Tuesday, March 8, 2011

- 'Roman Holiday' Open Thread

What did you think?


  1. Oh, wow, just these pictures cheer me up! (Well, also, the sun came out about 10 minutes ago.)

  2. Oh, wow, I know! How can you help but get a smile on your face?

    Are we all set to go?

  3. It is a fact universally acknowledged that when a man shares living accomodation with a member of the opposite sex he suddenly acquires a box set of Audrey Hepburn movies...
    Actually, I'm a sucker for pretty much anything set in Italy, so we'll give this one a spin on Sunday - my first time round, her hundred-and-first at a conservative guess - and I'll report back on Monday.

  4. We see from the start that Princess Ann is not so indefatigable as those news reels would suggest -- at least every woman in the audience knows the exhaustion indicated in her need to get out of a punishing shoe. Of course, losing that shoe lets us know that we are entering a world of inside-out fairy tales, where Cinderella loses her slipper at the beginning of the ball, and the heroine is a princess who dresses as a commoner for her bit of happiness. No fairy godmother, but there is a magic spell -- or, at least, a sleeping potion!

    I saw this movie at least 20 years ago, and what I remember from that viewing was the heroine's delight in the unaccustomed liberty to do anything she wished for that day, freed from inherited obligations, that she allowed herself. I think I enjoyed that element even more this time. Audrey Hepburn's performance was magical, capturing that joy of just letting the day take her, and embracing impulses and opportunities. In simply enjoying the people she encountered, instead of having to trot out the appropriate greetings and well-rehearsed speeches. And in discovering herself along with a bit of the world beyond the palace.

    And good heavens, could anyone have been lovelier? Not just her exquisite face and build, but the grace with which Hepburn carries herself, the beautiful voice that suggests maturity beyond her age -- so perfect for this part of a girl who has been an ambassador since childhood.
    Oh, dratted real life. More later!

  5. I read somewhere -- or it may have been in the Special Features part of the DVD I have -- that Cary Grant had been offered the role of Joe Bradley, but declined. Now, I suspect you know how I feel about Cary Grant, and that would have been a great movie, but I don't think it could have been as good as it is with Gregory Peck. He feels so real, in both the comedic and the serious moments, a naturally kind, good-humored man who gets carried away with the idea of what this completely unforeseeable opportunity could do for him, and comes back to himself -- perhaps a better self -- by the end of the adventure.

    And I am absolutely joining the Eddie Albert Fan Club -- this is the first time I've seen him outside of "Green Acres," and I had no idea how handsome, how engaging, he was, and I so enjoyed his liveliness, and his rather mischievous enjoyment of the part he he gets to play in Bradley's scoop.

    There's just so much to love in this movie. There is so much humor, almost always a little underplayed -- so many scenes that make you smile fondly, or chuckle in appreciation. I loved watching Bradley trying to bluff his way out of trouble with his boss, who reels him in so beautifully, pretending to accept his account of the interview with the princess -- and then lands him with the morning papers. Then, in the middle of being bawled out, Bradley realizes the significance of the princess' photo, interrupts his boss to ask if he's fired, and walks out of the room! Leaving Hennessy observing to the empty office: "The man's mad!"

    I think one of my favorite lines comes in the scene the night before, when Bradley has gotten "Anya" pajamas (much to her delight), and cautiously navigated her request that he help her undress for bed.

    Anne is speaking slowly, very much feeling the sedative:

    "This is very unusual. I've never been alone with a man before, even with my dress on. With my dress off, it's MOST unusual."

    She gives a tiny laugh, and continues, smiling at the oddness of her own reaction:

    "I don't seem to mind. Do you?"

    And there is the short scene the next morning, with Anne being harangued unintelligibly by the housekeeper who believes she has surprised a young woman of rather less virtue in Mr. Bradley's bathroom, until Anne seizes an opportunity to dash back into the bathroom as escape. She is too funny, and too darling.

    There are broader, laugh-out-loud moments, as when Irving meets "Anya" and Joe at the cafe, and Joe gets almost brutal with Irving, trying to keep him from commenting on Anya's resemblance to the princess. Poor Irving, taking these "hints" as signals to get lost, and Joe insisting that he stay, and the whole starts over again.

    But the serious moments, later in the film, are so beautiful, and beautifully done. I'll be back later...

  6. "Be careful, Irving. You don't .. want .. to spill!"

    and the look of irritation and confusion on Eddie Albert's face! Oh, that scene just kills me!

    Gregory Peck was perfect for this. A very handsome man to be sure, and that strong, steady voice, so confident and reassuring. As the show starts out and he happens upon Anya on a bench, he was clearly thinking this was some girl who drank too much and couldn't even find her way home. Despite being on his last Lire, he is still a gentleman to her, looking after her and taking some pains not to take advantage of the situation. As a man it is clear that though there is a bit of larceny in him, there is also a well found moral compass, and this will come back into play later in the movie.

    After finding out who she was, the natural thing was to see if he could take advantage of the opportunity to get a story out of it. Getting stories is what he did. The ramifications of the story he might write and the person he was affecting were things not even on his mind at this early point.

