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Roman Holiday: The Centennial Collection DVD Review

Roman Holiday: The Centennial Collection

December 1, 2008

Director: William Wyler,
Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, Margaret Rawlings, Tullio Carminati,

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DVD Review

With only play to her credit, Audrey Hepburn was cast as the star of Roman Holiday (1953) after first choices Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons were unavailable. Having never taken any acting classes or had any formal training, she went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her memorable turn as Princess Ann. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo originally wrote the screenplay for the film but was blacklisted in Hollywood due to his Communist affiliations and his attachment to the project scared off the original director, Frank Capra. William Wyler stepped in and Ian McLellan Hunter took credit for Trumbo’s work, winning an Academy Award for the screenplay.

Princess Ann (Hepburn) is on a whirlwind tour of Europe, meeting and greeting every important dignitary from London to Rome. She’s burnt out from the punishing schedule and yearns for the simple pleasures of life, like wearing pajamas to bed. Faced with the prospect of another day of more of the same, she has a long overdue meltdown. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic for Hepburn as she displays an endearing vulnerability – one of her strengths as an actress.

Drawn to sounds of merriment from outside the palace walls, Ann makes her escape at night and finds herself on the busy streets of Rome where she takes in the sights and sounds with wide-eyed wonder. By chance, she meets Joe Bradley (Peck), an American journalist, but she is still reeling from the effects of the tranquilizers given to her after her meltdown. Joe realizes that Ann is in no shape to be wandering the streets and takes her back to his place. It’s an amusing scene as Gregory Peck plays the considerate gentleman to Hepburn’s punch-drunk princess.

Right from the get-go, it is obvious that they have excellent chemistry together and play well off each other in this classic meet-cute. Unbeknownst to Ann, Joe has made a substantial bet with his editor to get an exclusive interview with the Princess that will be his ticket back to the big leagues in New York City. With his best buddy and photographer in tow (Albert), Joe takes Ann on a guided tour of Rome while secretly taking notes and photographs for his big story.

Hepburn absolutely radiates charisma in the scene where Ann walks around the streets of Rome and gets a haircut, tries gelato, and buys a flower from a street vendor. There is a real sense of joy on her face as she gets to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Hepburn is so graceful in every scene as she exudes a continental vibe.

Roman Holiday is such a vibrant film that even though you watch it in black and white, it is almost as if you remember it being in colour. It contains iconic imagery like the shot of Peck and Hepburn riding through the streets of Rome on a Vespa – one that has been emulated countless times. As Joe takes Ann on a guided tour of the city so does William Wyler with the audience and the film acts as a gorgeous travelogue of Rome, taking us along for the ride.

Special Features:

“Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years” is a 30-minute retrospective look at the actress’ stint at Paramount Studios. It examines her influence as an actress and as a fashion icon. This featurette also traces her humble beginning, suffering from malnutrition during World War II, to her rise as a celebrated movie star in classics like Funny Face (1957) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Naturally, her casting in and work on Roman Holiday is examined briefly.

“Remembering Audrey” features Hepburn’s companion of 14 years and her son offering their impressions of the actress, including her private life away from the cameras. What is so impressive is her natural ability – she began acting in major Hollywood films without any acting lessons.

“Rome with a Princess” takes a look at the city of Rome including key locations featured in Roman Holiday. There is footage of them today juxtaposed with clips from the film.

“Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist” briefly examines the life and career of this famous screenwriter. He was smeared as a Communist and blacklisted from Hollywood. He often inserted progressive politics into his scripts but his affiliations made him a target.

“Restoring Roman Holiday” takes a look at the work that went into restoring the film back to its original state. There are numerous comparison shots of the print before and after restoration with technicians explaining the process that the film went through to get it to this wonderful new transfer.

“Behind the Gates: Costumes” briefly examines Paramount’s costume department with a tour of some outfits worn in several famous films.

“Paramount in the ‘50s” takes a look at some of the memorable films produced by the studio in the 1950s, year-by-year.

Also included is the teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and re-release trailers.

Finally, there are still galleries for production photographs, publicity stills and shots from the premiere.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 95%

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