiday is undoubtedly one of Hepburn’s most acclaimed movies but it’s wild to think that this was her first major starring role. When the title screen read, “and introducing Audrey Hepburn” I think my jaw dropped to the ground. Even from the beginning of her career Hepburn was a talent to be reckoned with. Her role as Princess Ann went on to nab her the Oscar for Best Actress! It’s not hard to see how she earned that award. Believing Hepburn to be a beloved and fiery princess isn’t difficult at all. She naturally exudes the grace, beauty, and poise of real-life royalty. There isn’t a moment of the movie where she isn’t mesmerizing to watch. Gregory Peck is dashing and wonderful as Joe, but as expected it really is Hepburn who steals the show. Make no mistake, even though her character is woozy from sleeping medication for the first hour, Roman Holiday is undoubtedly Hepburn’s movie. Peck, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, Humphrey Bogart…Hepburn has shared the screen with some of Hollywood’s most charismatic and talented leading men. Now maybe this is just me being a hardcore fan, but in my opinion she always outshines them and gives a memorable performance that is the highlight of an already great movie. No shade to Peck though. He provides the swoonworthy romance while Hepburn provides the witty humour. Oh, and co-star Eddie Albert? He’s the best of both worlds. A great comedic sidekick, and a handsome man to look at.

I really like Roman Holiday. It’s so sweet, pure, and dripping with magical charm. If you’re a fan of love stories, fairytales, romantic-comedies, or stories of lovers from different worlds, than Roman Holiday should immediately be added to your watch list. The movie slightly beats around the bush in the beginning, but when the story picks up it’s a whirlwind tale of love and laughter that’s bound to slap a smile on your face. I will say though, the fact that this Italian adventure didn’t feature a single scene of anyone enjoying some pizza? Missed opportunities.

Have you seen Roman Holiday?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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