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The world-renowned Princess Ann, a member of the royal family of a small unnamed European kingdom, is in a whirlwind tour of Europe. After visiting London, Paris, and Amsterdam, she arrives in Rome, the Eternal City. Bored and upset with a life where her every waking minute is scheduled and rehearsed, she throws a tantrum and has to be sedated. However, before the drugs take effect, she manages to escape the embassy, determined to spend at least one day doing whatever she wants.
As the sedatives finally take effect, the weary princess collapses on a park bench, where she meets Intrepid Reporter Joe Bradley. Believing her to be drunk, he offers to have a taxi take her back to her home, but she refuses; finally, he caves in and allows her to sleep it off at his place (and no, that doesn't happen).
The next morning, Bradley wakes up late, having overslept and missed a scheduled interview with the princess. He tries to report in to his editor anyway, but he gets caught in the lie when he finds out that the princess "called in sick" at 3 o'clock that morning. After seeing a picture of Princess Ann in the paper, Bradley manages to put two and two together and sets out to get the scoop of a lifetime...
Notable moments include the original romantic Vespa ride through Rome, the scene at the Mouth of Truth, and a dance-turned-brawl where Ann clubs a man over the head with a guitar.
The film is notable as Audrey Hepburn's first major breakthrough in cinema; she won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Princess Ann, and always remembered this as her favorite role. It was also included in American Film Institute's 10 Top 10 list, placing fourth under the romantic comedy genre.
This film includes examples of:
- Academy Award
- Bittersweet Ending
- The Chains of Commanding: What Princess Ann is trying to escape from--and, ultimately, the reason she decides to return.
- Clock King: Princess Ann's handlers. It's enough to make her want to run away in the middle of the night.
- Did Not Get the Girl: This is more of a Values Dissonance issue, but the class difference would have prevented either from carrying their relationship further and both characters acknowledge it.
- Enforced Method Acting: Audrey wasn't told beforehand of Peck's stunt at the Mouth of Truth. Hilarity Ensues.
- Everything's Better with Princesses
- The Eternal City: Rome is the third lead of this movie.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Ann wakes up in a strange bed to see Joe Bradley (whom she doesn't remember from the previous night) nearby, her first impulse is to frantically dive her hand beneath the covers, feeling around for her crotch. Joe "innocently" asks, "Did you lose something?" After a moment, a now much relieved Ann replies,"No." This would explain why she's so trusting of Joe afterwards.
- This is also a Call Back to an early scene, when Ann asks why she can't sleep in pajamas, "just the top part." She was covering herself with his blanket, so she couldn't simply look to see if she'd done just that.
- Joe explains that he's in the fertilizer business. This may be a snide way of saying everything he tells her is bullshit, or a smart remark against his profession as a journalist.
- Hand in the Hole: The aforementioned "Mouth of Truth" scene.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Photographer Irving Radovich is Oliver Wendell Douglas.
- Important Haircut
- The Ingenue: Princess Ann, short of one jarringly out-of-place smoking scene, is the absolute epitome of adorable innocence.
- Intoxication Ensues
- Intrepid Reporter: Joe Bradley.
- King Incognito: Ann disguises herself as a commoner to avoid detection and retrieval.
- Manly Tears: Joe's eyes well up quite a bit during the press conference.
- No Name Given: Ann's home country is always referred to as "her country."
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Ann thanks Joe for so unselfishly indulging her all day.
- Oh Crap: The look on Princess Ann's face when she realizes that Irving's cigarette lighter is also a camera.
- Pimped-Out Dress
- Rebellious Princess: Princess Ann.
- Star-Making Role: For Audrey Hepburn
- Stepford Smiler: What Ann is during most of her public appearances. It makes her genuine smiles towards Joe all the more poignant.
- Subtext: On the surface, the statements uttered by Joe and Ann at the press conference are nothing more than platitudes. But the subtextual conversation conveys that a) Joe won't reveal what really happened during their day together and b) there is a genuine shared love that will be cherished between the two forever.
- Tearful Smile: The default expressions of both Joe and Ann during the press conference.
- Throw It In: Gregory Peck ad-libbed the aforementioned Enforced Method Acting.