William Wyler’s film from 1953 is a modern fairytale whose two leads have a charm and innocence that irradiate the whole movie – a kind of neofabulism to set aside the Italian neorealists. Gregory Peck plays Joe, a US news stringer in Rome who one night stumbles across the story of the century: a beautiful, shy young woman, eager for some adventure with him as her guide. She turns out to be demure Princess Ann, from an imaginary European country, who has escaped from all the embassy stuffed shirts and is now incognito and on the town.
Audrey Hepburn was perfectly cast here, as she was perfectly miscast in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Perhaps her superb poise emboldened Grace Kelly three years later to face a similar trial as Princess Grace. While Joe’s snapper buddy Irving (Eddie Albert) sneaks pictures of Ann smoking, dancing and getting into scrapes, Joe exults in his imminent scoop. But then he starts falling for Ann. Can he really betray her? Richard Curtis wittily paid homage to Roman Holiday in his Notting Hill. Maybe Nanni Moretti intended the same in his Habemus Papam. A lovely film.