    Joe's story to the police, geared to gain their sympathy but entirely lacking an honest word, earns them both the congratulations of all injured parties, but it also exposes to the boys a bit of the game they have been playing at. Irving offers off hand "To say you two were getting married, that's really something Joe. I've gotta say, you're a heck of a liar." The intended compliment gives Anya the nerve to chime in "I guess I'm a good liar too." She doesn't realize she's the mark in this game. She believes she is getting away with a little fun, but both Irving and Joe know that his lying is on a deeper level, one that Anya has no idea of, and the boys are both ashamed of it. These aren't really bad men, and the fun they have with Anya was as genuine for them as it was her, but the reality was that they were not being up front with Anya, and the import of that was something they were yet to bump into.

    I think it was at the dance when the problem of deceiving Anya really began to come home for Joe. Her telling him in all honesty how very considerate he was to take a whole day just to do silly things with her, and her telling him gratefully how kind a person he must be drove the point home. A look to his face and you knew he was having trouble with what he was about. But when he realized how fragile she was, how hard it was for her to return to the world of responsibility that she was obligated to return to, and how hard it was for her to leave... him, it was another thing again. She had become a trusted friend, a close confident, and someone whose trust he simply could not betray. Joe couldn't be a newspaperman anymore. Joe was just going to be Joe.

    I am so glad we watched this one. Yours are great comments, Cathy. I wish I had more time, and I will say more later. In the meanwhile, I am keen to hear what else you might have to offer.

  7. The thing too about Eddie Albert is that I know a little about what happened on Tarawa. He is like a lot of other guys this nation produced. Jimmy Stewart of course is another. They are the real Fred Derry's, come home to try to pick life up back where they were four years before. Knowing that puts me in mind to have great fondness for Eddie. I am so glad to see him care free and having a little fun, thankful just to be alive, to have the chance to make the best of things. He is one of my heros, not just for what happened in the war, but for what he did when he came home.

  8. I have to tell you, as fun as this show is, it was the last couple of scenes that set the movie apart for me.

    After the goodbye that both knew, for different reasons, would be their last, Joe realized he simply couldn't betray the trust of Anya. The scenes back at Joe's apartment with Mr. Hennessey confirmed what we already were suspicious of, that Joe was a stand-up guy. It was so fun to see the interplay between Joe and Irving again, ending up with Irving pleading:

    "She’s fair game, Joe. It’s always open season on princesses."

    But in the end Irving takes Joe's lead and they are together to cover the Princess' audience.

    I must say, that was my favorite part. So much was said with just a look and a glance. Anya seeing Joe standing amongst the press I believe caused her alarm, which was soon followed by resignation. What will happen will happen. But her statement that she has faith in relations between nations as she has faith in relations between people was a call to honor friendship. Joe's answer

    "May I say, speaking for my own press service, we believe that your Higness’ faith will not be unjustified."

    is met with her heartfelt response:

    "I’m so glad to hear you say it."

    That was great. And her gazing back, with all the bittersweet memory of their day together rushing before her minds eye, to the point that she cannot even hear the next question as to which city on her tour was her favorite. Finally when prompted back to the present, she begins haltingly

    "Each, in its own way, was unforgettable. It would be difficult to ...

    Rome! By all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live."

    That was so great. And in the end, Joe walks out of a beautiful palace, alone, knowing that a good thing had happened, and that he had no regrets for it.

    What a fun show!

  9. A most enjoyable Sunday afternoon!

    Easily the most relaxed performance I've seen Gregory Peck give: I don't dislike him but I've never found him an interesting man to watch. I agree Grant would have been all wrong - it is essential that we see the man's rough edges, and Grant by this time was far too twinkly and suave. (He might just have got away with it in the thirties, but the part really cries out for the young Clark Gable.) Greg gets the mix of worldliness and decency just right.
    His rapport with Hepburn was great. I loved the whole scene when he takes her back to his room. Beautifully written and played. The charming moment when he tries to lead her up that spiral staircase and she just walks round it, still repeating her official platitudes all the while. And the bit where he's trying to give her instructions when she's almost unconscious, but both of them are simultaneously arguing about whether the poem she quotes is by Keats or Shelley. Does Peck normally interact this naturally and lightly with his co-stars? Either there was just some magical spark between him and Audrey or I've doing the man a serious injustice all this time.

    I do think the film is kind of a bridge between the tightly masterful romantic comedies of the thirties and forties and the much flabbier, fluffier 'glossy' comedies of the later fifties and sixties, often relying on prolonged travelogue sections. For the most part I much preferred the first half - with its greater tension and witty dialogue - to the second - which was much looser - though I agree with James that the last scenes were excellent. I realised halfway through that I really had no idea how it was going to end - or how it could, even, in a dramatically pleasing way. Very nicely, and poignantly, done.
    I also thought Eddie Albert was great fun as the Bohemian photographer.

    The only problem I had with it, really, was that I was never quite able to forgive the Princess her irresponsibility. However great her frustration and weariness with the routine of privilege, she must have known that she would be causing massive distress back home. Even my wife's patience was temporarily exhausted by her reckless scooter ride, when she could have easily killed herself and several others, and laughs when she destroys a vendor's stall.
    But this is to carp excessively! Basically a sweet and very enjoyable film... I just wish they'd thought of a title for it.

