It’s an image that’s etched in my mind — that of an incognito young royal in a plain white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a scarf tied breezily around her neck as she zips cheerfully around the city on a Vespa. Yes, I am talking about the Princess Ann/Anya played by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday.

What is it about Roman Holiday that one wants to keep revisiting it? Is it the timeless beauty of Audrey Hepburn, the tall and handsome Gregory Peck, or the city beautiful — Rome? I think it’s all of these and much more. If you are a sucker for romance like me, this movie will hook you even after 66 years of its release.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck still captivates after 66 years of its release.
  • Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for her role in the film. 
  • The film can be a guide for anyone wanting to visit Rome. 
  • Roman Holiday will most likely feature on any top 10 favourite Hollywood movies of all time.

If you ask anyone about their top ten favourite movies of all time, Roman Holiday will most likely feature on it. There maybe many reasons for this, in a post-war world and more specifically in America it depicted a change, it was light, it was breezy, most of all it gave hope for a new beginning.

Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann. Image credit: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

In the film, Ann is a royal princess who is so bored of her ‘princess duties’ that she runs away and wants to explore Rome on her own. That is when she meets and falls in love with Peck’s character, Joe Bradley, who is secretly a reporter. Although Princess Anne and Joe deeply care for each other, they can never be together, and this isn’t a conflict that gets resolved. At the end of the film, they shake hands and see each other one last time; he walks out of the palace as she walks deeper into it.

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Don’t we all want to break away from our routine sometime, do something crazy just the opposite than what we do everyday? Yes, Roman Holiday tells you to do just that.

I watched this movie on video when I was in this phase of “discovering Hollywood movies.” Yet, I can watch Roman Holiday any day anytime, here are my reasons, what are yours?

Hepburn still remains the standard of charm and elegance for me as for many others I am sure. She came into the movie world like a breath of fresh air with her waif like figure and her sense of fashion.

The ethereal beauty of Audrey Hepburn 

What more can one write about her, an actor who won an Oscar for ‘Best Actress’ in her very first Hollywood movie which was incidentally Roman Holiday. She still remains the standard of charm and elegance for me as for many others I am sure, she came into the movie world like a breath of fresh air with her waif like figure and her sense of fashion.

Hepburn was a like a “countermodel” to the sexiness of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Russell who dominated Hollywood at that point of time. Her “slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternatively regal and childlike” ushered in a new era of Hollywood beauty. Nobody else looked like her then; she was carefree, liberated, modern, but still ladylike. I can relate to her even now, so could millions of others, when the film released, and that became her USP.

She went on to star in other well-known movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina, Charade, Funny Girl, and My Fair Lady where she often co-starred alongside some of the greatest actors of all time such as Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire.

For Roman Holiday, Audrey is supposed to have worked with the designer of the costumes and contributed her own notes to the design sketches which eventually translated into a wardrobe that transformed a prim little princess to an eager young girl on the streets of Rome.

Fashionista of her times

Audrey Hepburn not only changed how Hollywood perceived female actors but she ushered in haute couture as we know it today. After the austerity of war-time fashion that were practical and functional, Hollywood seemed influenced by Parisian chic. And they found a perfect muse in Audrey. For Roman Holiday, Audrey is supposed to have worked with the designer of the costumes and contributed her own notes to the design sketches which eventually translated into a wardrobe that transformed a prim little princess to an eager young girl on the streets of Rome.

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Why did her look in the film appeal to women so much? I think because it offered an uncomplicated look they could recreate. Whereas can anyone think of attaining the impossible look of say Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  On the other hand, Hepburn’s belt and flat sandals in Roman Holiday could be easily replicated in real life. We do it still don’t we? For me comfort comes first then what’s in trend and the fashion choices of Hepburn tell me I am right.

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Image credit: Time Out

Did someone say TDH? 

Okay, for me the epitome of TDH (Tall, Dark and Handsome for the uninitiated) was and is Gregory Peck. I couldn’t help but feel how he and Audrey Hepburn looked so good together throughout the film. Charismatically charming Peck plays a reporter and has taken up on himself to do an exclusive story on the Princess. His ambition finally wilts in the face of his developing love for a Princess he can’t hope to attain. I cannot still get over the ending of this film where he hands over an envelope full of pictures to the Princess and walks away. This when he has already told his editor that he is not doing an exclusive. Peck was perfect for the role. Everytime I watch Roman Holiday I come away thinking – Who doesn’t want a partner who understands you and doesn’t take advantage of your situation.

Gregory Peck was an established star by then, if rumours are to be believed he was getting a bigger billing for the picture, but half way through the shooting of the film he told the director to bill him and Hepburn as equals. Did he know that she was a rising star? How true he was.

Rome was the perfect backdrop to this perfect fairy tale. It showed me Rome in all its splendour. The film can be a guide for anyone wanting to visit Rome.

Eternal City–Rome

Not for nothing am I fan of this dazzling city, blame it on Roman Holiday. Rome was the perfect backdrop to this perfect fairy tale. It showed me Rome in all its splendour. The film can be a guide for anyone wanting to visit Rome. When my spouse was posted with the UN Police, Rome was on my list. I visited Rome armed with a list of tourist destinations-you got it right where Roman Holiday was shot on location. So, I visited Sala Grande Galleria, The Arch of Septimus Severus and the Temple of Saturn, The Colosseum, Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon, The Spanish Steps, Palazzo Colonna, Trevi Fountain and Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita). Phew, that was a lot considering the limited time I had in Rome before heading off to Vatican City and then on to Florence. And, no I did not have the time to ride the Vespa as Hepburn did.

My take

In Roman Holiday Audrey Hepburn took me with her and convinced me, heart and mind, that she was a princess and I loved her. She taught me that behind the mask that we wear in public is a young girl who wants to indulge in normal activities, do fun things. And that it’s okay to let that mask slip once in a while. Gregory Peck convinced me that yes there are partners like him who believe in you, will indulge in the madness that you are into. And that cities like Rome are forever there waiting to be discovered. It’s a fairy tale, beautifully told.

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Smita Singh is an editor with SheThePeople.TV team. The views expressed are her own.

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