Lisa Reviews an Oscar Nominee: Roman Holiday (dir by William Wyler)


The 1953 film Roman Holiday is one that I’ve watched quite a few times.  If you know anything about the film and/or me, you won’t be surprised by that.  I love Audrey Hepburn.  I love Rome.  I love romance.  And I love bittersweet endings.  And Roman Holiday has all four of those!

Speaking of Audrey Hepburn, I’ve shared this picture before but I’m going to share it again:

Audrey Hepburn 1954 Roman HolidayThat is Audrey Hepburn, the morning after she won the Best Actress Oscar for Roman Holiday.  Roman Holiday was Audrey Hepburn’s motion picture debut and it continues to hold up as one of the greatest film debuts of all time.  Watching how easily she controls and dominates the screen in Roman Holiday, you would think that she had made over a 100 films previously.

The film tells a simple story, really.  Audrey plays Ann, the crown princess of an unnamed country.  Princess Ann is touring the world.  The press is following her every move.  Her royal handlers are carefully choreographing every event.  Her ever-present bodyguards are always present to make sure that no one gets too close to her.  In public, Ann is the epitome of royal discretion, smiling politely and always being careful to say exactly the right thing.  But, in private, Ann is restless.  Ann knows that she has never been allowed to see the real world and yearns to escape, if just for one night, and live a normal life.  So far, her handlers have managed to keep her under control but then she arrives in Rome and…

…well, who can resist Rome?

Despite having been given a sedative earlier, Ann stays awake long enough to sneak out of her hotel room and see the enchanting Rome night life.  Of course, the sedative does eventually kick in and she ends up falling asleep on a bench.  It’s there that she’s discovered by an American, a cynical reporter named Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck).  Not realizing who she is and, instead, assuming she’s just a tourist who has been overwhelmed by Rome, Joe allows her to spend the night at his apartment.

The next morning, Joe finds out who Ann actually is.  Realizing that getting an exclusive interview with Ann could be his ticket to the big time, Joe and his photographer, Irving (Eddie Albert), rush back to Joe’s apartment.  Joe doesn’t tell her that he’s a reporter.  He just offers to take her on a tour of Rome.  Ann, however, wants to experience Rome on her own.

What follows is a wonderful and romantic travelogue of the glory of Rome.  Though Ann does explore on her own for a while, she eventually does meet back up with Joe and Irving.  Whenever I watch Roman Holiday, I always try to put myself in the shoes of someone in 1953, sitting in the audience during the film’s first week of release.  For many of them, this film may have been their first chance to ever see Rome.  (The opening credits of Roman Holiday proudly announce that the entire film was shot on location, properly acknowledging the Rome is as much a star of this film as Hepburn, Peck, and Albert.)  If you’re not already in love with Rome (and I fell in love with the city — and really, the entire country of Italy — the summer after I graduated high school), you will be after watching Roman Holiday.

(If you truly want to have a wonderful double feature, follow-up Roman Holiday with La Dolce Vita.)

The film’s most famous scene occurs at the Mouth of Truth and… well, just watch…

This scene was improvised, on the spot, by Gregory Peck.  Audrey Hepburn’s scream was very much real as Peck didn’t tell her what he was planning on doing.  As great as this scene is, it’s even better after you’ve actually been to Rome and put your own hand in the Mouth of Truth.

It’s a very sweet movie, one that stands as both a tribute to romance but also proof of what pure movie star charisma can accomplish.  It’s not just that Audrey Hepburn gives a great performance as Princess Ann.  It’s that Gregory Peck gives one of his most natural and surprisingly playful performance as well.  It’s that Peck and Hepburn have an amazing chemistry.  By the end of the film, you know that they deserve Rome and Rome deserves them.

And then there’s that ending, that bittersweet ending that always brings tears my mismatched eyes.  It’s a sad (though not depressing) little ending but somehow, it’s also the only ending that would work.

Roman Holiday was nominated for best picture but it lost to From Here To Eternity.

That’s right — Roman Holiday and From Here To Eternity were released one after another.

1953 was a very good year.



