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William Wyler
Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams, Margaret Rawlings, Tullio Carminati
Writing Credits:
Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton, Dalton Trumbo

Audrey Hepburn at her Oscar-winning best in an immortal comedy-romance!

Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Actress-Audrey Hepburn; Best Writing; Best Costume Design.
Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor-Eddie Albert; Best Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Film Editing.

Standard 1.33:1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 11/11/2008

• "Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years” Featurette
• “Remembering Audrey” Featurette
• “Rome with a Princess” Featurette
• “Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist” Featurette
• “Restoring Roman Holiday” Featurette
• "Behind the Gates: Costumes" Featurette
• “Paramount in the ‘50s” Featurette
• Trailers
• Galleries

Audrey Hepburn Collection

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TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


Roman Holiday: The Centennial Collection (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson/David Williams (December 18, 2008)

Take a look at this pedigree from the 1954 Academy Awards:

WON - Best Actress in a Leading Role: Audrey Hepburn
WON - Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Edith Head
WON - Best Writing, Motion Picture Story: Ian McLellan Hunter and Dalton Trumbo

NOMINATED - Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Eddie Albert
NOMINATED - Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White: Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler
NOMINATED - Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: Franz Planer and Henri Alekan
NOMINATED - Best Director: William Wyler
NOMINATED - Best Film Editing: Robert Swink
NOMINATED - Best Picture: William Wyler
NOMINATED - Best Writing, Screenplay: Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton

What film does this list describe? 1953’s Roman Holiday, a flick that centers around a bored princess who wants to break away from the constraints of royalty and live a “normal” life in the outside world – if only for just one day. The film offers the antithesis to the original Cinderella story: rather than partaking of the upper-crust existence, our heroine wants to see how “Joe Six-Pack” lives and exist in his world. While a love story between a commoner and royalty was hardly a new topic – even in 1953 – the film managed to strike a chord with audiences, as evidenced by the aforementioned Oscar nominations and wins.

Roman Holiday accomplishes what not many films can: crossing multiple genres and crossing each of them quite successfully. It is easily one of the most charming films to ever hit the big screen and manages to be romantic, dramatic, bittersweet, and funny all at the same time. One of the better films of the 1950s, it’s one of reputed director William Wyler’s best outings. It also has the splendid distinction of introducing the world to Audrey Hepburn, one of the classiest and most beautiful women to ever walk the face of the earth.

In an interesting story found in the DVD’s extras, Gregory Peck recalls a conversation he had with the studio where he demanded that Hepburn, in her first “big” role, receive equal billing in the film’s credits. He swore that the young actress would win an Academy Award for the role and that it would be foolish for the studio to simply credit her as “introducing Audrey Hepburn”. Peck was right on all accounts and seemed to perceive the elusive “it” that Hepburn had in droves.

Hepburn plays Ann, a princess from lands unknown on a goodwill tour of Europe who has made a stop on Rome. The tour includes a lavish party thrown by her country’s ambassador that features a large gathering of dignitaries. Like all good princesses, she waits in an endless receiving line to meet and greet each and every one. After this, she retires to her bedroom to rest up for another long and tiring day of much of the same – photo ops, public appearances, as well as other suffocating and rigid royal duties.

Because of all of this, Ann dreams of life “on the outside” and wants nothing more than some time alone. After an unusually agonizing day, the princess freaks out and in order to calm her down, her assistant calls the royal doctor for a tranquilizing shot. However, before the drug takes full effect, Ann is able make a clever escape from her royal handlers and she soon finds herself alone on the streets of Rome with nowhere to go – and quite drowsy.

Hours later, American newspaperman Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) finds the groggy princess on a park bench. Bradley assumes she’s intoxicated and offers her a cab ride home. However, she mumbles some incoherent and slurred statements and mentions that she’s staying “in the Coliseum” and therefore, he decides it might be better to take her to his apartment and allow her to sleep everything off.

Things then take a turn for the unbelievable as the next day, the local papers report that the princess has taken ill and has cancelled all of her appointments for the day. After seeing the article, Bradley realizes that royalty is sleeping on his couch and decides to keep the information to himself in order to leverage his newfound scoop. Bradley convinces his boss that he can get an exclusive interview with the missing princess. His boss agrees and Bradley comes up with a plan to gain the princess’ confidence.

Bradley follows Ann through town and after finally catching up with her, he tries to act surprised at another “chance meeting” in Rome. However, Ann doesn’t know that Joe knows who she really is and she tells him that she is simply a student that has run away from school – Joe simply tells her that he’s a salesman. As such, he offers to take her on a tour of the city and she excitedly accepts. However, as the two spend more and more time together, Bradley begins to genuinely fall for Ann and must deal with the inner turmoil this causes him. Should he continue to work on his scoop or let Ann know of his true feelings for her?

Over the course of the film, we see a transformation in Ann, as she realizes the timid and frightened person she was and the type of person that she must become in order to be an effective leader for her people. Joe on the other hand stood the most to lose and in a sense, he did. He doesn’t get the story he promised his demanding boss and he loses someone he was falling in love with to a sense of duty, honor, and leadership. However, if it all worked out in a tidy and happy ending, the movie just wouldn’t be the same. The ending, as with the movie itself, is in a word … perfect.

The movie is as timeless as Hepburn herself and remains as one of the staples of a classic Hollywood romance.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Roman Holiday appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Occasional concerns emerged during this transfer.

Edge enhancement was the primary problem here. The haloes never became heavy, but I noticed them on occasion, and they created mild distractions that sometimes affected sharpness. While most of the movie appeared crisp and concise, a few wider shots demonstrated light softness. Nonetheless, the image mostly came across as well-defined. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges materialized.

