by Kung Fu Zu 8/24/14
“Life isn’t always about doing what one likes” • A couple of nights back I was watching one of those TV channels which specialize in old movies. It is not uncommon for such channels to re-run mediocre pictures from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, which may be inexpensive to broadcast, but less than memorable. However, sometimes they also show some real classics. And I had tuned in just as the opening credits for “Roman Holiday” were rolling across the screen. Since it had been many years since I had last seen it, I decided to sit back and enjoy a film, which I remembered as being gay and lighthearted.
For those few who aren’t familiar with it, Roman Holiday is a 1953 film starring Gregory Peck as reporter Joe Bradley, Audrey Hepburn as a Princess named Ann and Eddie Albert as Bradley’s photographer friend, Irving Radovich.
The young Ann is making an official tour through various European cities, with Rome being the latest. In the evening after a day of official functions, she is in her bedroom with the countess, an older woman who is there to guide Ann. Fed up with her tightly controlled life, Ann becomes slightly hysterical and a doctor is called in to give her a sedative to help her sleep. After her handlers leave, Ann jumps out of bed, puts on casual clothes and escapes from of the grand gated residence, which is like a prison to her.
Shortly thereafter, we see her lying on a bench. Joe happens to walk by, while looking for a taxi, and wants to sit on the bench. He asks Ann to move a little, but she is incoherent as the sedative has worked its powers. Given her behavior, Joe thinks Ann is drunk. But he is concerned about leaving her alone in such a state. Therefore, when a taxi stops for him, Joe takes Ann home to his small apartment. After much ado, he gets her onto his couch and tucks her in.
Because of his late night, Joe oversleeps and misses his interview with Princess Ann, who he has never seen. Joe rushes to his office hoping to keep his boss from finding out that he has missed the interview. He gives his boss some cock and bull story about how great the interview went, but the boss, having seen the morning papers, shows Joe the front page which says the princess is ill and has cancelled all appointments for the day. Somewhat sheepishly, Joe walks out of his boss’s office with the newpaper in hand. He unfolds it and sees the picture of Princess Ann and there on the front page is the girl who slept on his coach last night.
He calls his landlord to make sure the girl is still there. When this is confirmed, he tells the landlord not to let anyone in or out of the apartment until he returns. Joe then goes back to his boss, and without giving out any details, and makes a deal whereby he will be paid $5,000 if he can obtain an exclusive interview with the princess. As Joe is something of a big talker and has apparently promised other such interviews in the past, his boss bets him $500 that Joe will never get the story.
From this point on, the film shows how Joe finagles his way into Ann’s confidence so as to get his piece. His buddy Irving is brought into the plot to take photos. This Irving does with a “spy” camera small enough to fit into a cigarette lighter.
Joe takes Ann on a tour of the streets of Rome with their busy traffic, bustling life and romantic cafes. Some of the most beautiful sights of Rome are captured in ways which will excite the interest of anyone who might wish to visit the “Eternal City”.
During the brief hours they spend together, Ann and Joe develop a real affection for each other. But, of course, the time comes when Ann must return to the residence and her assigned place in the world. Yet, it is clear that, in the twenty four hours spent away from her handlers, Ann has grown as a person and in self confidence.
The next morning, a “recovered” Ann gives a press conference and while answering various questions she notices Joe and Irving standing among the reporters. Only then does she realize that both Joe and Irving are journalists. From the look on her face she is certainly surprised, but not shocked. I believe her instincts tell her that she can trust Joe. She implies this in the answer she gives to another reporter when asked about her trusting the “press”. Joe, taking the pitch, replies that he is sure her trust is well placed.
At the close of the press conference, against all protocol, Ann steps down to meet some members of the press corps. She shakes hands with various reporters speaking to some here and there. When she gets to Irving, he pulls an envelope out of his pocket and gives it to her saying it is a small gift of photos of Rome. Thus disappears his chance to sell them. She then shakes Joe’s hand and for a brief moment a special message passes between them.
Ann returns to the podium where she is given one final question, “which city did you most enjoy during your tour?” As an official representative of her country, she begins to give the stock reply that each city had its own charm, and then she hesitates for a second or two before saying “Rome, I will remember my time in Rome for the rest of my life”.
Ann closes the press conference and exits the stage. At the same time, all reporters, except Joe, turn and leave the hall. Joe stands watching Ann walk away and for a minute or two he is the only person left in the cathedral-like building. He then turns and walks toward the camera. As he does this, his lone figure is framed by the ornate backdrop which gives the final scene an almost religious feeling.
Roman Holiday is a film which is truly excellent on all levels. The acting of Peck, Albert and Hepburn is wonderful. Hepburn won an Oscar. The setting is spectacular. How could one improve on having Rome as a backdrop? But I found the most beautiful part of the film was the story which revolved around two attractive young people who are clearly drawn to each other, yet do not run off in a fit of passion; consequences be damned.
In the scene before she returns to the residence, Ann is standing in Joe’s apartment and asks him if he would like her to cook something for him. Joe tells her she cannot do this because the apartment has no stove. Surprised, Ann asks Joe if he likes that. To which Joe replies, “life isn’t always about doing what one likes”. And there is the message of the movie, which is certainly not lighthearted. Could there a more mature or noble response?
It is on basis of this fundamental truth that Ann returns to her life of duty. And Joe gives up his $5,000 story and loses the $500 bet. Clearly, life isn’t always about doing what one likes, especially if one wishes to do what is right and good. • (2700 views)