Roman Holiday

Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday (1953) starring Gregory Peck

Source: Roman Holiday. Directed by William Wyler. Performed by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Accessed November 23, 2016.

In 1953, the film Roman Holiday, starring film and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn, was released. Audrey Hepburn plays a sheltered princess who is touring European cities and holding diplomatic press conferences. She embodies all the qualities of an ideal 1950s woman: she’s submissive and follows the orders of her superiors; she adheres to all the societal rules for behavior; and she does the job effortlessly, always with a smile on her face. During her tour, however, she comes so overburdened with the expectations of being a member of royalty that she has a nervous breakdown. She becomes so hysterical that her mistress calls for a doctor, for a proper lady should always remain calm and collected. That night, Hepburn’s character decides to sneak out of her room so she can enjoy just a few hours of freedom.

In the course of her adventure, she meets Gregory Peck’s character, a member of the American press. Realizing she’s a princess, he takes her in and offers to escort her on her day off in the city. Hepburn character is quite naïve and childlike as she incorrectly drives a scooter through the streets and sidewalk, and falls prey to Peck’s harmless little pranks. The underlying message of these scenes is that a woman needs a man to orient her in the world; she could never make it on her own. In a later scene, Hepburn and Peck are back at his apartment after a long day, and Hepburn begins to apologize for not being able to fix them a proper dinner. She then goes on to describe her other domestic skills, such as cleaning. Even in someone else’s a home, she felt guilty for not being able to fulfill her feminine role.

One theme from this movie is that women need men to be truly happy, similar to the theme from Tyler Perry’s movies that marriage solves women’s problems. Before connecting with Peck’s character, the princess was wandering around Rome aimlessly. It was only until they started the day together that Hepburn’s character was able to truly enjoy her adventure; she needed a man by her side. Despite their experience together, at the end of the movie Hepburn decides to return to her home and to her duties. This illustrates another theme from the movie: women must be true to their responsibilities, including, one could assume, motherly responsibilities.


3 thoughts on “Roman Holiday

  1. I think it is interesting that single Mormon women have the same problem today. I know a lot of girls who will say, “If I can get married then I (fill in dream here).” And other than having children, there really is no dream that girls can’t accomplish on their own. I think it is interesting that Hepburn’s character cannot have an adventure without the man at her side. But perhaps that continues to permeate through our society today.


  2. Despite some of the issues it presents to women, I really enjoy this movie in celebrating women’s independence and ability to have fun, be independent, and spontaneous. It’s a really fun movie to watch aesthetically as well, in that it was created very artistically with the style, music, etc., but I do find it distasteful that she just returns to her home responsibilities fitting to the identity of the “traditional” woman.


  3. The tensions between the individual freedom and autonomy of a woman and her “duty” to be devoted to her home will, in my opinion, never quite be completely released in the United States. This film portrays that tension. As long as the family is a symbol of sacrifice, a place where membership does not require merit, there will be reasons for women to want to be loyal to their families. There will be men who also feel this way, but it is, in my opinion, less difficult for them to navigate their sea of responsibilities.


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