A Movie A Day #53: Ghost Town Renegades (1947, directed by Ray Taylor)

gtrWhen a federal surveyor disappears while checking out the ghost town of Waterhole, the U.S. Marshall sends Cheyenne Davis (Lash La Rue) and Fuzzy Jones (Al “Fuzzy” St. John) to investigate.  It turns out that gold has been discovered around Waterhole, on land owned by the Trent Family.  Bad guy Vance Sharpe (Jack Ingram) is trying to kill the last remaining Trents — Rodney (Steve Frost) and his daughter, Diane (Jennifer Holt) — so that he can claim the land as his own.  As Cheyenne and Fuzzy investigate, there are plenty of shootouts, fist fights, and an out of control stagecoach.  Since this is a Lash LaRue film, there is also a lot of exciting bullwhip action.

If you’re like me, the name Lash La Rue immediately makes you think of Pulp Fiction and Harvey Keitel asking John Travolta, “What about you, Lash La Rue, can you keep your spurs from jingling and jangling?”  But, long before Quentin Tarantino ever came up with that line of dialogue, Lash La Rue was a legitimate Western star, starring in several B-westerns in the 1940s and 50s.  What set Lash apart from other western stars was that he looked like he could have been Humphrey Bogart’s younger brother, he always wore black, and he often used a bullwhip instead of a gun.  In fact, when Harrison Ford needed someone to train him how to use a bullwhip for Raiders of the Lost Ark, 65 year-old Lash La Rue was the man that they called.

I have read that Ghost Town Renegades is considered to be the best of La Rue’s movies.  I haven’t seen enough of them to say whether it’s the best but Ghost Town Renegades is an entertaining and fast-paced B-western.  Lash La Rue is good with a whip, Jennifer Holt is beautiful, and not even the broad comedy of Fuzzy St. John detracts.

Interesting to note: Jennifer Holt, who co-starred in several of La Rue’s movies, was the daughter of Jack Holt and the sister of Tim Holt, both of whom were prominent western stars themselves.

Music Video of the Day: We The People…. by A Tribe Called Quest (2016, dir. James Larese)

I figured it was appropriate to follow up Fight The Power by Public Enemy with this music video. I think the music video does an excellent job. I was going to try and interpret the whole video, but I have trouble with lyrics and what I see as the ending, seems to be in direct contradiction with what the director says he intended in the behind-the-scenes video at the end of this post. So, I’ll leave it mostly to you.

I cannot let the post go without mentioning my thoughts on the ending though. The video would appear to have the people following the cords that should lead back to the band. The director even says in the behind-the-scenes video that they do arrive where the band is broadcasting from. But that’s not what you see in the video. It almost gets there with the people running down what should be the tunnels leading to the room, and you can even see a shot in the behind-the-scenes video with them in the room, but it isn’t in the video. I have a feeling that behind-the-scenes video was shot, and then some editing was done to the finished product. The end of the video has Q-Tip alone while a siren plays, then cuts to the protest. I can imagine Q-Tip personally telling Larese that having them show up in the same room as him would defeat the point of the song. It would show the people not rising up for themselves. It would show people rallying to a new king, so to speak. In other words, to borrow from Ozzy Osbourne, since the song does sample Black Sabbath:

“You gotta believe in someone
Asking me who is right
Asking me who to follow
Don’t ask me
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know”
–I Don’t Know by Ozzy Osbourne

I can see them cutting Q-Tip actually seeing them arrive, and instead abruptly cut to the protest. That’s how I read it.

They sample the Black Sabbath song Behind The Wall Of Sleep, which is appropriate since they also did War Pigs and The Mob Rules.

I’ve included War Pigs (live & studio) and The Mob Rules by Black Sabbath below since they are relevant to this song. I’m guessing that the siren at the end is from, or at least a reference to the one from War Pigs, which began the song, rather than ended it.

James Larese directed the video and Cisco Newman produced it. Thanks to BWW Music World we have this quote from Larese:

“I was hugely influenced by Tribe growing up and never imagined I’d be here directing their video. They are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. ‘We the People’ touched me on a visceral level. One of the reasons I co-founded Triggr & Bloom, perhaps the main reason, was to position my art to a higher purpose. Working with them was an incredible affirmation for me.”
–James Larese

I can find that Newman has worked on 15-20 music videos in the past few years. He was even nominated for a Grammy for “Weird Al” Yankovic’s music video for Perform This Way.

Here is when A Tribe Called Quest performed We The People…. on SNL:

Finally, here is the behind-the-scenes video that was put out on the video: