Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn) is on a tour of the European capitals, with the public reading about her every step. Her days are fully scheduled with proper meetings and wholesome activities where she is always sheltered by her servants. One night in Rome, after a slight emotional breakdown, a doctor gives her a sedative and Anne boldly decides to escape into the city to find some fun for herself.
As an American newsman, Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) is heading back to his apartment, he finds Anne snoozing along the sidewalk and ancient ruins. The girl has no identification or money and says she lives at the Colosseum, so he assumes she is drunk and takes her back to his place, where she’ll be safer.
The next morning, Joe has accidentally slept in and missed his interview with Princess Anne, but finds out she is sick and has canceled all appointments for the day. At least that’s the story that the public is given. But when Joe sees a picture of the princess, he realizes it’s the girl back at his little apartment sleeping on his uncomfortable couch. He makes a bet that he can get an exclusive interview with the princess and takes Anne on a day trip through Rome, never letting her know that he knows she’s the princess.
Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for best actress in her fun and endearing portrayal of Princess Anne. From the very beginning, she puts a wonderfully imperfect spin on royalty. We realize this will be a fun film when she’s trying to remain poised and dignified while under her large dress we know she’s trying to scratch her tired legs and loses a shoe. Her spoiled girl antics don’t make us dislike her, instead we feel her stress and sympathize with the cooped up princess. As she explores Rome, it’s like watching a flower bloom. At first, she is timid and unsure of what to do and where to go. After a new haircut, to help conceal her royal identity more, and making new friends, she really starts to come out of her shell and we see a new, confident young woman.
Some of my favorite laughs come when Anne is half asleep and being led around by Joe. We know the sedative is to blame for her disgraceful sleeping in public and the wild idea of living at the Colosseum, and Hepburn delivers this act in such a funny and endearing way. When Joe tries to lead her up the spiral stairs, Anne naturally goes around them like a sleep walker. After Joe tells Anne she’ll sleep on the couch, comes back to see her curled up on his bed, the way he flips her onto the couch is hilarious and shows just how powerfully sedated Anne is. Even funnier is when Joe realizes the next day that he’s flopped a princess out of his bed and made her sleep on the couch, and then picks up to place her back in the bed before she wakes up.
The meat of the film is Anne’s adventures exploring Rome. These chapters are fun and funny, but can feel like a tourism aid at times. The film starts showing us things to see and do in Rome and always do so on a little Vespa scooter. Of all these scenes shot all over Rome, the Mouth of God scene pays off the most and I’d rather not spoil the gag. It was a surprise for Hepburn too.
All and all, Roman Holiday a fun mix of a romantic comedy and Roman tourism ideas. If anyone is planning a vacation to Rome, I’d suggest seeing this for fun ideas on where to go.
“Joe, we can’t go running around town with a hot princess!”