I'd never seen the classic film before watching it last week. Having watched it almost 70 years after its release, I had problems with it that I'm sure no one sitting in the theatre in 1953 had.
The story is about a princess, Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who is visiting Rome. Ann is tired of her structured routine, so she sneaks out of the embassy at night to explore the city. She meets Joe (Gregory Peck), an American reporter who works for the American News Service. Joe shows Ann around the town, secretly having a friend photograph them so he can sell a story about her, behind her back.
The problem that I had, even though it's kind of a romantic comedy, is it's very hard to accept Gregory Peck as such a fiendish character because he's so imprinted into our brains as Atticus Finch. To Kill A Mockingbird came out in 1962, nine years after Roman Holiday. But being so many decades after both films, it feels like Peck is miscast in Roman Holiday. That's the downside of having a performance for the ages—it's hard to accept your acting as anything else.
Roman Holiday was one of Audrey Hepburn's early films, and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for it. It was obvious from her performance that she would go down in history as one of the greatest actresses of all time. She lit up the screen unlike few people ever have.
I feel the film deserved its Best Picture nomination. It's a very good film. I'm sure Peck played fantastically to that 1953 audience. I'd certainly like to have seen Robert Mitchum in the role of Joe, though. It's just too hard to hate Gregory Peck. It would be like putting Tom Hanks (or Audrey Hepburn) in a bad guy role. Too hard to buy.
I definitely recommend watching the film, however. They're both outstanding, iconic actors doing their thing with a fun script, with the beautiful backdrop of Rome behind them. It's classic through-and-through, and if you can buy Mr. Peck as something far less likable than Atticus, I'm sure you'll even love it more than I did.
Jon David Rosten, author of
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