Roman Holiday (1953)

Written by John Dighton, Ian McLellan Hunter, and Dalton Trumbo
Directed by William Wyler
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams


Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own it.

Princess Ann (Hepburn) is making her World Tour, going about, spouting canned speeches about this or that, and generally getting sick to death of having to go through the routine. She seems, honestly, about to have a nervous breakdown or something. It's in Rome when she's finally had enough and decides to make a break for it, or at least get the hell out of the house. Once out she finds herself in the hands of Joe Bradley (Peck), an American newsman based in Italy. All he knows is that he's got this girl that needs taking care of...but he has no clue he's stumbled on to one hell of a story.

Roman Holiday is just one of those films that you're speaking of when you say that hackneyed line about "They don't make movies like that anymore." Because, well, they just don't. I don't think Hollywood would know what to do with this script today, although you know it's already in development somewhere as a remake. They'd throw in a nice steamy love scene, or a different ending, or...who knows, I should shut up before I give them any more ideas.

Enough complaining, let's talk about what's good. It's all pretty much good. The trio of actors--Hepburn, Peck and Albert--are all more than capable of bringing these characters to life and you making you care about them. Indeed, it's their performances that take a romantic comedy from almost a half-century ago and make it seem not in the least bit dated from a cinematic perspective. You're not bored with the film, even today, because it doesn't feel like something you've seen fifteen times in the last year. It really is amazing how fresh it remains.

And it's also amazing that there's so much content on this disc. Kudos to Paramount for providing this stuff. First up is the Remembering featurette, and there's more than you would think that needs remembering. First up, most people know that this was Hepburn's feature debut and that she won an Oscar for her troubles. Less probably are aware of the plight of scribe Trumbo, who wound up blacklisted due to the Great Commie Hunt led by McCarthy. He wrote the script and was fronted by Hunter, because most people wouldn't touch Trumbo with a ten-foot pole--but he and his family needed to still manage to eat. Paramount went back in, found the original footage used behind the card for the writing credits in the film, and gave Trumbo his credit--finally. Huge points. It's nice to see also that they spoke with not only Eddie Albert, but his son, and Wyler's daughter--and we get Hepburn and Peck in archival footage discussing the film. So it's actually a very valiant effort.

The Restoring featurette isn't quite so sweet. Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating to watch as they switch back and forth between the original film and the restored version--and the restored version looks damn good--but they do this switch what feels like thirty times. We get the point. It's also nice to hear about the process and the R&D that went into making this possible, but how many ways and how many different people do we need to point out that there sure was a lot of dirt on that film, ayup? Some more thought as to the content or perhaps an even tighter, shorter segment, might have fixed this. The featurette on Edith Head is also fairly solid, and covers her entire career with Paramount. Her design work, her attitude and life--they're all covered and well in a short amount of time.

Normally, photo galleries and trailers don't impress, but here you have an exception. First up, the trailers, all three, are good to have for archival purposes. There is nothing in the world like looking at old advertising, especially movie trailers, and plotting their evolution over the years. The galleries are actually quite full of really choice shots of all three main characters and some behind-the-scenes work as well.

For fans of Hepburn or Peck, this is probably a no-brainer--but to the rest of us I can safely say that it's worth picking up. Paramount has done a fine job of restoring and packaging the film, and since good romantic comedies are so scarce these days, we might as well look to our screen heritage to get some relief.

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