Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Roman Holiday

Directed by William Wyler and screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, Ian McLellan Hunter, and John Dighton from a story by Trumbo, Roman Holiday is the story of a princess who runs away from her duties to see the city of Rome as she is joined by a reporter as they go into a romantic adventure. The film is a romantic comedy that follows the life of two people going to Rome where a reporter tries to give a woman the time of her life not aware of who she really is. Starring Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, and Margaret Rawlings. Roman Holiday is a majestic and enchanting film from William Wyler.

The film is a simple story of a princess who travels around Europe for a royal tour as she becomes tired of her demanding schedule where she secretly runs away to go sight-seeing in Rome where she befriends an American journalist looking for a story to sell. It’s a film that play into two people looking for something different in their lives where they would take on different personas yet only one of them knows who the other person is as he tries to maintain that secrecy. The film’s screenplay that is mainly written by Dalton Trumbo and John Dighton, as the former wasn’t properly credit due to Hollywood blacklist where Ian McLellan Hunter had to take credit, doesn’t just explore the monotony of the routine that Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) had to do but also the need to wanting to enjoy life like everyone else. She makes her escape and sort of succeeds until a sedative she was given earlier finally caught up with her as an expatriated American journalist in Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) finds her and realizes who she is.

For Bradley, he is someone in need of money as well as getting a story that would take him back home as he lets Princess Ann stay at his apartment where she would call herself Anya Smith. He reluctantly allows her to be by herself for much of the film’s first-half where she would get a haircut and see the sights of Rome as he would act an observer trying to get a story. When his photographer friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert) comes in to take some secret photos for the story, he too would be an observer as he hopes to get a cut of what money Joe is making. Throughout the course of the film, the three go sightseeing around the city of Rome where an attraction between Bradley and the princess begins to happen. Especially as the princess’ staff go into panic mode where they send men to find her as it goes into chaos.

William Wyler’s direction is definitely astonishing in terms of its visuals where Rome is a major character in the film with all of its landmarks as well as some of the moments in the streets where many of its locals live. While some of the film is shot in Cinecitta studios for scenes inside the palace and some of the interiors, Wyler does create something that does feel enchanting for the vibrancy of post-war Rome where it’s a city that is starting to thrive all over again. While Wyler uses some wide shots to capture its beauty in the many locations it is in, he maintains an intimacy in the way Princess Ann and Joe would interact whether it’s at the latter’s apartment or at a cafĂ©. Wyler’s usage of close-ups and medium shots would help play into some of the romantic elements as well as the moments of comedy including the way Bradley would make Irving spill his drink as part of a recurring gag. Wyler finds that balance of both genres while making sure that the humor isn’t forced such as a low-key scene of a couple of officials of the princess waiting for a royal plane to arrive to see some royal soldiers in plain clothes as it is one of the funniest moments in the film.

The direction also showcases that sense of vibrancy in the city such as the scenes involving the Vespa scooters and how Princess Ann would interact with the locals. Yet, it all kind of plays as this sense of fantasy that Princess Ann wants but there is that reality that she has to go back to the palace and fulfill her royal duties. Even as she has no clue what Bradley really is as he claims he does something else unaware of what he plans to do as he was originally supposed to interview her at her palace that day. The film’s climax is about this reality as well as the fact that these are two people who have to play a role in life and could do little to escape from it. Overall, Wyler creates a rapturous yet evocative film about a princess escaping her palace to go sightseeing around Rome with a journalist.

Cinematographers Henri Alekan and Franz Planer do amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography as it play into the richness of the city in the day in many of its exteriors to the usage of shadows and lights for some of the interior scenes set at night as well as the nighttime exterior scenes. Editor Robert Swink does excellent work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with a few dissolves as well as some rhythmic cuts for some of the funny moments in the film. Art directors Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler do brilliant work with the look of the palace interiors including the princess‘ bedroom and the apartment that Joe lives in.

Costume designer Edith Head does fantastic work with the dress that Princess Ann wears outside of the palace as well as the regal dresses she would wear when she‘s performing her duties. Sound recordist Joseph de Bretagne does terrific work with the sound in capturing some of the moments in the city as well as a dance that Joe and Princess Ann go to. The film’s music by Georges Auric and Victor Young is wonderful for its orchestral-based score as it has moments that are lively and fun as well as some somber pieces that play into the drama as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Alfredo Rizzo as a cab driver, Laura Solari as a secretary from the paper Bradley works at, Paolo Carlini as the barber who cuts the princess’ hair, Tullio Carminti as a general for the princess’ country, Harcourt Williams as the princess’ ambassador, and Margaret Rawlings as the princess’ lady-in-waiting Countess Vereberg. Hartley Power is superb as Joe’s editor Hennessy who wants a major story from Joe as well as threatening to fire him. Eddie Albert is excellent as Irving Radovich as a photographer who works with Bradley as he goes along for the ride with a secret camera as he tries to get the best shots of the Princess while calling her Smitty. Finally, there’s the duo of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in spectacular performances.

Peck’s performance as Joe Bradley is one of charm but also willing to get his story as there are moments of him that is funny but some of the dramatic moments is where Peck is at his best in how much he would car for the princess. Hepburn’s performance as Princess Ann is truly a breakthrough for the actress in her Hollywood debut as she just exudes charisma as well as display a regality and liveliness that is so engaging to watch as she can be funny but also very dramatic in the anguish over the role she is playing in the world. Hepburn and Peck together are a joy to watch as they just don’t have this chemistry that is impeccable but also giving the audience a chance to root for them.

Roman Holiday is a phenomenal film from William Wyler that features outstanding performances from Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Along with a fantastic supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, a lively score, and amazing images of the locations in Rome. It’s a film that isn’t just a romantic comedy that offers so much and more but also a film that captures the sense of joy and anguish of love in all of its complexities. In the end, Roman Holiday is a tremendous film from William Wyler.

William Wyler Films: (Straight Shootin’) - (Anybody Here Seen Kelly?) - (The Shakedown) - (Hell’s Heroes) - (A House Divided (1931 film)) - (Tom Brown of Culver) - (Counsellor at Law) - (Glamour (1934 film)) - (The Good Fairy) - (The Gay Deception) - (These Three) - (Dodsworth) - (Come and Get It) - (Dead End (1937 film)) - (Jezebel) - (Wuthering Heights (1939 film)) - (The Westerner) - (The Letter) - (The Little Foxes) - (Mrs. Miniver) - (Memphis Belle: A Story of Flying Fortress) - The Best Years of Our Lives - (Thunderbolt!) - (The Heiress) - (Detective Story (1951 film)) - (Carrie (1952 film)) - (The Desperate Hours) - Friendly Persuasion - (The Big Country) - Ben-Hur - (The Children’s Hour) - (The Collector (1965 film)) - (How to Steal a Million) - (Funny Girl) - (The Liberation of L.B. Jones)

© thevoid99 2016


Brittani Burnham said...

I liked this film too, though it's been years since I've seen it.

ruth said...

Oooh!! I'm glad you finally saw this. It's a phenomenal film indeed. I saw this for the first time years ago because of Audrey, but then have rewatched it multiple times since I fell for Gregory Peck! :)

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I think it's time to see it again as this was so fun to watch.

@ruth-Gregory Peck is a handsome, handsome, manly-man! Audrey was so adorable. I want to see it again but this time on a big TV.