Janice and I spent the night at my mother’s house recently. I was looking through her collection of DVD’s and VHS tapes and came across Roman Holiday. I had never seen the movie and it has Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in it, so that was all the incentive I needed to put it in the VCR.
It’s a lovely little story about a European princess (Ann), who is tired of being one. She’s on a goodwill tour of the capitals of Europe and when she arrives in Rome (their final stop), her emotional and physical fatigue lead to a meltdown. She wants to experience what others do so she steals off from her entourage and for the next 24 hours has a Roman holiday.
Gregory Peck is Joe Bradley, the first person she meets. He is a newspaper reporter who is supposed to cover the princess’ press conference the next day but initially he doesn’t recognize her. When he later realizes who she is, he strikes a deal with his boss to get an exclusive interview with her for $5,000. (The movie was made in 1953, when this was a much more substantial amount of money). He invites his photographer friend (Irving), to accompany them and take pictures with his secret camera (a cigarette lighter). Ann doesn’t realize her cover as “Anya Smith” has been blown or that Joe is a reporter (he has told her half-truthfully that he is in “the selling business”)—she’s too busy enjoying her freedom and having the time of her life. Between the sites (the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Mouth of Truth), and the adventures (a wild motor scooter ride than ends up at a police station and a fight with government agents), they pack a lot into her holiday.
When it’s over, the cynical newspaperman has developed feelings for the vulnerable, innocent princess and she for him. But it’s not to be. After a tearful departure, she returns to the embassy to resume her duties and Joe returns to his apartment where he meets his boss and tells him he has nothing for him. When he later attends the princess’ press conference (which had to be rescheduled), she is shocked to see him standing among the reporters. A correspondent asks for her views concerning friendship among nations. She answers, “I have every faith in it,” (and looking at Joe adds), “as I have faith in relations of people.” Joe speaks up and says, “May I say, speaking from my own press service, we believe that your Highness’s faith will not be unjustified.” She tells him, “I am so glad to hear you say that.” She then comes down to meet the press and Irving hands her a packet containing the incriminating photos.
It’s a fine moment that’s made even better by the fact that they are not going to end up together. By refusing to put a price tag on Ann’s trust in him, Joe atones for his earlier duplicity and does what is right because it is right rather than for the more self-serving reason that he doesn’t want to lose her. His transformation from cynic to loyal protector is inspiring and reminds us of the way life is meant to be.