Roman Holiday

This article is about the film. For other uses, see Roman Holiday (disambiguation).
Roman Holiday

Promotional poster for reissue
Directed by William Wyler
Produced by William Wyler
Screenplay by
Story by Dalton Trumbo
Music by
Edited by Robert Swink
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 27, 1953 (1953-08-27)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English, Italian
Budget $1.5 million
Box office $12 million

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.

It 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.[2][3]

It 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".


Filmed on location, several scenes show landmarks such as the Spanish Steps.

Ann (Audrey Hepburn), the crown princess of an unspecified country becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life, and breaks down at having to repeatedly answer "yes, thank you" and "no, thank you" to demands of her time. Her doctor gives her a sedative to calm her down and help her sleep, but she secretly leaves her country's embassy.

The sedative eventually makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an expatriate American reporter working for an American news service based in Rome, finds her. Not recognizing her, he offers her money so she can take a taxi home, but a very woozy "Anya Smith" (as she later calls herself) refuses to cooperate. Joe finally decides, for safety's sake, to let her spend the night in his apartment. He is amused by her regal manner, but less so when she appropriates his bed. He transfers her to a couch. The next morning, Joe, having already slept through the interview Princess Ann was scheduled to give, hurries off to work, leaving her still asleep.

When his editor, Mr. Hennessy (Hartley Power), asks why Joe is late, Joe lies, claiming to have attended the press conference for the princess. Joe makes up details of the alleged interview until Hennessy informs him that the event had been canceled because the princess had suddenly "fallen ill". Joe sees a picture of her and realizes who is in his apartment. Joe immediately sees the opportunity and proposes getting an exclusive interview for the newspaper for $5000. Hennessy, not knowing the circumstances, agrees to the deal, but bets Joe $500 that he will not succeed.

Joe hurries home and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to show Anya around Rome. He also surreptitiously calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), to tag along to secretly take pictures. However, Anya declines Joe's offer and leaves.

Joe shocks his royal friend, pretending to have lost his hand to the Mouth of Truth.

Enjoying her freedom, on a whim, Anya gets her hair cut short. Joe follows and "accidentally" meets her on the Spanish Steps. This time, he convinces her to spend the day with him. They see the sights, including the "Mouth of Truth", a face carved in marble which is said to bite off the hands of liars. When Joe pulls his hand out of the mouth, it appears to be missing, causing Anya to scream. He then pops his hand out of his sleeve and laughs. (Hepburn's shriek was not actingPeck decided to pull a gag he had once seen Red Skelton do, and did not tell his co-star beforehand.)[4]

Later, Anya shares with Joe her dream of living a normal life without her crushing responsibilities. That night, at a dance on a boat, government agents finally track her down and try to escort her away, but a wild melee breaks out and Joe and Anya escape. While trying to rescue her from plain clothes government agents, Joe is ambushed and falls into a river after being struck. Ann dives in to save him, and they swim away together away from the agents, finally sharing a kiss as they sit shivering on the riverbank. Later, knowing her royal responsibilities must resume, the princess bids a tearful farewell to Joe and returns to the embassy. When she arrives at the embassy she is lectured upon the sense of duty she must display, but (visibly pained) retorts that without such a sense, she would never have returned.

Joe and Anya on a scooter ride through Romea ride that ends at the police station.

During the course of the day, Hennessy learns that the princess is missing, not ill as claimed. He suspects that Joe knows where she is and tries to get him to admit it, but Joe claims to know nothing about it. Joe decides not to write the story, despite the considerable amount of money riding on it. Irving first plans to sell his photographs independent of the story, but eventually decides against it.

The next day, Princess Ann appears to answer questions from the press, and is surprised to find Joe and Irving there. Irving takes her picture with the same miniature cigarette-lighter/camera he had used the previous day. When asked by a reporter which city of her European tour was her favorite, Ann first makes a diplomatic "all-were-equally-good" answer, but interrupts it with an impulsive "Rome! By all means, Rome." At the end of the interview, the Princess requests to "meet" the journalists, shaking hands and making highly formal conversation. As she reaches Joe and Irving, the latter presents her with an envelope with the photographs he had taken, under the pretext of a generic memento of Rome. The three make several statements that hint at the truth and their dispositions, while feigning formality and the distance expected between the princess and two strange journalists. As the interview with the princess comes to an end, the crowd of journalists and reporters eventually disperses. Joe is left alone to ponder what might have been.


Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley

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.

Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann (Anya "Smitty" Smith)

Wyler had initially considered Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons for this role, but they were both unavailable.[7] Wyler was very excited to find Hepburn, but he didn't choose her until after a screen test. Wyler wasn't able to stay and film this himself but told the assistant director to ask the cameraman and the soundman 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 Anya's costumes and even cutting her own hair (referring to a scene in the film). Roman Holiday was not Hepburn's first American acting jobshe appeared on a 1952 CBS Television Workshop production of Rainy Day in Paradise Junctionbut it was her first major role, one which introduced her to the general public.

Joe, "Smitty" and Irving al fresco, just before Joe knocks over Irving's chair to silence him.
Eddie Albert as Irving Radovich
Hartley Power as Hennessy, Joe's editor
Harcourt Williams as the Ambassador of Princess Ann's country
Margaret Rawlings as Countess Vereberg, Ann's principal lady-in-waiting
Tullio Carminati as General Provno
Paolo Carlini as Mario Delani
Claudio Ermelli as Giovanni
Paola Borboni as the Charwoman
Laura Solari as Secretary
Alfredo Rizzo as Taxi Driver
Gorella Gori as Shoe Seller


The film earned an estimated $3 million at the North American box office during its first year of release.[9]

In the 1970s, both Peck and Hepburn were approached with the idea of a sequel, but the project never came to fruition.



* 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. In 1993, Trumbo's widow Cleo received her late husband's award.[11]

The film was first slated for production in color on the backlot, but the filming in Rome was so much more expensive that it had to be done in black and white.



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.

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


  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. 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.
  3. Verrier, Richard (December 19, 2011). "Writers Guild restores screenplay credit to Trumbo for 'Roman Holiday'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  4. An Evening with Gregory Peck, a series of retrospective lectures Peck gave in the years before his death, and Remembering Roman Holiday, a featurette on the 2002 DVD release.
  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. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  10. "NY Times: Roman Holiday". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  11. 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.
  12. Roman Holiday
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