Roman Holiday - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

Still gorgeous after all these years

Luckily for me, I was able to see Roman Holiday on the big scene at my local cinema when they had a "Romantic" revival week recently. I have seen this film several times over the years, and it just keeps getting better and better. We all remember how lovely Audrey Hepburn was, and how handsome and gallant Gregory Peck was (and still is), but I'd forgotten how witty and knowing the film itself is.

Some of the things I noticed this time around:
· the way the general faints at the sight of a needle
· the fact that the doctor comes in to tend to Princess Ann in his dressing gown - the little touches of humanity
· the way Ann looks up at the naked ladies carved in the plaster ceiling above her bed. The fact that Ann talks about people sleeping naked
· Ann dances only with old men at the reception. Look, the movie is saying: this is not natural for a young girl
· the lovely and funny scene between Gregory Peck (playing journalist Joe Bradley) and his editor, when Peck has to obfuscate the answers the Princess supposedly gave to the interview he never actually had with the Princess

There are at least two truly sublime moments in Roman Holiday. The first is the moment when, after she has innocently spent the night with Joe Bradley Audrey as Princess Ann sits up in bed, smiles and says "pleased to meet you". This time, I particularly noticed her beautiful crooked teeth - you don't see to much of that these days, except perhaps in British films.

The second sublime moment is the scene with the Mouth of Truth. It is still so charming and natural. You can see the sincere smiles on the actors' faces - especially Eddy Albert's. In a documentary on Gregory Peck I saw recently at the 2000 Sydney Film Festival (A Conversation with Gregory Peck (Barbara Kopple, 1999)), Peck retold the story about how he hadn't told Audrey quite everything that he was going to do when he put the hand in the Mouth of Truth, and so when he pulled out his hand and showed he his "empty" sleeve, she screamed a real scream, which surprised everyone on set. So what we see is a real fright and real laughter afterwards. So delightful!

What's particularly interesting for me now, as an Australian in the year 2000, having been on the losing side of a referendum held on whether or not we should retain the British monarch as our monarch, is the view the film takes of monarchy. It pokes fun at the rituals, but it also makes very telling points about the downside of being a royal. Towards the end of the film, when Peck is deciding whether or not to use the material he has gathered from his day incognito with the Princess, his friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert) says: "She's fair game Joe. It's always open season on Princesses."

This little bit of social commentary struck me this time round, so I did a little digging and found out that the screenplay was actually written by blacklisted Hollywood Ten author Dalton Trumbo. In 1993, he was finally given a posthumous Oscar for the screenplay. The film had originally won three Oscar awards - one went to Ian McLellan Hunter for Best Original Story.

The other thing that I like about Roman Holiday is that it resists the urge for the happy ending. Imagine how strong that urge was: I don't know whether too many filmmakers could resist it today. Even British films have begun falling into the happy ending trap: remember the ludicrous ending of Notting Hill (Roger Michell, 1999)? As if...

But here, in this fairytale movie, there is no happily-ever-after. What a great film!