Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Roman Holiday (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Roman Holiday (1953)

In William Wyler's charming, old-fashioned, delightful, captivating fairy-tale romance shot entirely on location in Rome - it was a bittersweet Cinderella storybook tale in reverse (with an April-October romance) that propelled Audrey Hepburn's film career:

  • in the opening scene, a Paramount News NEWS FLASH announced, with newsreel footage, the goodwill tour of a royal princess, Princess Ann (Oscar-winning Audrey Hepburn in her first major starring role), a member of the royal family of an unnamed European country. "...And so to Rome, the Eternal City, where the Princess' visit was marked by a spectacular military parade...The smiling young Princess showed no sign of the strain of the week's continuous public appearances"
  • during her royal state visit to Rome, Italy, she was presented to the guests during an extravagant ball, escorted into the room wearing a beautiful gown and crown of jewels; due to the endless functions and ceremonial protocol, she was quickly bored; upset, she suffered a temper tantrum and was given a sedative by one of her attendants
In the Evening - Upset By All Her Royal Duties
  • Princess Ann made a daring runaway venture and slipped out of the palatial Embassy that night, to escape the endless tedium of the many official occasions and her expected roles to play - to experience life beyond the claustrophobic and imprisoning confines of her royal position - without royal control, duties, escorts and chaperones
  • as the Princess (feeling the effects of a sleep-sedative) fell asleep on a low park wall, street-smart, undercover American newspaperman Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), one of the many reporters who was planning to interview the Princess the next day, walked by the "incognito" sleeping beauty, and didn't realize who she was (he found it ironic that she was "well-read, well-dressed" and "snoozing away on a public street" like a drunk); he protectively took her in a taxi to his apartment
  • in his apartment, Joe instructed her on sleeping arrangements and helped her prepare for bedtime by offering her his pajamas; he was amused that she requested his servitude and assistance: "Will you help me get undressed, please?...This is very unusual. I've never been alone with a man before - even with my dress on. (she began unbuttoning and removing her blouse) With my dress off, it's most unusual. I don't seem to mind"; her last regal command before he went out for a short while, was: "You have my permission to withdraw"
Their First Night Together
  • the next day, Joe realized he had overslept - on his schedule was an 11:45 am royal press conference with the visiting Princess; during a meeting in the American News Service office of his boss Mr. Hennessey (Hartley Powers), Joe was caught lying by asserting that he had attended, when in fact the press meeting had been cancelled; then, he saw a newspaper photograph of the Princess - and realized the identity of the young girl back in his apartment; to be in good graces with his boss, he promised to get an exclusive story on the Princess that would help him with his career advancement - it would be worth five grand: "I'm talking about her views on everything!...The private and secret longings of a Princess. Her innermost thoughts as revealed to your own correspondent in a private, personal, exclusive interview"
  • for his exclusive, Joe coordinated with his carefree, bearded photographer friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), hinting: "It's front-page stuff. That's all I can tell ya. It might be political or it might be a sensational scam. I'm not sure which. But it's a big story, and it's gotta have pictures"
  • after waking up in Joe's apartment at about 1:30 pm, the subsequent sequence of the incognito Princess' entertaining 24 hour tour around Rome, beginning first with her solitary stroll (with Joe secretly and protectively following) through the streets of Rome basically incognito, experiencing things as an ordinary commoner, and doing things exactly the way she wanted to
  • at a hair salon, she had her hair drastically cut shorter after ordering the Italian haircutter (Paolo Carlini): "All off" - making it less likely for people to recognize her, and then she ordered a gelati cone at a roadside stand and accepted a single flower from a flower vendor
Princess Ann's One Day of Holiday Fun in Rome
  • Joe just happened to bump into her, suggested that she "live dangerously" and take the rest of the day off, and arranged to share it with her ("Why don't we do all those things, together?"); their first stop was to have lunch at a sidewalk cafe; he represented himself not as a news-reporter but as a successful businessman selling fertilizer and chemicals
  • a number of hilarious segments involved Irving, who arrived and had to be cautioned by Joe to ensure that Ann's anonymity was kept intact; Joe had to keep silencing or nudging Irving to not be so obvious; Irving followed the couple to take surreptitious pictures with a miniature camera hidden in his cigarette lighter
