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Blu-ray Review: Roman Holiday

September 15, 2020

By John Corrado

Audrey Hepburn received five Oscar nominations throughout her acting career, but the only film that she ever won for was Roman Holiday, which also happened to be her first starring role in a motion picture.

It also happens to be one of my absolute favourite performances of hers, helping turn her into the screen icon that we all know and love. And the film itself, which Paramount is now releasing for the first time ever on Blu-ray this week, is just as delightful as it ever was.

Directed by William Wyler, the 1953 film casts Hepburn as a European princess who is bored with the royal life and tired of the stifling responsibilities that come with it. While on official business in Italy, Hepburn’s Princess Ann escapes from her room, falls asleep on a park bench, and ends up meeting Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an American reporter living in Rome who was meant to interview her.

Princess Ann keeps her identity a secret, and so does Bradley, who senses a major opportunity in doing an exclusive story about the missing princess, enlisting the help of his cameraman friend Irving (Eddie Albert) to take pictures. The princess and the reporter form a close bond as the two of them spend a carefree day playing tourist throughout Rome. Hepburn is a joy to watch, bringing an innocence to the role of Princess Ann that is quite endearing. Her and Peck have delightful chemistry together, bouncing off each other in a really playful and fun way. The film features some wonderful bits of slapstick humour, as well as a swooning romanticism.

The film received a total of ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It won three, including for Edith Head’s wonderful costumes, and Dalton Trumbo’s pitch perfect screenplay. Trumbo was originally credited under the pseudonym Ian McLellan Hunter, due to him being blacklisted for refusing to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee during their investigation into communist influences in Hollywood. This release marks the first time that Trumbo has been properly credited, both with a “story by” credit on the packaging and in the opening credits of the film itself.

While many films of the time were shot on studio backlots, Wyler insisted that Roman Holiday be made in Italy, and it became one of the first studio pictures to be filmed on location in post-war Europe. Shot entirely on location in Rome, the sights and sounds of the historic city provide a stunning backdrop for the story, allowing the film to function as a sort of travelogue. The black and white cinematography by Henri Alekan and Franz F. Planer remains beautiful to look at, especially on Blu-ray.

What more can I really say about Roman Holiday? Featuring two old school movie stars at their most loveable, it ranks among the greatest romantic comedies of all time, set against the spectacular backdrop of Rome in the 1950s. It’s a delightful and incredibly charming film in every single way, building towards a poignant and bittersweet final scene.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The film has been newly remastered from a 4K film transfer. According to the press release, the original negative, which was processed at a local film lab in Rome, was badly scratched and damaged, so a Dupe Negative was made. For this Blu-ray release, the film was digitally restored using the Dupe Negative and a Fine Grain element. In addition, the disc includes one new featurette, along with several previously released bonus features.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday (6 minutes, 59 seconds): This new featurette finds film critic and historian Leonard Maltin discussing the legacy of the film, touching on the history of the production and the careers of its stars. It’s a very engaging and informative piece.

Behind the Gates: Costumes (5 minutes, 31 seconds): Paramount archivist Randall Thropp takes us through some of the iconic costumes in the Paramount archives. Featurette from 2008.

Rome With a Princess (8 minutes, 57 seconds): A narrator takes us through the plot of the film, and the historic locations around Rome where the scenes take place. Featurette from 2008.

Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years (29 minutes, 55 seconds): An overview of the films that Hepburn would star in during her time at Paramount, including Sabrina, War and Peace, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Paris When It Sizzles, and My Fair Lady. Featurette from 2008.

Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist (11 minutes, 55 seconds): An interesting look at Dalton Trumbo’s career as a screenwriter, how he was put on the Hollywood Blacklist as an alleged communist, and his unwavering support of the First Amendment. Featurette from 2008.

Paramount in the ’50s (9 minutes, 33 seconds): A breakdown of the many classic films that Paramount Pictures put out in the decade of the 1950s. Featurette from 2000.

Remembering Audrey (12 minutes, 12 seconds): Hepburn’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer and companion Robert Wolders reflect on her life, from her childhood in Holland during the war, to her career as a movie star, and post-film work as an ambassador for Unicef. Featurette from 2008.

Theatrical Trailers: A trio of original trailers for the film, which provide an interesting glimpse at how it was marketed, both during its initial release as well as for a theatrical re-release to capitalize on the success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer (1 minute, 48 seconds)

Original Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 12 seconds)

Theatrical Re-Release Trailer (2 minutes, 28 seconds)

Galleries: A collection of four photo galleries made up of still images, that you can click through using your remote.

Production

The Movie

Publicity

The Premiere

Roman Holiday is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 118 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: September 15th, 2020

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