Roman Holiday is a 1953 film that was directed by William Wyler and starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (in her first starring role). This romantic comedy was well received by critics and audiences alike. It made 12 million dollars at the box office on a budget of 1.5 million dollars. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Picture, Director, and Supporting Actor [Eddie Albert]). It was also nominated for three BAFTA awards. It brought home Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress (Hepburn), Costume Design, and Writing. Hepburn was also recognized with a BAFTA for “Best British Actress.” To top off those awards, it has been a favorite on a number of AFI lists and ranked as their #4 romantic comedy of all time. So does this well regarded romantic comedy deserve to be called a classic?
Should this film be considered a classic? When I first started the film my answer would have been no. Sure, Hepburn was putting in a good performance but I also found her a bit annoying. Plus, I had a very hard time getting past the age difference between Peck and Hepburn. He looked like her dad. That’s a hard thing to move beyond when they start making out. But as the movie unfolded I began to like it more. It was not the romantic comedy elements that sold it for me. It was the responsibility elements. In the end, Hepburn’s princess engages in some very un-romcom behavior and puts her obligations to her country and her family above her own personal feelings. Wow! That showed some real growth in her character and added a big measure of depth to the movie. Also, we see Peck’s character go from a reporter just trying to get a scoop to someone who genuinely cares for the person he is assigned to write about. All of that comes to a head in an absolutely perfect ending that I refuse to spoil. I’ll just say it is not your typical romcom ending and it is what makes this film a classic.
Would I own this film? That’s a tough one. I might pick it up at some point. Knowing what I do about the film I think will be better able to ignore some of the things that bothered me upon my first viewing. It is definitely one that you should watch even if the phrase “romantic comedy” would usually send up red flags. This is romantic comedy done right and with some depth and real character development.