This classic, romantic 1950’s Paramount Pictures film, directed by William Wyler, was filmed entirely in Italy, the first American film to do so. While she had had a few small European film roles before "Roman Holiday," this was the first major film role for lovely 24-year-old ingenue actress and former model Audrey Hepburn (May 4, 1929 – January 20, 1993); this film is considered by many to be her true film debut. Hepburn co-starred with actors Gregory Peck (April 5, 1916 – June 12, 2003) and Eddie Albert (April 22, 1906 – May 26, 2005).
The film won three Oscars: Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn), Best Writing, Motion Pictures Story (Dalton Trumbo), and Best Costume Design (Edith Head). It was also nominated for seven other Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Hepburn also won a Golden Globe and BAFTA Film Award for her performance as the runaway Princess Ann.
The film was released in South American countries with the title "La princesa que quería vivir," translation, "The Princess Who Wanted to Live."
Film synopsis, via IMDb:
A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.
More from IMDb:
"Roman Holiday" is based on a screenplay by British playwright John Dighton (1909-1989) and American screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976). Since Trumbo was blacklisted at the time for being one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of ten writers and directors who were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, British screenwriter Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for him. Trumbo’s name has subsequently been re-added to the film’s credits.
Paramount originally wanted to shoot this movie in Hollywood. William Wyler refused, insisting it must be shot on location. They finally agreed, but with a much lower budget. This meant the movie would be in black and white, not the expected Technicolor, and he would need to cast an unknown actress as the Princess, Audrey Hepburn.
A lot of the film’s success was attributed to the public’s fascination with Britain’s Princess Margaret who was creating a stir with her highly publicized relationship with commoner Peter Townsend. The Princess was forced to renounce her true love because he was divorced, and marry more "suitably".
The leads’ tandem use of the Italian Vespa 2-stroke scooter kindled an unprecedented public interest in the vehicle after the movie’s release.
Audrey Hepburn was performing on Broadway in "Ondine" with her future husband Mel Ferrer when she won best actress for "Roman Holiday." Later that year, she won the Tony for her performance in "Ondine," making her one of only two actresses to win the Oscar and the Tony in the same year. Ellen Burstyn is the other, winning the Oscar for "Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore" (1974) and the Tony for "Same Time, Next Year."
In the famous "Mouth of Truth" scene, Audrey Hepburn’s reaction to Gregory Peck’s "bitten-off hand" was genuine. Just before the cameras rolled, Peck quietly told director William Wyler that he was going to borrow a gag from comedian Red Skelton, and have his hand hidden up his sleeve when he pulled it out of the sculpture’s mouth. Wyler agreed, but Hepburn was not told. When she saw Peck’s "missing hand," she let out what she later described as "a good and proper scream." The scene was filmed in only one take.
The story was originally optioned by Frank Capra in 1949, who had hoped to cast Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor in what would essentially amount to being a variation on his Oscar-winning classic, It Happened One Night (1934). However, Capra’s Liberty Films production company was beset with financial problems and he was forced to sell the property to Paramount, where a combination of political timidity (Capra discovered the involvement of blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo) and a tight budget prompted him to withdraw from the project. William Wyler, however, had no compunctions whatsoever about working with Trumbo.
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