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A Holiday Worth Celebrating

Roman Holiday at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Roman Holiday, classic movies, classic films

Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) and Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) prepare for a whirlwind adventure around Rome in the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday, being shown at 7 p.m. tonight at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. Photo courtesy of Roman Holiday

A princess on the run meets an average Joe during a 24-hour whirlwind adventure around Rome. She thinks she’s concealing her royal identity. He thinks he’s going to write an exclusive story about her. Their plans fall apart as they realize they’re madly in love. It’s a Cinderella story with a twist. And it also happens to be one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time.

The film is 1953’s Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn in her first starring role and Gregory Peck as her costar, and it screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, part of its Big Screen Classics series.

Hepburn plays Princess Ann, a young monarch taking a goodwill tour of Europe’s major cities. Tired of public life, she runs away during her visit to Rome, disguises herself as commoner Anya Smith, and meets American journalist Joe Bradley (Peck). Bradley and his photographer friend Irving Radovich (Best Supporting Actor nominee Eddie Albert), pretend not to know who she really is, planning on selling a story about her day on the town to their editors. The scheme gets complicated when Joe falls for Ann and hijinks ensue, including wild Vespa rides, a hand “eaten” by the Mouth of Truth, and a run-in with the Italian Secret Service.

The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1954, and won 3, including Best Actress for Hepburn. Her performance cemented Hepburn’s status as Hollywood royalty and paved the way for roles in such classics as Sabrina (1954), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), and My Fair Lady (1964). In 2008, the American Film Institute named Roman Holiday the fourth greatest romantic comedy of all time, behind City Lights (1931), Annie Hall (1977), and It Happened One Night (1934).

Directed by William Wyler, Roman Holiday was the first American film to be shot entirely on location in Italy. Paramount Pictures originally wanted to make the movie in Hollywood. When Wyler insisted that it be shot on location, the studio agreed, but cut the budget to offset the cost of filming in Rome. This resulted in the film being shot in black-and-white rather than Technicolor. It was a trade-off that worked to the film’s advantage: the magnetic beauty of Rome’s landmarks—among them the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps—are captured in a way no Hollywood back lot could replicate.

Authentic Roman vistas, effervescent performances, and a clever storyline make for a romantic comedy that is actually funny and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

Roman Holiday will be shown tonight, Monday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline. By foot, walk down Babcock Street to Harvard Street and turn left. The theater is on the right. By public transportation, take a MBTA Green Line C trolley to Coolidge Corner. Tickets are $10.25 for adults and $8.25 for seniors and children. Purchase them here.

Samantha Pickette can be reached at pickette@bu.edu.

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