She’s pretty great to watch, that Sophia Loren! And Marcello isn’t bad either!
Oh, how I love this movie! It is my favorite single film of all time.
It was released in 1953, which was a very good year! It was Miss Hepburn’s first starring role in an American film, even though the whole thing was set in Rome. It has a fantastic story which is as moving as it is comedic.
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on a Vespa (bzzzz, bzzzz, vespa means hornet in Italian) with Rome as a backdrop. It doesn’t get any better than that! All of my favorites in one shot.
Here the actors appear on the iconic Spanish Steps. Miss Hepburn was the perfect age to play a European princess and Mr. Peck was completely believable as a seasoned American journalist looking to get a scoop on a story. (This is an important distinction, for not every American leading man will be a believable love interest for the amazing Miss Hepburn in her future films.)
A publicity still.
I didn’t discover this movie until I was an adult, but it didn’t matter, I fell for it completely. And then, one time I was visiting my friend, Grayce Murabito, in her little village, Casoli di Camiore, near Lucca, and I met the very charismatic Eddie Albert who also had a major role in the film. Grayce and Eddie had been an entertainment duo in their early professional careers. I will write a post on them soon.
Here is a still of all 3 of the movie stars, Audrey, Gregory, and Eddie.
Which was turned into a great poster:
When the movie begins, we meet the character Miss Hepburn plays, Princess Ann. She is a very miserable young royal who is stifled and bored in her constant round of official presentations, even when they are in Rome.
She wants nothing but a little fun in her life and to be released from always doing the right thing.
After she has been all but tucked into bed by her female attendants in her glamorous Roman chamber, she manages to break free.
Some hi jinx ensue and she winds up in the care of an American journalist who coincidentally is in desperate need of a scoop. For quite a while he doesn’t realize he has one.
In the meantime, the princess tastes freedom. For starters, she gets her hair cut. She wanders around the streets of Rome, caught up in the sweet pleasure of her freedom to do just as she likes (dolce far niente), and when she strolls by a hairdresser, she can’t resist going in for a break-all-the-rules fashionable haircut.
Of course her new pixie haircut looks marvelous on her because, after all, she is still Audrey Hepburn!
So, heartened by her new hairstyle, Princess Ann does other daring things, like ride around Rome on a Vespa with an American man.
And wander the streets of Rome freely, meeting the people.
And attending an ordinary dance for ordinary people, at which she dances with her handsome journalist friend.
And sleeping in his tiny apartment in his pajamas.
She and her journalist friend visit the famous la boca della verita (the mouth of truth) in Rome. Joe Bradley tells her the myth, which purports that, if you put your hand into the mouth of this sculpture and tell a lie, your hand will be bitten off.
Ann is apprehensive, but tests it. Then she and Joe collapse in laughter at her silly fears.
Along with tasting freedom, the princess also inadvertently gets a taste of love in her dashing co-conspirator. Only she doesn’t know he knows who she is and that he is actually setting her up.
But he has fallen in love with her as well. How could he not? The entire western world was falling in love with Audrey Hepburn right then, no matter what role she was playing.
In the end, she goes back to her duties and you will have to watch the film to find out how Joe Bradley winds up using his scoop.
Here’s another still with some technicolor added later. The princess has discovered gelato as well as freedom.
The critics and the public alike were captivated by Audrey and her performance in Roman Holiday and she was feted with multiple awards. Miss H was the first actress to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for a single performance. This beautiful film set Miss H up for a series of great upcoming performances on the American screen.
It is sweet to look at this candid photo of the two lead characters playing cards during a break from filming in Rome.
Sigh. It is such a beautiful film. Run, don’t walk, to see it as soon as possible. Ride your Vespa if you can.
Ciao a tutti!
Post script: Famed Hollywood designer, Edith Head, created the looks Miss Hepburn wore. Here is Miss Head.
And here is the sketch Miss Head designed for the ballgown Princess Ann wears to receive dignitaries.
And, finally, one last, luminous shot of Audrey Hepburn in Rome on the Spanish Steps in color from 1953, for no other reason than I can.
Here’s the vintage trailer for the movie: