In the beloved romance, Hepburn plays a princess who runs away from her duties but soon finds herself falling in love with a journalist, played by Gregory Peck. Viewers were immediately “enchanted by her combination of grace, elegance and high spirits,” the New York Times reported.
Hepburn, who also become a fashion muse, made her mark in both the ‘50s and ‘60s, captivating audiences with films like 1954’s “Sabrina,” 1957’s “Funny Face,” and 1961’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The actress also became a special ambassador for Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, in 1988 and dedicated the rest of her life traveling the world raising money and awareness for the U.N. organization. She passed away in 1993 at age 63 from cancer.
In honor of the Academy Awards, which is taking place on Feb. 9, free streaming service Tubi is highlighting some of the most influential Oscar-winning films, including “Roman Holiday.” Fox News spoke with pop culture expert Maude Garrett about why “Roman Holiday” continues to be timeless, what really made Hepburn so special, and how she’s influencing today’s Hollywood stars, including Kim Kardashian.
Fox News: What is it about "Roman Holiday" that’s so Oscar-worthy?
Maude Garrett: Oh, my goodness, this movie had everything that embodies what a classic film is supposed to be. It features Audrey Hepburn, who is an icon of the times there.
And this kind of story I think is the height of Audrey's career, especially because [back then], you still had the men dominating and it was the women that were always in the shadow. That wasn't the case in this movie. So I think that knowing back in the '50s that this was going to be sort of like the template of what an Academy Award-winning movie looked like, it really paved the path.
Fox News: How do you think Audrey continues to influence Hollywood today?
Garrett: It's funny, with that classic look, even big stars that often aren't known for their class, like Kim Kardashian, have borrowed from Audrey's looks before. That infamous photoshoot she did with the champagne popping over her holding the glass, that is actually inspired by Audrey Hepburn. I'm not sure too many people will notice that. She is the queen of the LBD, the little black dress. She's the one that doesn't show much but makes that look incredibly powerful and, to me, sexy. So, I think that she is a style icon that people borrow from every single day.
Fox News: Just by this film alone, what makes Audrey so different and special?
Garrett: I think that Audrey really understood what star power was. I mean in the '50s, you had Clark Gable, Cary Grant — it was always about the men. And then some women really stepped up in the spotlight, like Katharine Hepburn as well as Marilyn Monroe. They realized what star power was all about, and these women [held] their own against their male counterparts. [Audrey] had this demure look, a look that was very, very innocent. But it was a gaze that held so much power.
Fox News: It's been said that the filmmakers wanted an unknown for Audrey's role. Do you think this was a huge gamble for Hollywood at the time?
Garrett: Yes. They didn't know anything about her [but] when she walked in the doors and delivered the lines, they said that on the spot there was no one else. They couldn't envision anything else happening there. She just blew them away.
When she walked in, they basically booked her on the spot, and they wanted to make her a star. And the fact that she was up against a massive actor and held her own says everything about her. That's why she had such a long-standing career.
Fox News: What can you tell us about the Oscar-winning costumes in “Roman Holiday?"
Garrett: We are talking road trip demure decor here. It is the headscarf. It is the neck scarf. It is getting from A to B looking as fabulous as possible. Even in that era, the clothes were so perfect. But I think that the fact that it's “Roman Holiday” and it is traversing over different coastlines, those holiday-esque looks are just beautiful. And Audrey also perfected the updo with the glasses, and so all of that's in there as well.
Fox News: What's your favorite scene from the film and why?
Garrett: The kiss! It's always so funny watching classic movies because they have to be very family-conscious with those sorts of moments. And I always love the fact that it's a very family-friendly moment, but they have a lot of chemistry behind it. [When it comes to classics it's] not usually about getting hot and heavy. It's about the moments that they share, and that's what you have in this film. So when it all comes together, that for me is the cherry on the top.