Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; the screenplay and costume design also won.

Roman Holiday
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Wyler
Produced byWilliam Wyler
Screenplay by
Story byDalton Trumbo
Music by
Edited byRobert Swink
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 27, 1953 (1953-08-27)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million
Box office$12 million

The script was written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, though with Trumbo on the Hollywood blacklist, he did not receive a credit; instead, Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for him. Trumbo's credit was reinstated when the film was released on DVD in 2003. On December 19, 2011, full credit for Trumbo's work was restored. Blacklisted director Bernard Vorhaus worked on the film as an assistant director under a pseudonym.[3][4]

The film was shot at the Cinecittà studios and on location around Rome during the "Hollywood on the Tiber" era. The film was screened in the 14th Venice Film Festival within the official program.

In 1999, Roman Holiday was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Ann, a crown princess on a state visit to Rome, becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life, and secretly leaves her country's embassy. The delayed effect of a sedative makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley, an expatriate reporter for the "American News Service", finds her, without recognizing who she is. Thinking that she is intoxicated, Joe lets her spend the night in his apartment.

The next morning, Joe hurries off late to work and gives his editor, Mr. Hennessy, false details of his attendance at the princess' press conference. When Hennessy informs him that the event had been cancelled, and shows him a news item about the princess' "sudden illness", he realizes who is asleep in his apartment. Seeing an opportunity, Joe privately calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich, to ask him to secretly take pictures. Joe then tells Hennessy that he'll get an exclusive wide-ranging interview with the princess and asks how much that would be worth. Hennessy offers to pay $5000 for the article, but bets Joe $500 that he won't be able to get it.

Joe hurries home, and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to show his guest, "Anya", around Rome. However, Ann declines Joe's offer and leaves. Enjoying her freedom, she explores an outdoor market, buys a pair of shoes, observes the people and daily-life of Rome, and gets her long hair cut into a short style. Joe follows, and "accidentally" meets Ann on the Spanish Steps. This time, he convinces her to spend the day with him, and takes her to a street café, where he meets up with Irving. They visit the Mouth of Truth, where Joe tricks Ann into thinking that his hand has been bitten off, and later tour the Colosseum. When Anna tries to drive Joe on a Vespa through heavy Roman traffic they are all arrested, but Joe and Irving show their "fake" press passes and the group is set free.

That night, at a dance on a boat that her barber had invited her to, government agents called in by the embassy spot Ann and try to forcibly take her away. Joe, Irving, and the barber rush in to save her from the abductors, and Ann joins in the fight that breaks out. As police arrive and subdue the agents, Joe and Ann run away, but Joe is ambushed, falls into the river, and Ann jumps in to save him. They swim across and kiss as they sit shivering on the riverbank. Later at Joe's apartment, while drying their wet clothes, they share tender bittersweet moments. Knowing that her royal responsibilities must resume, Ann asks Joe to drive her to a corner near the embassy, where they kiss again. She bids a tearful farewell, and returns to assume her duties as a princess.

Hennessy comes to Joe's apartment, suspecting that the princess was not ill as claimed and that Joe was telling the truth about the interview. Joe, however, has decided not to write the story, although Irving arrives and is confused by the change of plans. Joe tells Irving that he is still free to sell his photographs. Joe and Irving then leave to attend the postponed press conference at the embassy and surprise Princess Ann.

Through vague public words, Joe assures Ann that no press exposure will come from their day together. At the end of the interview, the princess unexpectedly asks to meet the journalists, speaking briefly with each. As she reaches Joe and Irving, Irving presents her with his photographs as a memento of Rome. Joe and Ann then speak, with her final words to him being "so happy". After Ann reluctantly departs, and the press leaves, Joe stays for awhile, and then walks away alone.



Wyler first offered the role to Hollywood favorite Cary Grant. Grant declined,[5] believing he was too old to play Hepburn's love interest (though he played opposite her ten years later in Charade.) Other sources say Grant declined because he knew all of the attention would be centered around the princess.[6] Peck's contract gave him solo star billing, with newcomer Hepburn listed much less prominently in the credits. Halfway through the filming, Peck suggested to Wyler that he elevate her to equal billing—an almost unheard-of gesture in Hollywood.

Wyler had initially considered Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons for this role, but both were unavailable.[7] Wyler was very excited to find Hepburn, but he did not choose her until after a screen test. Wyler was not able to stay and film this himself, but told the assistant director to ask the cameraman and the sound man to continue recording after the assistant director said "cut" so that she would be seen in a relaxed state after having performed a dignified, subdued scene from the film.[8] The candid footage won her the role; some of it was later included in the original theatrical trailer for the film, along with additional screen test footage showing Hepburn trying on some of Ann's costumes and even cutting her own hair (referring to a scene in the film).

