"ROMAN HOLIDAY: CENTENNIAL COLLECTION"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Gregory Peck as JOE BRADLEY
Audrey Hepburn as PRINCESS ANN
Eddie Albert as IRVING RADOVICH
Directed by: William Wyler
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This month, Paramount Pictures has opened its vault of classic films and begun releasing its Centennial Collection. The inaugural films in the first wave include “Sunset Boulevard,” “Roman Holiday” and “Sabrina.” It’s a love letter to Audrey Hepburn for two of the films, and it’s a great chance to see these classic movies restored to their original glory.
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“Roman Holiday” is a sweet movie about a fleeting chance for love. Audrey Hepburn makes her screen debut as a leading lady in this film in a performance that won her an Oscar. She plays Princess Ann, who is on a tour of Europe. Disenchanted and bored with the routine and busy schedule, she runs off one night after being given some medicine to calm her down. When journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) finds her sleeping on a park bench, he takes her home to safety.
Over the next day, Joe realizes that she is the princess, and the royal family has officially announced that she is just ill. Joe sees this as an opportunity to get an exclusive interview, and he takes her on an impromptu holiday in Rome, arranging for his photographer friend (Eddie Albert) to document the event. However, during their time together, Joe falls in love with the princess.
Like “Sunset Boulevard,” I had never seen “Roman Holiday” before this opportunity. It’s a beautiful snapshot into the past, both for the historic look of Rome and to witness the birth of the romantic comedy. This genre has become so common today that few remember how things began with having characters whimsically fall in love on screen.
There’s a breeziness and fluffiness to this film that makes it rather charming. Much of this can be attributed to Hepburn’s unique on-screen presence. She was a darling of the cinema, and looking at this early work explains why.
The DVD has the fully restored feature film, and on the second disc, there’s an explanation of how this process was achieved. Another featurette on the second disc highlights the contribution of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the infamous Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted in the 50s.
The adoration of Audrey Hepburn spills over from the film onto the second disc, which includes three featurettes about the legendary actress: “Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years,” “Remembering Audrey” and “Rome with a Princess.” There’s also a look at the costumes and the Paramount studio in the 1950s.
If you haven’t seen “Roman Holiday” yet, you might want to give this a shot. In its brilliant restored version, the DVD is one of the best ways to experience it outside of the movie theater. Similarly, if you’re a fan of Audrey Hepburn, here’s a nice look at her career with this film and the other films from Paramount.