  10. Well, it is a vehicle by which we can explore a number of questions, including do you do what is expected of you or do you live life for your own concerns? We do not need to look too hard into the royal personage. Most of us can only guess at what that life must be like and hold an unreal view of it, but a quick examination of the House of Windsor in England or worse the House of Grimaldi in Monaco and we soon begin to dread the comparison. The fact is the princess was drugged through the wisdom of her handlers, and that as much as anything was why she ended up in Joe Bradley's apartment. They thought they were doing her a favor by making these decisions for her, in this case "helping" her to go to sleep. It is not the kind of help I would care for, and neither did she.

    When she came to she walked about a bit, got her hair cut and was on her way back when, what do you know, she ran into Joe! And guess what? He thinks she should not only take the morning off, she should take the whole day off, take a little holiday from the cares and concerns of her life, and live out whatever desires she might have. Joe has no idea what kind of a life she has, the regimentation of it, the need to always be perfect for presentation. He is just looking to get a good story, all the innermost thoughts of the royal princess, and it is for the hopes of scoring the story that he talks her into living out the rest of her little fantasy. And what is it comprised of? To have a coffee at an open air cafe, see the sights, dance on a barge... just simple things that anyone might do. And as to Joe, there are a number of questions he must answer. Is it right to gain someone's trust for your own motives? If you have an opportunity to advance your career, do you do so if it involves violating a confidence? What does it mean to be a friend? He has to come to terms with what is the right thing to do, and despite the fact that he has been a good liar, it turns out, as we suspected, that he really is a good man.

    Thanks for your comments, Matt. I am glad you could join us for this one.

  11. I think it was at the dance when the problem of deceiving Anya really began to come home for Joe.

    I think this is very true -- he had come up with his scheme early in the day, and nothing had happened until the dance to make Joe look at it critically. Anne's comments about his being "completely unselfish" make Joe look more closely at himself; the battle with the secret service agents and watery escape make him see Anne differently. They both realize they have feelings for each other, and the next scene, back in Joe's apartment, shows how dramatically things have changed between them.

    They both know their time together is drawing to a close, and their conversation reflects their wishes that things could be different. Joe indicates the robe Anne is wearing while her own clothes dry:

    " Suits you. You should always wear my clothes."

    "Seems I do."

    "I thought a little wine might be good."

    "Shall I cook something?"

    "No kitchen. Nothing to cook; I always eat out."

    "Do you like that?"

    "Life isn't always what one likes... is it?"

    "No... it isn't."

    They hear the news report that there has been no update on Princess Anne's "condition" and agree to turn off the radio.

    "Sorry I couldn't cook us some dinner."

    "Did you learn how in school?"

    "Mm, I'm a good cook. I could earn my living at it. I can sew, too, and clean a house, and iron -- I learned to do all those things, I just haven't had the chance to do it, for anyone..."

    "Well, looks like I'll have to move. Get myself a place with a kitchen."

    After a marked pause, Anne turns back to Joe, and just says:


    They are both silent for a few moments, Anne finishing her wine, until she finally says, painfully:

    " I... have to go now."

    She steps into his arms, crying now, and with his face pressed into her hair, Joe begins:

    "There's something that I want to tell you --"

    "No, please. Nothing." And they kiss.

    There is a kind of valiant acceptance of loss, on both parts, that I think shows both the integrity and the depth of feeling in each. Perhaps the bravest words are in their bit of shared play-acting about Joe's getting a place with a kitchen. As romantic, and as heart-rending, as the next scene (in the car, when they know they are saying good-bye) is, those exchanges in Joe's room are more profound, more telling of their recognition of what life could hold for them, if only, and the real sacrifice Anne is choosing to make.

    I so love the scene, back in the embassy, with the princess and her various caretakers. She is no longer a young charge to be managed, but a young woman very sure of her place, and her authority. She is calm, but firm, in letting the three know that she expects her wishes to be observed -- actually giving her first orders. A day of great happiness, and great sorrow, has brought her a maturity for which none of them was prepared. And she is as regal in her dressing gown as she could possibly be in court-dress.

    But in the end Irving takes Joe's lead and they are together to cover the Princess' audience.

    I must say, that was my favorite part. So much was said with just a look and a glance.

    That was a wonderful scene! Those coded messages carrying hope and assurance, understanding and affection -- Anne and Joe, and happily, Irving as well (oh that sneaky little camera!), finally honest with one another, and sharing their truths almost telepathically. And then the princess finessing a final moment with Joe, by stepping down to greet "some of the ladies and gentlemen of the Press," to have him hold her hand in his one last time.

  12. Yes, yes... that was a good one!

    Okay kids, it is time to start thinking about next week's show. I have had this one on my mind for some time now. It is a favorite of mine, often thought of as an off beat show about baseball, but really it is more than that. It is about people, and the flawed relationships we tend to have, and a hope and dream to make things right, if ever we could. I hope you will all join me for Field of Dreams.