Audrey Hepburn’s Legendary Debut

Nearly seventy years after its premiere, Roman Holiday remains a timeless romantic classic from Hollywood’s venerable golden age. One of the most memorable starring debuts in film history, Audrey Hepburn lights up the screen with her effortless charisma and wonderful screen chemistry with co-star Gregory Peck. The iconic movie stars make a perfect match in director William Wyler’s lighthearted tale.

Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning performance as Princess Ann made her an instant icon and one of Hollywood’s transcendent fixtures in the 1950s. Master filmmaker William Wyler (Ben-Hur, Mrs. Miniver) proves his versatile talent, crafting a charming love story shot entirely in Rome. One of the first Hollywood pictures shot entirely on location outside of the United States, the Eternal City provides a fantastic romantic setting.

Roman Holiday is a lovely time capsule of simpler times

The disarmingly simple premise is uncomplicated and allows the relationship between Princess Ann and Peck’s American reporter breathing space. Felt stifled by her royal duties on a goodwill tour across Europe, Princess Ann escapes out on her own exploring Rome. Hiding her identity, the princess is swept off her feet by a dashing American journalist as he shows her around Rome.

Gregory Peck’s Joe Bradley is a suave gentleman that gives Princess Ann her first taste of real life outside her royal duties. Bradley has an ulterior motive, realizing he can get the scoop on her private life for an article and ropes in a good pal played by Eddie Albert for help.

Amusing and delightfully engaging, Roman Holiday stands as one of the great screen romances from any era. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck give performances that feed off each other, the sweet but naive princess and the worldly news reporter finding love. Deftly handling the romance with tenderness and affection without beating viewers over the head with it, Roman Holiday set the standard for every romantic comedy that ever followed.

One of the greatest films from Hollywood’s golden age with two of cinema’s biggest stars, Roman Holiday is a lovely time capsule of simpler times.

Video

One primary reason why an enduring classic like Roman Holiday has taken years to hit Blu-ray is that the extant elements were in poor condition. Paramount has done the best they can with a new 4K film restoration and transfer from less-than-optimal elements. It’s an excellent black-and-white effort that belies solid definition and a finely-tuned contrast. Roman Holiday hasn’t looked this good in decades. The following information provided by Paramount best explains which elements were used:

“The original negative was processed at a local film lab in Rome and was badly scratched and damaged. The film had to be pieced back together, but the splices were so weak due to damage that extensive amounts of tape had to be used to allow the negative to make it through a printing machine. Because of the fragile state of the negative, a Dupe Negative was made and then blown up a few thousandths of an inch to cover all the splice tape that held the original negative together.

Fans should be pleased with the consistent 1.37:1 Hi-def presentation. The black-and-white film exhibits nearly perfect greyscale with proper density and improved sharpness. Roman Holiday wasn’t shot for tack-sharp perfection but the steady elements provide deep black levels and negligible wear.

The movie receives a superb AVC encode with transparent replication of the modest grain structure. It’s a largely natural transfer without visible processing. The clean-up work shows a nice touch, avoiding ringing and other associated artifacts.

Roman Holiday’s extant elements likely don’t have the inherent resolution and picture detail necessary to justify a 4K UHD release. This 1080P Blu-ray video brings out the classic’s natural black-and-white charms in pleasing quality. Fans should be immensely satisfied by the sharp improvement over DVD.

Audio

The primary soundtrack is the original monaural audio heard in 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, nicely remastered. A few minor anomalies have been properly addressed. The light underscore by composer Georges Auric doesn’t call attention to itself, Roman Holiday is a dialogue-driven romantic comedy. The recording quality is clean with intelligible dialogue.

Minor hiss can be heard on systems with lower noise floors, which in itself is more a sign the restorers didn’t heavily filter the audio with noiseshaping. Dynamics are limited and mildly thin. This is a serviceable mono recording with adequate fidelity.

A total of seventeen optional subtitles are included for this Blu-ray clearly authored for a global marketplace. They include both English and English SDH options, among a litany of diverse foreign languages. Subtitles play in a white font. Several foreign-language dub soundtracks are offered in 2.0 mono Dolby Digital: German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese.

Extras

It’s hard believing that a true classic like Roman Holiday is first hitting Blu-ray in 2020. Roman Holiday is #9 in the studio’s Paramount Presents reissue line, arriving in a clear case with a collectible slipcover that folds out revealing the movie’s original poster art. It’s an attractively packaged set.

The disc is coded for all regions. A digital copy is included, though Paramount has yet to join Movies Anywhere. The digital copy redeems in HDX quality on a variety of providers like iTunes.

With the exception of the new Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin featurette, the special features are all older featurettes pulled from Paramount’s Centennial Collection DVD. A couple of featurettes found on their Collector’s Edition DVD are curiously absent, likely an issue over lapsed rights. It should be noted the 8-page booklet with production notes included with the Centennial DVD is not included.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday (06:59 in HD) – Maltin sets a general overview of the currents swirling around the film, from Audrey Hepburn’s casting to Wyler’s desires for proving he could make a lighter movie.

Behind The Gates: Costumes (05:31 in HD) – A Paramount archivist goes over the studio’s wardrobe history. This featurettes only briefly touches upon Roman Holiday, covering many of the studio’s other classics.

Rome With A Princess (08:57 in HD) – A detailed featurette comparing clips from the movie with their locations in Rome.

Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years (29:55 in HD) – A well-done summary of Audrey Hepburn’s iconic Paramount career. Only six films over the course of the 50s and early 60s, each movie is nicely touched upon with glimpses of Audrey’s private life. Easily the most interesting and informative bonus feature. The star’s influence and impact on style is remembered. Actress Stefanie Powers appears in interviews.

Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist (11:55 in HD) – The communist screenwriter’s eclectic Hollywood career is fondly remembered by friends and associates.

Paramount In The ’50s (09:33 in HD) – Clips from the studio’s most successful movies of the period play as a narrator discusses each one. Beginning with Sunset Blvd and covering everything like the comedies made by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, it’s a wide-ranging look at Paramount’s output.

Remembering Audrey (12:12 in HD) – Audrey Hepburn’s son with Mel Ferrer and her partner of many years fondly recall memories of the Hollywood star. It’s a sweet, intimate look back at the actress from two men that knew her best.

Original Theatrical Teaser (01:48 in HD)

Original Theatrical Trailer (01:48 in HD)

Theatrical Re-release Trailer (02:28 in HD)

Image Galleries – Four different sections of still images can be strolled through at your leisure: Production, The Movie, Publicity, The Premiere.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Roman Holiday
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

One of Hollywood’s most enduring and truly popular screen romances, stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn form an impeccable chemistry that echoes throughout time for cinema lovers.

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