Prinsessen Holder Fridag
In Denmark a republican is something quite different from stateside. It is a person who simply sees no point in royalty, considers royal weddings, parties and perks a ridiculous waste of money paid their royal subjects who have no other benefit than a real life glamour show. Essentially an anachronism that has outlived itself and now only survive to feed pictures and stories to women’s weeklies. I am such a person.
I make a point of avoiding movies featuring princes and princesses, especially those movies with a pink hue around the characters and the few times I have seen such trash I have struggled with gagging reflexes. It is just not my thing.
But I loved “Roman Holiday”, unabashed and completely.
This is feel good cinema of the very best kind. It is rightfully famous, even iconic and everybody owe themselves to see it.
For those few who has not seen it (which would include me until last night) you have to think something like “Coming to America” without Eddie Murphy. Ah, okay, and a few other minor details, but it is obvious where the inspiration came from.
Princess Ann (the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn) of some obscure European kingdom is visiting Rome as part of a lengthy and tiresome official roundtrip when all the ties and duties become too much for the princess. She is young and alive, but are not allowed out of her cage. So one night she runs away into the night of Rome. Unfortunately for her she had been injected with some sedative so she does not get far before she falls asleep on a fence by the sidewalk. This is where Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) finds her, not recognizing her as the princess. His attempts at sending her home are in vain and eventually he brings her home to his own apartment to sleep.
Next morning Joe discovers that she is a actually the very princess he was supposed to interview in his function as a journalist and he decides to scoop the world press with an exclusive behind the scene interview. To this end he needs his photographer friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert). Joe pretends not to recognize the princess as herself and that fits very well because she in turn pretends to be someone else. In fact she totally enjoys being out in town incognito, eating ice-cream, getting a haircut, seeing the sights and Joe plays along. For a full day Ann is Anya Smitty, an ordinary girl, and Joe is a fertilizer sales rep taking a day off.
They are having a blast and it is truly a day to remember. Eddie Albert is the perfect funny sidekick that gives all the events a roguish twist. Of course they fall in love, but when the day ends so does her holiday and she must return to her mansion. Joe refuses to do a story that exposes the princess. What they have together have become a lot more personal than was intended. They meet the next day for an official press conference, she a princess again and he a journalist. They share a long look, a smile and that is it. Theirs are two different worlds and what they shared is now a fond memory for each of them.
I like everything about this movie.
Audrey Hepburn was one of a kind. I frankly admit that when she does that smile I go all wobbly in my knees and as this caged-princess-discovering-life she is just perfect. There is an exuberance to her, a lust for life that I feel certain is not just an act. So is she acting or just being herself? I do not know and I do not care. I want her no other way. And that haircut makes Audrey Hepburn.
Gregory Peck is perfect as her male counterpart. He has to be both a fatherly protector and a roguish lover and I immediately thought of Cary Grant. In fact I later learned from the extra material that Grant was actually offered the role but turned it down and good for that because Peck as a Grant-light actually fits the bill even better. Thinking about it, Ann and Joe could only be Hepburn and Peck.
Then there is the tone of the movie. It is light comedy, but it avoids becoming fluff and it retains just enough tension to keep me on the toes, but must of all it projects all the joy these two are having in Rome throughout about half of the movie. This part is no filler, but actually the core of the film. They are having fun and it is so fun to watch.
There are tons of clones of this movie, but where this one really stands out is that the romantic element never goes into pink overdrive. We are not getting the Disney ending here. As much as these two people share a wonderful day together they are still rooted in reality. In 1953 this could not be more than a sweet memory, at least not where the movie ends. We are not forced to believe that one day of hanky panky leads directly to a big wedding. Something may have been seeded, but for now she is a princess and he is a journalist. Even throughout the day there is that underlying knowledge that this only works because they have given up their identity for a while. It is bittersweet, but it is what makes the story work.
Finally there is Rome itself. You could not have asked for a better set. I have been there twice and I have seen all these places, but they never looked more beautiful and romantic than here. There are times where famous locations feel forced into the story, but not here. Rome is a very natural setting for this picture. And yes, I am going to Italy this summer.
I knew “Roman Holiday” is famous and I had a feeling I would like it simply for the fact that it features Audrey Hepburn (oh dear, my knees again…), but I had not expected to be blown away. This is not my kind of movie, this is the stuff my wife watches, but I really loved “Roman Holiday”.