Roman Holiday Gets The Royal Restoration Treatment

Jul 24, 2020 09:46 AM EST
By Allison Rose 
2 Min Read

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With the upgrades in technology comes great advancements in all areas of our lives.  From phones we can carry in our pockets to lights that can be turned on in our homes from hundreds of miles away, there is always something new and important coming.  These upgrades have certainly been embraced and absorbed by the television and film industries, whether it be a 4K Blu-ray release with magnificent video quality or a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that envelopes the viewer as they watch a film or television show.  It has also meant that older films shot on 35mm negatives can now be cleaned up and remastered for new audiences to enjoy.

One such project is the newest version of 1953's Roman Holiday.  As film historian Leonard Maltin explains, "It was a significant film in that it introduced Audrey Hepburn to the world in her first starring role".  It also had the distinction of being one of the first movies shot completely on location in Rome. Maltin stated, "[William] Wyler (Ben-Hur) told the studio executives he would only direct the film if he could make on location in Rome".  While they protested saying they could build sets on the studio lot in California, he insisted on only filming in Italy.

Discussing the restoration process, Paramount's Head of Archives, Andrea Kalas talks, about how difficult restoration was for this particular film.  "Standards were different in the Italian labs as opposed to those in the United States and because of this, the original negative was very fragile.  We had to make a dupe negative to work with when restoring Roman Holiday".  She also praises the technology that allows these film restorations to happen, "The tools for digital restoration are so advanced now that we can clean up these movies very well".  However, she is also quick to state that they have to be careful to not "upgrade" the movie too much. "[The technology] gives us the opportunity by honoring the original film grain but also taking out the difficulties and problems that would make it hard to watch.

Both Maltin and Kalas were quick to point out that this restoration allows them, for the first time, to give full credit to Dalton Trumbo (Spartacus) for writing the story and the screenplay. He originally never received recognition since he was blacklisted in Hollywood when the film was released.  "The fight for credit began in 1993 by Trumbo's son, Christopher, and his friend… It's nice that we can finally give Dalton Trumbo the credit he deserves."

Roman Holiday, starring Hepburn and Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird) was nominated for 10 Oscar awards, winning three of them. It tells the story of a princess playing "hooky" from her responsibilities and her royal life and the news reporter who takes her on a journey throughout Rome in search of a big scoop.  As Maltin so aptly put it, "It doesn't age and it is a treat and a pleasure having it restored; having it look and sound so good".

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