To finish off the evening the two companions and Irving (Eddie Albert) cause a ruckus at a dance aboard a barge before swimming away to safety. There Ann finds love and a soaking wet kiss to go with it. But it is at that moment when the laughs stop and the romance begins that everything becomes all too clear. This wonderful day cannot last forever. There is a moment, after one final embrace, when they have to say goodbye for good.
Joe: Today’s gonna be a holiday.
Princess Ann: But you want to do a lot of silly things?
The answer is yes, yes we would!! That is the beauty of this film, which plays out as a lovely jaunt through Italy with two favorites in Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. With Hepburn being practically unknown at this point in time, it made her a wonderful choice to play Princess Ann. She was someone without any prior identifying roles making her young princess seem plausible. William Wyler took a chance on an unknown and he certainly hit the jackpot.
Gregory Peck on his part was always a strong leading man and an All-American type, perfect to play Joe Bradley. However, he also exuded gentlemanliness,s so despite the fact that the princess spent the night in his apartment we know nothing went on. He had no ulterior motives bringing her to his apartment and even when he arranges to get an article out of her we know that is not who he is.
The film itself consists of wonderfully connected vignettes incorporating the Roman culture and landscape. Princess Ann leaves behind the hospitality of Joe in order to explore a bit before she goes back to her real life. In order to get that major scoop, he tails her and finally invites himself to tag along, so beginning the real fun. Princess Ann gets her beautiful locks cut by a friendly barber and buys some gelato from a street vendor.
Soon she takes her first puff of a cigarette, takes in the glory of the Coliseum, rides a Vespa through the hectic streets of Rome, and winds up in police headquarters with some explaining to do.They finish up their afternoon on a more thoughtful note at a wall of wishes originating during World War II.
One of the best moments occurs at the mouth of truth, a great stone statue, which you are supposed to stick your hand in before it eats it up. In a moment of sheer fear Princess Ann or Audrey Hepburn, I’m not quite sure who looks on in horror as a screaming Bradley removes his arm and his hand is gone. Up comes the hand from the coat sleeves and the jokes on her. It has absolutely no bearing on the plot but it makes us love Peck and Hepburn even more.
This is not one of those “love at first sight” stories, but it is a different sort of fairy tale where two individuals share an enchanting day together and fall in love. Every Cinderella story must end and so does this one (Anna: At midnight I’ll turn into a pumpkin and drive away in my glass slipper). They must eventually come back down to reality with Princess Ann fulfilling his duties and Joe moving on with his career.
Joe’s major newsflash is not a thing anymore. The whole day means too much to him and being the buddy he is, good ol’ Irving understands that. Speaking of Irving, he deserves some discussion. Eddie Albert’s character is spilled on, stepped on, knocked over, tripped, and through it all remains the perfect buddy for Gregory Peck. Even his little car is a riot, not to mention his inconspicuous tiny cigarette camera and his sly efforts at photography in every type of circumstance. Irving shares a great deal of double talk with Joe which somehow gets past the unsuspecting princess. However, by the end of the film, the princess is also a cohort in their memorable adventure with commemorative photos included!
When Joe Bradley walks out of the grand palace he leaves content knowing that he shared something special. No one else needs to know (aside from Irving) about the fairy tale they shared and that is the beauty of it all. It is just their little secret, their Roman Holiday.