Roman Holiday was not Hepburn's first acting job, as she had appeared in Dutch and British films from 1948 and on stage, including the title role in the 1951 Broadway adaptation of Gigi. But it was her first major film role and her first appearance in an American film. Wyler wanted an "anti-Italian" actress who was different from the curvy Italian maggiorate like Gina Lollobrigida, and said that "She was perfect ... his new star had no arse, no tits, no tight-fitting clothes, no high heels. In short a Martian. She will be a sensation".[9]

Filming locations

The film was shot entirely in Rome and in the studios of Cinecittà:


The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on August 27, 1953,[2] grossing $165,000 in its first week.[10] The film also opened the same week in two theatres in Portland, Oregon on a double bill with Murder Without Tears, grossing $14,000.[11]

It was the second most popular film at the US box office during September 1953 behind From Here to Eternity, grossing almost $1 million.[12] Roman Holiday earned an estimated $3 million at the United States and Canadian box office during its first few months of release.[13]

Due to the film's popularity, both Peck and Hepburn were approached about filming a sequel, but this project never got off the ground.[14]



The Academy screenwriting award was initially given to Ian McLellan Hunter, since he took story credit on blacklisted Trumbo's behalf. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences later credited the win to Trumbo, and in 1993 Trumbo's widow, Cleo, received her late husband's Oscar.[16]



In 1999, Roman Holiday was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

American Film Institute included the film as #4 in its AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions, and as #4 in the romantic comedy category in its AFI's 10 Top 10.


The film was remade for television in 1987 with Tom Conti and Catherine Oxenberg, who is herself a member of a European royal family. An unofficial Tamil-language adaptation, titled May Madham, was released in 1994.[17]

The Richard Curtis film Notting Hill has been likened to "a 90's London-set version of Roman Holiday".[18] There are a number of allusions to it in the film, in which the princess character is replaced with "Hollywood royalty" and the commoner is a British bookshop owner.[19]

Paramount Pictures has since licensed three adaptations of Roman Holiday into musicals:

  • In 2012, a musical stage version, following the plot while using the songs of Cole Porter, was presented in Minneapolis. The book adaptation was done by Paul Blake (Beautiful: The Carole King Story).[20] It was scheduled for a run in San Francisco in summer 2017 before going on to Broadway.[21][22]
  • Another version was staged in 2004 in Rome under the title Vacanze Romane using the Cole Porter score, supplemented with music by Italian film composer Armando Trovajoli. This production is performed annually at the Teatro Sistina in Rome and on tour in Italy and Spain.[23]
  • A version entirely in Japanese with a completely different score was produced in 1998 by Toho [Japanese Theatre Company].[24]

See also


  1. Writers Guild of America (December 19, 2011). "WGA Restores Blacklisted Writer Dalton Trumbo's Screen Credit On 'Roman Holiday'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  2. Roman Holiday at the American Film Institute Catalog
  3. Cheryl Devall, Paige Osburn (December 19, 2011). "Blacklisted writer gets credit restored after 60 years for Oscar-winning film". 89.3 KPCC. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  4. Verrier, Richard (December 19, 2011). "Writers Guild restores screenplay credit to Trumbo for 'Roman Holiday'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  5. Jaynes, Barbara Grant; Trachtenberg, Robert. Cary Grant: A Class Apart. Burbank, California: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Turner Entertainment. 2004.
  6. DVD special feature
  7. "Remembering Roman Holiday", special feature on the DVD
  8. According to Wyler's daughter, the producer Catherine Wyler, in the DVD's special feature "Remembering Roman Holiday".
  9. Levy, Shawn (2016). Dolce Vita Confidential. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 112. ISBN 9781474606158.
  10. "Heat Fails to Wilt B'Way Grosses". Variety. September 2, 1953. p. 9. Retrieved September 24, 2019 via
  11. "'Holiday' Smash $14,000, Port.Ace". Variety. September 2, 1953. p. 8. Retrieved September 24, 2019 via
  12. "12 Biggest Pix Grossers in September Paced by 'Eternity' ('Robe' Excluded)". Variety. October 7, 1953. p. 4. Retrieved September 23, 2019 via
  13. "Top Grossers of 1953". Variety. January 13, 1954.
  14. "Roman Holiday (1953) - Articles -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
  15. "NY Times: Roman Holiday". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  16. McLellan, Dennis (2011-01-12). "Christopher Trumbo dies at 70; screen and TV writer whose father was blacklisted". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  17. "சுட்ட படம்" [Stolen film]. Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 19 March 2016. Archived from the original on 5 January 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2017. (subscription required)
  18. Derek Elley, Variety, 30 April 1999
  19. Peter Bradshaw, "My Guilty Pleasure:Notting Hill", The Guardian, 17 March 2014
  20. "Roman Holiday".
  21. "Stephanie Styles, Drew Gehling, Jarrod Spector, Sara Chase to Star in Roman Holiday". Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  22. Hetrick, Adam. "Broadway-Bound 'Roman Holiday' Musical Sets Complete Cast" Playbill, April 6, 2017
    dal 21 ottobre"
  24. "Musical Adaptation of Roman Holiday Coming to Tokyo Oct. '98 - Playbill".
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