July 20, 2020
Paramount Home Entertainment will release the classic 1953 film Roman Holiday for the first time on Blu-ray Disc Sept. 15 as part of the studio’s Paramount Presents line. The film was subjected to an extensive 4K restoration by the studio, which showed off some of the results at an online press event July 15.
In the film, Audrey Hepburn stars as a European princess who escapes her secluded lifestyle and spends an adventure in Rome with an American journalist played by Gregory Peck.
“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Roman Holiday. It’s an irresistible movie,” said famed critic and film historian Leonard Maltin. “And unlike some ’50s movies that seem maybe a little heavy handed or maybe a little out of fashion by today’s standards, I think this one still breathes and exudes an air of freshness that is timeless. A lot of that has to do with of course Audrey Hepburn, who is eternally contemporary.”
Maltin said director William Wyler insisted on shooting the film on location in Rome, rather than building sets in Hollywood and matching the footage to pickup shots in the European city.
“Roman Holiday was one of the very first movies done on location,” said Andrea Kalas, SVP of archives at Paramount. “This was not a standard Hollywood thing.”
Both Kalas and Martin speculated that the production’s need to use European labs to process the film for dailies and editing, rather than more frequently used and reliable L.A. labs, might have contributed to problems preserving the film over the years.
The film was digitally restored using a dupe negative and a fine grain element to capture the best possible image. Every frame was reviewed, and the film received extensive clean-up to remove thousands of scratches, bits of dirt and other damage. The original mono track was remastered and minor anomalies were corrected.
“Unfortunately, the original negative no longer even exists,” Kalas said. “This was a dupe made from the original neg which is what we primarily used, and that original negative was so damaged by that lab, just different standards … so that’s why the work we had to do was so important. Digital technology and restoration have become so nuanced and so specific that we can really make sure that we are doing the best with the material we have. So we’re really pleased with the way it came out.”
The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, and ended up winning Best Actress for Hepburn, in her first major film role, Best Costume Design for a black-and-white movie, and Best Story.
The film’s writing award has been the subject of some revision over the years, which is reflected in the new Blu-ray as well. The new restoration also features one slight alteration from the original theatrical version, in that blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo receives a full credit for his work on the film.
Trumbo’s story credit was restored in 1992 by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, which in 1993 presented the Oscar with Trumbo’s name on it to his widow. In 2011 the Writers Guild of America awarded Trumbo a proper co-screenplay credit as well, shared with John Dighton, who Paramount hired to touch up the screenplay, and Ian McLellan Hunter, a screenwriting friend of Trumbo who fronted the script for him with the studio to get around the blacklist (it was Hunter who was originally handed the Best Story Oscar).
The new Blu-ray will be the first physical home entertainment release of Roman Holiday to feature both Trumbo’s story and co-screenwriting credits, both on the packaging and in the film itself.
Extras on the Blu-ray include the featurettes “Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday,” “Behind the Gates: Costumes,” “Rome With a Princess,” “Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years,” “Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist” and “Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey.” Other extras include theatrical trailers, plus photo galleries covering the film and its production, publicity campaign and premiere. The Blu-ray will also include a digital copy of the film.
Films in the Paramount Presents line are presented in a slipcover with a foldout image of the film’s poster, and an interior spread of key movie moments. Other films available through Paramount Presents include Fatal Attraction, King Creole, To Catch a Thief, Flashdance, Days of Thunder, Pretty In Pink, Airplane! and Ghost.