Fathom Events and TCM Present Roman Holiday

Poster of roman holiday, a film

In my last discussion of a Fathom/TCM event, I praised my local Cinemark for being a very excellent cinema. This time, I must complain. Whenever I have passes to these events, the teenagers behind the ticket booth never know what to do. Management is always called and usually they are very congenial and happy to have someone there to give them a little buzz. This time management took their time coming down and looked at us like we were keeping them from all the joy in their lives. I don’t expect the royal treatment, but a little polite customer service goes a long ways.

When we entered our theatre, the entire screen was filled with giant letters spelling out the Dish Network’s logo. It’s not odd to get advertisement logos at the theatre anymore, but this was a little overboard. After a few minutes, it left and in its place we got the sort of screen you usually get at home when you hit the guide screen on your own Dish Network. Presumably, these events are broadcast to the movie theaters by TCM via Dish satellites.

It wasn’t really a problem seeing this screen and in fact it was kind of interesting, but it’s not the most professional of showings. What was a problem was when they actually started up the usual upcoming “Fathom Events” trailers and all we got was the sound with no picture. It took a good five to seven minutes to fix this problem so we missed most of the advertisements for events we would likely have been interested in seeing had we been able to actually see the ads.

Last one and I’ll stop complaining. Right at the end of the movie, during the big emotional press conference, some employee turned on the bright florescent house lights – expecting to clean up, I imagine – taking us all out of the scene and into annoyance.

None of these things are really big deals, but it took what should have been a really magical experience and made it less so.

Roman Holiday was made in 1953. It was the first American film to be entirely shot on location outside of the country. It was directed by William Wyler, written by Dalton Trumbo (under a pseudonym as he was blacklisted at the time), and it stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in her first film role. It won three Academy Awards – for the script, for Audrey, and for costume design.

It is an absolutely delightful film. It is a cliche to say it (and lord knows I’ve said it many times) but it was so much better on the big screen. At first, the studio pushed back against the idea of shooting it on location, in Rome, but Wyler won out and the film is so much better for it. The director makes great use of the scenery and finds a way to shoot scenes on and around nearly every major landmark in the city (and there are a lot of them). Seeing it on a screen many times the size of my television made all of that so much more grand.

Audrey Hepburn stars as Princess Ann, heir to the throne of an unnamed European country. She is on a good-will tour of various capitol cities when she has a bit of a breakdown in Rome. Exhausted and tired of the daily demands of being a Princess, she yearns for a simple life. After a doctor gives her a sleeping shot, she sneaks out of the embassy looking for a brief adventure. Soon enough, the drugs take their toll and she winds up sleeping beside the road.

She is discovered by Gregory Peck, who plays Joe Bradley, an an American ex-pat living in Rome as a reporter for an American news service. Not recognizing her, he nonetheless tries to help her by putting her in a taxi and sending her home. Except she’s unwilling, or too out of it to say where she lives, and he winds up letting her crash at his small apartment.

The next morning he realizes she is the Princess and figures this is a great chance for a big story and through a few contrivances he takes her on a tour of the Eternal City. Enlisting his friend (and photographer) Irving (Eddie Albert), the two allow the Princess to let down her hair (and eventually cut it off) and experience all the fun she’s never been allowed to have. They get ice cream, buy some shoes, dance on a boat, and visit such landmarks as the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Mouth of Truth, and every other attraction one might want to see while in Rome.

Dalton Trumbo created a wonderful little script full of humor, lighthearted antics, and some bittersweet sadness. It’s very clever, fun, and nearly perfect. William Wyler keeps things moving rather quickly, taking our stars from one monument to the next, infusing the film with an effervescence that is a joy to watch.

Gregory Peck was the clear star coming in to this picture having already achieved worldwide fame and been nominated for an Academy Award three times. But it is Audrey Hepburn who shines the brightest. Even Peck recognized this early on while making the film as he demanded her name to be printed above the title on all advertisements alongside his own.

As the world would soon find out, she is astonishingly wonderful. Watching her on the big screen, I was completely smitten. Obviously she’s breathtakingly gorgeous, but she exudes such charm and charisma I can hardly see a human being with a pulse not falling madly for her while watching this film. She deserved the Oscar and every ounce of praise one can relinquish for her performance, and the many to come.

Once again Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies have created a wonderful experience at the movies. With Robert Osborne introducing the film and commenting at the end, the experience was just like watching it at home via the cable channel. But oh so much better for being on a giant screen.

Even with the few hiccups from the movie theatre, we had the best of times.

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Mat Brewster

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