  • Ann smoked her "very first" cigarette, and she rode on the back of Joe's Vespa scooter to see the famous monuments and sights, including the ruins of the Coliseum; she also recklessly drove both of them through the streets, while photographer Irving tried to get some candid shots
  • in the memorable 'Mouth of Truth' stone sculpture scene, after Ann put her hand in the statue's mouth, Joe pretended to have his arm bitten off in the mouth: "The Mouth of Truth. Legend is that if you're given to lying, you put your hand in there, it'll be bitten off"; she was amused by the surprise of his joke and laughed
  • at an inscription wall where wishes were supposed to come true, he suggested that she make a wish; she kept her desire private and added: "Anyway, the chances of it being granted are very slight"; she spoke about staying out later into the night, but it would end her fairy-tale life - sensed by Joe as a premonition: (Ann: "At midnight, I'll turn into a pumpkin and drive away in my glass slipper" Joe: "And that will be the end of the fairy tale")
  • in a delightful scene that evening, the two danced on a riverboat barge down by Sant' Angelo on the Tiber River; to avoid being taken by royal "black hat" agents who recognized her on the barge, Ann hit one of the secret servicemen over the head with a guitar, and both Joe and Ann jumped in the water and swam for the shore
  • on dry land, they congratulated themselves on their successful escape and then kissed each other - they both found themselves desperately falling in love; once back in his apartment to change out of their wet clothes, although they dreamt of becoming closer to each other, Ann also knew she would inevitably have to part from him and return to her other life and duties ("I'll have to go now") - but she still wanted to seek comfort in his arms
  • at this crucial juncture after their long day together, while she was embracing and kissing him, Joe had already decided to give up his 'exclusive' story about the Princess and not violate her privacy or exploit her; he began to confess to his deceptions: "There's something that I want to tell you," but Ann responded firmly that she had to resume her royal duties: "No please. Nothing. I must go and get dressed"
  • in a tear-jerking, sentimental night-time parting scene, Joe drove her back to a street corner within sight of the imposing, imprisoning gates of the Embassy; in the memorable goodbye scene, she gave him difficult-to-hear directions: "I have to leave you now. I'm going to that corner there and turn. You must stay in the car and drive away. Promise not to watch me go beyond the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you....I don't know how to say goodbye. I can't think of any words"; Joe suggested: "Don't try"; they sadly hugged and kissed each other for the last time - and then after walking toward the gates, she was suddenly gone
Night-Time Parting Scene - Watching Ann Walk Away
  • in a brief meeting with his boss in his apartment, Joe refused to divulge his story scoop to his boss: "I have no story" - because of his affection for Ann; after the boss left, Joe and Irving chuckled together and were amused by the pictures which showed Ann with her first cigarette, her experience with the Mouth of Truth, the inscription "wall where wishes come true," their seizure at the police station ("Police inspects Princess"), dancing on the barge, and the climactic shot of Ann hitting one of the secret service over the head with a guitar ("Crowned Head")
  • in the final bittersweet, moving ending during the next day's press corps interview, the Princess spoke obliquely about her most wonderful day in Rome with Joe without naming him: "Each in its own way was unforgettable. It would be difficult to...Rome, by all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live"; as the Princess stepped forward to personally meet and shake hands and say farewell to each member of the press corps, she could only be polite and impersonal to Joe: "So happy, Mr. Bradley" - she could not reveal the secret of her day with him, and they had to pretend that they didn't know each other
  • as Ann gave a final goodbye, she slowly turned toward the audience, gave a wide smile toward everyone (and then directly towards Joe), held a tear-inducing gaze, and then departed; after the press corps had left, Joe stared at the door through which she left, never to see her again; with echoing footsteps, he slowly walked out of the room - the camera with a backward-moving tracking shot followed his retreat from the girl he loved; he turned one last time at the end of the hall to sadly look back before leaving

Princess Ann's Royal Visit to Rome

Ann Discovered by Joe Bradley Sleeping on Low Wall

Efforts to Cover Up the Princess' Unexplained Disappearance

Joe Caught Lying to His Boss About Attending the Princess' Press Conference

Joe's Realization of the Girl's Identity

Waking Up in a Strange Man's Apartment

Briefly Parting Ways

Irving Snapping Photos with Hidden Camera

Riding on Joe's Vespa

The 'Mouth of Truth'

At the Inscription Wall

Dancing on the River Barge

The Concluding Last Glance and Farewell


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