powered by AFI
As noted in the opening credits, "this film was photographed and recorded in its entirety in Rome, Italy." According to a July 1952 New York Times article, Roman Holiday was the first Hollywood picture to be shot and processed in Italy. The film opens with a phony Paramount News "News Flash," in which stock footage of London, Paris and Rome is intercut with shots of Audrey Hepburn as her character, "Princess Anne."
According to modern news items and a modern interview with Ian McLellan Hunter, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was a member of the "Hollywood Ten," was the actual writer of the film's story. Credited writer Hunter fronted for Trumbo, and Hunter's agent sold the screen story to producer-director Frank Capra under Hunter's name. Hunter then wrote a draft of the screenplay for Capra. In October 1991, the Writers Guild of America West, acting on the recommendations of its ad hoc blacklist credits committee, officially credited Trumbo with the film's story, and awarded him with the same Guild screenplay prize that Hunter and co-screenwriter John Dighton shared in 1954. Although he refused to attend the ceremony, Hunter also won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Motion Picture Story), which AMPAS restored to Trumbo posthumously in 1993. According to a modern source, director William Wyler's longtime collaborator, Lester Koenig, went to Rome to work on the script of Roman Holiday, but also did not receive credit because of blacklisting. For more information about blacklisting and the Hollywood Ten, see entry for Crossfire in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. For more information about the Writers Guild blacklist credits committee, for The Las Vegas Story.
Paramount production files contained at the AMPAS Library note that in October 1949, Paramount purchased the rights to the screen story from Capra's Liberty production company for $35,000. Capra is listed as the film's producer-director on early budget estimates and scripts. Modern sources claim that Capra had arranged for Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor to star in the picture, but backed out before production began because he felt that he could not make the film for 1.5 million dollars, Paramount's then budget ceiling. Ben Hecht worked on the screenplay from June to October 1951, according to Paramount production files, but ultimately waived his credit. His version was markedly different from the completed picture. Paramount records note that Preston Sturges worked on the script in March 1952, and that Valentine Davies was hired for two days of revisions. The contribution of these writers to the final film, if any, has not been determined. Modern sources note that the last scene was rewritten many times.
According to modern sources, Wyler resisted the studio's suggestion to shoot most of the picture on the lot and insisted on filming in Rome. Studio interiors were filmed at the Cinecitt facilities in Rome. Paramount production files indicate that the following Roman locations were used in the picture: Via Ruggero Fauro; Ciampino Airport; Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Colonna, which were used for the embassy scenes; Piazza Venezia, where the motorscooter scene was filmed; Via Morgangni, the location of the wishing wall; Roman Forum; the Colosseum; the Bocca della Verit; Via Nuova; the Spanish Steps; Via dei Giardini; Palazzo Brancaccio, which provided the princess' embassy bedroom; Piazza Ungheria, Via IV Fontane; Castel St. Angelo; Ponte Vittorio; Piazza de Trevi; Piazza Quirinale, where the police station scene was recorded; Piazza del Pantheon; and Via Margutta, the site of "Joe's" apartment. According to Paramount records, the lengthy production cost approximately $2,092,487 and was about $700,000 over budget. Modern sources note that the picture was financed with blocked funds, which Paramount was allowed to use only after getting script approval from the Italian government. According to the Variety review, some prints of Roman Holiday were "available for wide-screen projection."
Roman Holiday marked Wyler's first comedy film since the 1935 Twentieth Century-Fox picture The Gay Deception (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). It also marked Audrey Hepburn's American screen debut and her first starring role. Previously, she had appeared in walk-on roles in a number of British pictures, including the popular 1951 comedy The Lavender Hill Mob. According to modern sources, after securing Gregory Peck in the lead male role, Wyler began searching for a screen unknown to play the princess. British director Thorold Dickinson oversaw Hepburn's screen test, following Wyler's instructions to keep the camera running after the actual scene reading was over, so that he could gauge her natural screen presence.
Alhough impressed by the Hepburn footage, Wyler also tested Suzanne Cloutier, according to one modern source. Hepburn's screen test was shown later on television and was featured in a Look magazine spread, according to modern sources. Hepburn's casting in Roman Holiday conflicted with her appearance in the title role of the Broadway production of Gigi, for which author Colette personally had picked her, but modern sources note that Wyler delayed production for six months to accommodate her schedule. Hepburn's performance was applauded universally by critics. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer stated: "Miss Hepburn makes her American screen debut a memorable occasion. A beauty, she reveals sensitivity and sincerity in her captivating portrayal..." The Daily Variety reviewer praised Hepburn's "delightful affectation in voice and delivery, controlled just enough to have charm and serve as a trademark," while the New York Times reviewer described the actress as a "slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike." Hepburn appeared on the cover of Time magazine in September 1953. In addition to a Paramount contract and instant stardom in America and Europe, Hepburn gained major celebrity in Japan due to her role in Roman Holiday. Her Roman Holiday hairdo was copied by many young Japanese women, according to modern sources.
Hepburn won an Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance in Roman Holiday. As noted above, the film also earned an Oscar for Best Writing (Motion Picture Story), and Edith Head won an Oscar for Best Costume Design. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Writing (Screenplay), Best Supporting Actor (Eddie Albert), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Art Direction. The Directors Guild awarded Wyler with its "Outstanding Directorial Achievement" prize for his work on the picture. Modern sources note that as of early 1955, Roman Holiday had earned ten million dollars at the box office. Wyler's daughters, Cathy and Judy, appeared as school children in the Trevi fountain scene, according to modern sources. Modern sources also list Robert A. Belcher as assistant editor. In 1987, the NBC network televised a remake of Roman Holiday, directed by Noel Nosseck and starring Catherine Oxenberg and Tom Conti.