Sunday, January 08, 2012

Roman Holiday (1953) ****

Anyone who wants to understand the allure of Audrey Hepburn need only watch “Roman Holiday,” the movie that made her a star. With her refined, elfin features and devastating smile, there isn’t a man alive who wouldn’t want her for his girlfriend. Hepburn is so charming in this film that as a Hollywood newcomer she won the Best Actress Oscar for the role.

Hepburn plays Princess Ann, a bored royal who accidentally escapes from her handlers while on a diplomatic mission in Rome. She is befriended by a handsome American, Joe (Gregory Peck), who recognizes her, but pretends to believe her story of being a student who slipped out of school. Joe convinces her to enjoy her freedom by spending the day in Rome with him and his friend Irving (Eddie Albert). Little does Ann know that Joe and Irving are actually a reporter/photographer team, secretly documenting Ann’s adventures around Rome for what they hope will be a scandalous, exclusive story.

Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, and Albert’s smooth-looking beard are all excellent, although Peck has to stretch a bit to play a money-hungry reporter. (Somehow I doubt that Peck ever played a real villain.) It is Audrey Hepburn who makes the film, however. She just lights up the screen. This is not the deepest character, but Hepburn lends real humanity and dignity to Ann while displaying some decent physical comedy chops.

Ultimately, “Roman Holiday” is a fun little comedy about Duty, about people paying the price to do what they know is right. It’s an odd mixture, but it works.

4 stars

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