Roman Holiday (1953)

The role of the princess who escapes her duties for a day crystallised the charm of Audrey Hepburn, winning her an Oscar for her first Hollywood role.

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Introduction

“It is a contrived fable but a bittersweet legend with laughs that leaves the spirits soaring.”
A.H. Weiler, The New York Times, 1953

Director William Wyler and star Gregory Peck were better known for earnest drama than for comedy, but the casting of Audrey Hepburn in her first US role and the – for 1953 – daring decision to shoot a big Hollywood production on the bustling streets of Rome helped make this romcom a breath of fresh air.

With her elfin looks and winsome charm, Hepburn is perfectly cast as the visiting princess who escapes her restrictive schedule of state duties to fall in with foreign correspondent Peck, who shows her the sights – and the time of her life. She duly won an Oscar, as did Ian McClellan Hunter for ‘Best Writing, Motion Picture Story’. Hunter was actually fronting for the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, who posthumously received the award in 1993.

Richard Curtis borrowed the basic premise for his London-set romcom Notting Hill (1999), with ‘princess’ Julia Roberts discovering down-to-earth pleasures in the company of local ‘commoner’ Hugh Grant.

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