Roman Holiday (1953)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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With Audrey Hepburn at her most appealing, Gregory Peck at his most charismatic, and Rome at its most photogenic, Roman Holiday remains one of the most popular romances that has ever skipped across the screen. Aside from being an enormously enjoyable romp, the film is most notable for two reasons. The first is Hepburn, featured here in her first starring role in a Hollywood film. Her performance won her an Academy Award and established her as an actress whose waifish, delicate beauty presented a viable alternative to the amply proportioned bombshells of the day. With her wide-eyed but cultivated portrayal of Princess Anne, Hepburn kicked off a trend defined by the Audrey Hepburn "look"--simple, sophisticated, and streamlined. The second reason for the film's importance is its location. Whereas modern-day filmmakers may think nothing of jetting off to remote and exotic locales, in 1953 the idea of traveling beyond a Hollywood soundstage was fairly novel. Director William Wyler's use of Rome is one of the best examples of how a location can become a leading character in a film: without the city's twisted alleyways, bustling crowds, and hulking ruins, Roman Holiday would have had the visual impact of a museum diorama. The effect of using the actual city in the film was eye-popping: audiences saw not just a romance between the two lead characters but a love affair between the camera and the city. In this respect, Roman Holiday goes beyond its status as one of the screen's most enduring romances to become one of history's most thumbed-through travel brochures.