Rome is an open-air set. Several directors and actors paid homage to the Eternal City using it as scenery for their movies.
One of the most famous of them is Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The most iconic scene of the movie is set in front of the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), one of Rome's most important monuments. Do you recognize it?
Roman Holiday is an American romantic comedy movie released in 1953. Audrey Hepburn portrayed Ann, a crown princess from a European nation on a state visit to Rome, becomes frustrated with her suffocating scheduled life and tired of being the centre of social events and a target for the paparazzi. She secretly leaves her country's embassy and falls asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an expatriate reporter for the "American News Service", finds her, without recognizing who she is. Thinking that she is ill, Joe lets her spend the night in his apartment. The next morning, Joe his editor, Mr Hennessy informs him that the event had been cancelled and shows him a news item about the princess's "sudden illness" with a picture of her in it, he realizes who is asleep in his apartment. Seeing an opportunity, Joe privately calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich, to get him to secretly take pictures. Joe hurries home and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to guide "Anya" around Rome. However, Ann declines Joe's offer and leaves to enjoy her freedom. Joe follows and "accidentally" meets Ann on the Spanish Steps. This time, he convinces her to spend the day with him, taking her to a street café where he meets up with Irving. When Anya tries to drive Joe on a Vespa through heavy Roman traffic they are all arrested, but Joe and Irving show their "fake" press passes and the group is set free. They visit the Mouth of Truth, where Joe tricks Ann into thinking that his hand has been bitten off, and later tour the Colosseum.
That night, at a dance on a boat that her barber had invited her to, government agents called in by the embassy spot Ann and try to forcibly take her away. Joe, Irving, and the barber rush in to save her from the abductors. Ann joins in the fight that breaks out. As the police arrive and subdue the agents, Joe and Ann run away, but after Joe is ambushed and falls into the river, Ann jumps in to save him. They swim away from the dance and kiss as they sit shivering on the riverbank. Later at Joe's apartment, while drying their wet clothes, they share tender bittersweet moments. Regretfully bowing to her royal responsibilities, Ann asks Joe to drive her to a corner near the embassy, where they kiss again. She bids a tearful farewell and resumes her duties as a princess. And then? Watch the movie to discover the ending!
As I said before, one of the most iconic scene in the movie takes place in front of the Mouth of Truth. Do you know that this moment wasn't in the script? Gregory Peck wanted to play a joke on Audrey Hepburn and, shortly before filming began, Peck reported to director William Wyler that he would borrow a gag from the famous comedian Red Skelton: he would keep his hand hidden in his sleeve while pulling it out of the mouth of the sculpture in order to scare Hepburn. Wyler agreed and did not tell Hepburn who, having recently learned about the legend of the Mouth of Truth, was really scared. Her reaction in the movie is so genuine and spontaneous because the director liked the scene so much that he decided to include it in the final cut.
The Mouth of Truth: history and legend
One of the most famous symbols of Rome, it dates back to the reign of Tarquinio the Superb (535-509 b.C.), the last of the seven kings of Rome.
The large tondo has a diameter of about 1.80 meters and was probably a Cloaca Maxima's sewer cover, a grandiose drainage channel that started from the Suburra, crossed a part of the current "Rione Monti" district, the Forum, the Velabro, the Forum Boarium, and eventually into the Tiber. It was provided with marble sewer covers, located a short distance from each other and decorated with bas-reliefs. Among these was the famous marble disc with the features of a male face with a beard, eyes, holed nose and mouth, maybe of Jupiter, a faun or a river divinity.
The name "Mouth of Truth", originated in 1485, is linked to a medieval legend, according to which the mouth could shear off the hand of liars. The tradition was widespread among jealous husbands, who brought their wives to the monument: after introducing their hand, women had to declare that they had not committed adultery. This legend derives from a real story: sometimes, in fact, behind the mask of the Mouth of Truth, was hiding an executioner, ready to cut off the hand of those found guilty of lying.
Do you know how this legend ended? Thanks to the witty young wife of a Roman noble, who was surprised by the neighbors in receiving frequent visits from a lover while her husband was out of the city for work. One time the husband, without letting himself be moved by the woman's tears, decided to ask for public proof at the Mouth of Truth: on their way to the monument, a young man came through the crowd and amid the general bewilderment approached the man's wife, hugged and kissed her on the mouth in front of everyone. Immediately the reckless was carried away by force from the crowd. When calm returned, the alleged adulteress proudly approached the stone and slipping her hand into the statue's mouth uttered this sentence: “I swear that no man has ever hugged and kissed me, except for my husband and that demented young man!" The hand remained intact, the mouth did not close and did not bite, the husband then forgave the wife and the crowd exploded in jubilation. The shrewd woman who had managed to find, together with her lover, an infallible expedient to deceive everyone, including the Mouth itself, did not know that she had returned the stone to its millennial and noble silence.