This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.
In celebration of Gregory Peck's centennial, we were asked to pick one of his two most popular films, To Kill a Mockingbird and Roman Holiday, to watch and pick a favorite shot from it. I decided to cater to the romantic in me and finally watch the latter film for the very first time. It was an excellent decision as I was transported to a time when smart romantic comedies were being made with the care and passion that director William Wyler and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo obviously had. The latter was blacklisted and had to remove his name while Wyler had to strongly convince the studios to shoot on location in Italy.
Peck, of course, is also wonderful in the film as the tall, dashing and handsome reporter, but it's the glittering debut of Audrey Hepburn as the wayward princess looking for an escape that makes the film an all-time classic. In fact, the shot of her looking in a mirror in front of the hair salon, reminiscent of her very iconic shot in Breakfast at Tiffany's, was a close pick of mine for my favorite shot since it also highlighted the film's overarching theme of having the freedom to follow one's desires.
But what really makes the film is not just Wyler's gorgeous black and white lensing or Trumbo's funny script or even the two leads' strong individual capabilities. What makes the film great is the chemistry among Peck, Hepburn and Eddie Albert (who played the amusing third wheel in most of the film). It enabled the audience to buy the quick camaraderie among themselves as they gallivant throughout Rome even with all the secrets and lies they were all juggling. This relationship-building between the characters paid off brilliantly with the final sequence when they all must meet each other formally for the first time as princess and reporter/photographer. This entire sequence is my pick for best shot.
The anticipation expertly builds as the camera largely stays still following the progress of the princess making her way down the front row of reporters. The audience is left imagining what will happen once she gets to the two men she spent most of the day with the day before. Will there be a big scene? Will there be drama? Of course there was none of that, just friendly, polite looks and smiles and a brief exchange of words before she had to move on. One of the most remarkable things about this whole scene to me is just how much was left unsaid among all three characters, but the audience could easily imagine what each probably would've wanted to say to one other. If I *had* to pick *one* best shot, it might be the very end of the sequence as she's getting ready to turn and head back to the life she's always known. The subtle look of Hepburn hints at indecisiveness, but also new resolve. She had her memorable holiday and it's something she'll never forget.