Netflix recently announced a list of films that will be no longer be available via streaming in 2014. Roman Holiday was on the list. Not only do my husband and I enjoy old films but we feel compelled to watch them as a cultural point of reference, which Roman Holiday most certainly is. The United States National Film Registry selected Roman Holiday for preservation for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance and Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Dammed names one its mission after the film.
Ann, played by Audrey Hepburn, is a princess on a goodwill tour of Europe. Tired of a life restricted by schedules and expectations, Ann escapes one evening in the back of a delivery truck shortly after her doctor gave her a sedative to aid her sleep. An American reporter, Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, discovers Ann asleep on a bench. After an unsuccessful attempt to put her in a taxi home, Joe, concerned for Anne’s safety, takes her home to his apartment to sleep off what he assumes has been too much to drink. Realizing her real identity the next morning Joe tells the princess he is a fertilizer salesman. He recruits a photographer friend, Irving, in a scheme to earn a large financial reward for an exclusive story of what is now reported to be a bedridden princess. Ann spends the day with Joe in Rome as any other tourist might, dining in a sidewalk café and visiting the Mouth of Truth. Free from her predestined role as a princess, Ann is finally free to be her authentic self.
Unfortunately for royalty, there’s not a great degree of flexibility in what they may become. Was there ever a royal plumber, carousal ticket salesman, or accountant? Likely not. Though many of us live as if we were restrained by similar parameters – external expectations put upon us which we often translate into our own. When Ann chooses to return to the embassy and fulfill her role as a princess, we’re disappointed but know she must. For those of us without such restrictions, we must ask ourselves what is really a must and which lost opportunities would leave us most disappointed.