Despite the fact that Superbowl LIV (2020) was the first title for the Kansas City Chiefs, the story most talked about was the half time show, featuring latin pop stars Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performing in ways that offended many. Though I paid little to no attention to the show (it was not my type of music), it is understandable to see why many were concerned: it seemed to many to send a message that this is how women can act. Certainly, this is a vast difference from 1953, when Roman Holiday came out.
Of course, society has changed in too many ways to count since then, but the idea of a woman still making her own mind up was relevant. In the film, the fictional Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn) is poised on the outside, yet struggling with insecurity and identity on the inside (not to mention keeping her shoes on). After an outburst, the doctor gives her a sedative. Once she is alone, she manages to escape the palace, only to make it a few blocks before the drugs kick in, and she is nearly knocked out.
As she lays on a bench, reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) mistakes her for a drunk, and helps her to his apartment. The next morning, he awakens and soon discovers it is the Princess. Eager for a story, he tries to lead her on a vacation of sorts in Rome, while his friend Irving (Eddie Albert) takes secretive pictures of the daily exploits (“we can’t go running around with a hot princess!”, Irving says).
The way the film is structured is so well done it is easy to overlook. The Oscar winning story (by blacklisted Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo) gives us real characters in not so ridiculous situations. Even though Princess Anne is revered and respected, she is still a human with normal feelings and desires as anyone. And then there is Joe, who may be looking for a story, but still has a rather good heart (even if he won’t let anyone sleep on his bed).
Leads in any film are one of the key ingredients that will make or break the outcome. Hepburn and Peck are Hollywood legends, and they prove it here. Peck was more than just the tall, dark, handsome guy. He was sincere in what he did, even in the comedic moments (which this film has plenty of). However, it is the debut performance of Hepburn (which she won an Oscar for) that stands out. It truly was what made her one of the most respected actresses even to this day.
The end (which I will spoil, since the film has been out for over half a century) does show the two finally showing real feelings for each other (their first kiss is one of the more authentic kisses I have seen), only to realize that their fairy tale must end. If not, the people of the country will be in disarray. Only then does Joe realize that he cannot publish the pictures (which Irving takes using a gadget I am not sure is entirely factual, but it works for the movie.) If the two had chosen to stay together, the film would not have worked.
Parents, the film is fine for kids. There is no swearing or violence, and nothing sexual besides two kisses. If you ever wondered what would be a good film to have kids get into old Hollywood, this would be a great starter.
Along with the aforementioned Superbowl Halftime Show, I also witnessed the new comic book film Birds of Prey, in which the Joker’s (now ex) girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) tries to make a name for herself. I am not trying to get into a debate of what it means to be a woman or anything (being that I am not one, so what would I know?). I would argue, however, that characters such as Princess Anne are just as strong and powerful in their own right as someone fighting crime with a sledgehammer. Hepburn’s character showed her inner strength even more so. I would imagine it is something a lot of parents would want their girls to try and emulate.
Of course, it won’t be easy, because there will always be only one Audrey Hepburn.