Source flaws were also a minor concern. I noticed marks during the opening “newsreel” but felt those came from the source and weren’t a transfer issue. Otherwise, a few blemishes popped up during the film, but not anything significant. Blacks looked deep and firm, and the movie exhibited good contrast. Low-light shots also appeared clear and smooth. This became a good but erratic image.

While not as impressive, the monaural audio of Roman Holiday seemed perfectly acceptable for a 55-year-old effort. Speech always seemed concise and natural, with no edginess or other distractions. Music lacked much range but came across as clean and acceptably clear. Effects showed decent definition, and the track came essentially free from defects. This was a perfectly solid little mix.

How did the picture and audio of this 2008 “Centennial Collection Edition” compare to those of the 2002 Special Edition? I thought both appeared to be virtually identical. The new version may’ve been marginally brighter, but I got the impression that the two were very close siblings, so I noticed no significant differences between them.

In terms of extras, this “Centennial Collection Edition” mixes new components and elements from the 2002 SE. I’ll note 2008 exclusives with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, that means the component also appeared on the old disc.

Most of the package’s extras show up on DVD Two. Only a Preview for It’s a Wonderful Life appears on DVD One.

Over on DVD Two, we start off with *Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years. During this 29-minute and 54-second piece, we find notes from film professor Jonathan Kuntz, authors Pamela Keough and Barry Paris, fashion designer Jeffrey Banks, producer AC Lyles, and actors Stefanie Powers and Pat Crowley. As the title implies, the show looks at Hepburn’s stint at Paramount as well as other aspects of her life/career and her impact on films.

While the show’s emphasis on her six flicks at Paramount limits its scope, I kind of like the focus. It makes “Paramount” unusual since it doesn’t really attempt to be a full career examination. Sure, it delivers some quick notes about her life before and after that period, but it mostly sticks with the decade in question. It investigates that era well and becomes an involving piece.

For *Remembering Audrey, we take a 12-minute and 12-second look at the actor. It includes notes from Hepburn’s son Sean Ferrer, her companion Robert Wolders and “Audrey Bags” designer Egidio Fontana. They mostly tell us about Hepburn’s life outside of the movie industry. Much of the content simply lionizes Hepburn and talks about her greatness. Expect little depth in this fluffy piece.

For the eight-minute and 57-second *Rome with a Princess, we take a tour through the Roman locations featured in the film. A narrator provides details about the various spots as we see them portrayed in the flick and in today’s world. This becomes a competent travelogue.

*Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist goes for 11 minutes, 55 seconds and presents remarks from Kuntz, blacklisted actors’ wives Betty Garrett and Jean Porter Dmytryk, novelist/filmmaker Nicholas Meyer, and actors Allan Rich and Marsha Hunt. The program looks at the film’s screenwriter and controversies that affected his career. It’s too brief to provide a great take on a topic as complex about the Hollywood blacklist, but it provides a taut and intriguing piece.

Next comes the six-minute and 50-second Restoring Roman Holiday. It features Paramount Pictures’ Senior VP Operations Phil Murphy, Paramount Pictures Executive Director of Broadcast Services and Film Preservation Barry Allen, Paramount Pictures Head of DVD Mastering Ron Smith, Paramount Pictures Head Film Librarian Steve Elkin, Lowry Digital Images president John Lowry, and LDI project manager Ryan Gomez. The show looks at the work put into the transfer for this DVD. I find this kind of piece to be self-congratulatory, but we do find some decent notes about the challenges presented in the restoration process.

We focus on clothes during Behind the Gates: Costumes. It goes for five minutes, 31 seconds and offers comments from Paramount archivist Randall Thropp as he leads us on a tour of the studio’s costume vaults. None of this has anything to do with Roman Holiday - the closest we come is a look at a Hepburn outfit from Breakfast at Tiffany’s - but it’s cool to see some of the costumes on display.

For the final featurette, we get the nine-minute and 37-second Paramount in the ‘50s. It simply shows us clips from a few of the studio’s biggest flicks during that era. A narrator provides some remarks about the movies as well, but nothing particularly revealing emerges here. Instead, the show feels more like a long ad for the studio.

In addition to three Trailers, we find four Galleries. These cover “Production” (36 images), “The Movie” (43 images), “Publicity” (13 images), and “The Premiere” (8 images). If you’re a fan of still images, you should really enjoy this section, as the images are documenting a classic. While this was a nice addition to the disc, the few images we are given don’t seem to be quite wide-ranging and all-inclusive enough. Even so, it’s a decent effort.

Finally, the set includes a *booklet. The eight-page piece provides some short production notes and a few photos. It’s not memorable but it’s a nice way to finish the set.

Does the 2008 “Centennial Collection” release lose anything from the 2002 Special Edition? Yes – it drops a documentary about the movie. However, because the 2008 version packs so many new featurettes, it more than compensates for that loss.

An enduring romantic comedy, Roman Holiday hold up well after five and a half decades. A lot of the credit goes to its stars, as you’ll not find bigger Hollywood legends than Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The DVD provides satisfactory picture and audio and a collection of decent extras. This is a positive release for an enjoyable film.

For viewers who don’t already own the 2002 release of Roman Holiday, this 2008 “Centennial Collection” version is the one to get. However, I’m not sure it merits a double-dip for fans who bought the prior disc. Sure, it presents a nice array of new extras, but the movie looks and sounds pretty much the same on both discs; you’ll not find any real improvement with the 2008 transfer. Serious fans may want to drop the extra bucks for the new supplements, but others will remain happy with the original release.

To rate this film, visit the Special Collector's Edition review of ROMAN HOLIDAY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main