WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
Shocking: But I had never seen Roman Holiday in its entirety before. I’m disappointed in myself. I feel like, as if in a dream, that I had seen parts of it over the decades: a clip at an Oscars ceremony, a short segment on TCM-still photos from books on film, most notably the biography of William Wyler I read a few years ago called A Talent for Trouble by Jan Herman. It seems even more inexplicable when you factor in my obsession for Oscar winning performances, the Hollywood blacklist era (of course I have seen Trumbo), podcasts on Audrey Hepburn and the film’s general notoriety. Sigh.
NO matter, though, because I finally watched it, on one desolate quiet pandemic afternoon- and can say triumphantly; the film has lost none of its charm. There are many great stories about the making of the film and the casting of Audrey Hepburn, in her American film debut. Most notably here famous screen test/audition-where actual performance was mediocre, but director Wyler, who has great actor instincts, wisely told the cameraman to keep the camera rolling after Wyler left the room. The cameraman then asked her questions about her life and held an informal conversation with her. When she thought the camera was off, ironically Hepburn shone. She was relaxed, charismatic and full of natural easy charm, yet vulnerable. That’s exactly what you see on the screen in her beguiling performance. Even her seasoned co-star, movie star Gregory Peck (who wasn’t lacking in the looks department either) saw it and requested her billing be changed; prophetically predicting she would win the Oscar. She did, and at 24 is still one of the youngest to win for a lead female performance. The film also won an Oscar for best screenplay, which Dalton Trumbo couldn’t claim because he had to write it under a pseudonym; he had been blacklisted.
The film is exquisitely paced and directed. Although it takes its time, it never loses your interest adhering to the storytelling principal of building moment by moment, increasing character empathy and involvement steadily. However it moves quickly when it needs to move quickly. The last scenes, including the last shot are perfectly directed. I love last shots of films and believe you can glean so much director intent from them. I have always wanted to delve deeper into last shots in an essay, or series of blogs, but last shots are huge spoilers, and who would read that? Still, this is great one.
Sidebar: Eddie Albert who plays brash, opportunistic, playboy photographer Irving Ratovich had one of the longest acting careers in history. Dating from 1936-1999, Albert has 205 film and television credits. It is unfortunate that he is most remembered for Green Acres when he did so much more interesting work. He was well respected as a diverse, hard-working character actor, even earning two Oscar nominations (one of them for Roman Holiday). He was 91 when he acted on screen for the last time, and lived to be 99!
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