Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Cinematic Experience - Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday, 1953

Oh hello Darlings, it's nice to see you again!

When I first declared that April was to be Audrey April, I knew that the first movie I would watch would be Roman Holiday.  Little did I know how perfect that was...this was the first studio film that Audrey Hepburn was in!  So, if you ask me, it's a pretty great place to start.  In 1999, Roman Holiday was also added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry and holds the 59th slot on AMC's list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.  It's not hard to see why!

watch the trailer
If you've never seen this film, I'm pretty sure you'll love it.  I most certainly did!

The film opens with Princess Ann, played by Audrey Hepburn, who is from an unidentified European country.  Over and over they refer to 'her country' or 'her kingdom,' but which European nation she presides over remains a mystery throughout the film.  Whichever one it is, it is keeping her busy on an extensive European tour.  Princess Ann's itinerary is so jam-packed that even the viewer gets tired.  She makes one personal appearance after another, giving interviews, and attending balls thrown in her honor.  She is sublimely unhappy and it's not difficult to see why.

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The pressure finally becomes too great for Princess Ann to bear as she is getting ready for bed while in Rome.  She can hear music from her window, sees carefree people dancing just outside the palace walls, and has a breakdown - one that no one can fault her for.  The doctor is called and administers a sedative which she is told will take a little time to work.  Not being bothered at all by this 'ineffective' sedative, as soon as everyone leaves her room, she quickly gets dressed and sneaks out.  It does not take much time for the sedative to take effect and she falls asleep on a public bench.  On his way home from a poker game, Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, happens upon her and, believing that she is drunk, ends up taking her back to his apartment when it is obvious that she is unable to tell the taxi driver where she lives.  They're pretty sure she DOESN'T live at the Colosseum!

Audrey Hepburn is so endearing and effortlessly funny when they return to Joe's small studio apartment.  It quickly becomes even more evident just how out of her element she is.  And in, my opinion, this scene has the best lines!
Ann:  "Is this the elevator?"
Joe:  "This is my room!"

She is asleep on her feet and asks Joe, "Can I have a silk nightgown with rosebuds on it?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to rough it tonight.  In these."
"Sorry honey, but I haven't worn a nightgown in years."

Once she has her sleep attire, Joe is about to leave and she slips back into princess mode and tells him, "You have my permission to withdraw."  I may have to start using that line myself...

After all the fun from the night before, Joe oversleeps, leaves 'Anya Smith' in his studio, and rushes to the office.  We learn that he is an American reporter for Rome's Daily American and was supposed to interview Princess Ann that morning.  In the wake of her disappearance, the Royal Family had released the statement that she has fallen ill.  Unfortunately, Joe is unaware of this fact and tries lying to his boss, telling him that he is just returning from the interview.  Once he sees Ann's picture in the paper and realizes who wore his pajamas the night before, he tells his boss that he will be able to get an exclusive interview.
"But tell me, Mr. Bradley, if you are sober, just how you are going to obtain this fantastic interview?"
"I plan to enter her sick room disguised as a thermometer."

I LOVE the humor of these old films!

Joe rushes back to his room only to find that Ann is getting ready to leave.  He is unable to convince her to stay, so he follows her when she leaves and is surprised when she starts roaming the city, exercising a bit of freedom and anonymity that she most likely had never experienced before, and ends up at a small barber shop.  She asks to have her hair chopped off and it ends up looking fabulous!  Wouldn't you agree?

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After Ann's transformation, Joe just 'happens' to run into her on the Spanish Steps and, in the interest of getting his story, he proposes that they spend the day doing whatever she wants to do, stating that "Today will be a holiday."  First stop?  A sidewalk cafe where she has a glass of champagne.  On the sly, Joe calls a photographer friend of his, Irving, brilliantly played by Eddie Albert, so that he can get photographs for the story.  

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After leaving the café, they embark on the famous Vespa tour of Rome!

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One of the stops on the Vespa tour, is the iconic Mouth of Truth which, legend has it, will bite off the hand of someone who tells a lie.  The fact that both characters are lying about who they are (Ann neglects to tell Joe that she is a princess and he neglects to tell her that he is a reporter) makes for an entertaining scene.  Little secret?  Gregory Peck's part of the scene was completely improvised, so Audrey Hepburn's reaction is real!

After a day of fun, our three characters go down to the docks for some dancing.  The chemistry between Joe and Ann has been brewing all day, but is never as strong as in this scene.  And then chaos ensues!  This scene is fun and funny and, much like the rest of the film, it's nearly impossible NOT to get caught up in all the excitement! 

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Like Cinderella, Princess Ann must go home at the end of the night, her fairy tale (her day of freedom) is over.  It's heartbreaking for both characters and the audience wants so badly for her to change her mind.  The next day, the princess' press conference is rescheduled and Joe and Irving stand right up front.  Now that everyone's real identities are out in the open, surely there is the chance that Ann will chose a life of love and adventure over her stifling life of privilege and duty.

What does she chose?  If you haven't seen this film, I'm not about to give it away!

-The part of Joe Bradley was originally written for Carey Grant, but he felt that he was too old to play Audrey Hepburn's love interest.

-The part of Princess Ann was originally written for Elizabeth Taylor, but she was not available.  Which was lucky for Hepburn, since this film launched her career.

-Gregory Peck originally had solo star billing, but partway through filming, he insisted her name appear above the film title, predicting that she was going to win an Oscar.

-The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, but only won three - Best Actress for Audrey Hepburn, Best Black & White Costume Design for Edith Head, and Best Writing for Ian McLellan Hunter.

-In 1992, The Academy corrected their records to finally credit Dalton Trumbo for the screenplay.  Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted for being part of the Hollywood Ten, a group of people who were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947.  He continued to write while being blacklisted and was fronted by Ian McLellan Hunter.  Dalton's widow accepted his Oscar in 1993.

-Frank Capra was originally supposed to direct this film, but refused when he learned that the screenplay was written by Trumbo.

-Roman Holiday was filmed entirely on location, which was very uncommon for the time.  Wilder, the director, insisted on filming in Rome, and this was supposedly the first film to be shot and processed entirely in Italy.  Wilder's location budget was so high that they were forced to film in black and white instead of color.

-In an example of life imitating art, the film was released during the scandal of Britain's Princess Margaret who was considering marriage to Peter Townsend, a commoner.

Have you seen this film?  It's essential viewing for Audrey April!

Happy Viewing, Darlings!

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