Home Video Picks & Passes 09.27.20

‘Roman Holiday’ is a ‘pick.’

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck star in ‘Roman Holiday.’
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck star in ‘Roman Holiday.’ (photo: Public domain/Paramount Pictures)

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933) — PICK

Roman Holiday (1953) — PICK

Among new Blu-ray offerings are two very different tales, made 20 years apart, of star-crossed romances between an American and a non-American in an exotic locale. 

In both films — an underappreciated oddity in the career of Frank Capra and a beloved classic with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck — the woman is a young naif abroad on a goodwill mission who runs into trouble from which the man, a more jaded local character, saves her.

William Wyler’s Roman Holiday stars Hepburn as the crown princess of an unspecified European country on a goodwill European tour. Chafing at her highly regimented existence, she absconds from the embassy in Rome and spends a magical day with Peck’s cynical American reporter Joe.

Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen stars Barbara Stanwick as a young American missionary in Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War. Swedish actor Nils Anton plays a powerful Chinese warlord who becomes entranced by the beautiful missionary, despite her engagement to a fellow missionary.

While dated in some ways, Bitter Tea has intriguing religious and moral currents deeper than anything in Roman Holiday, which, though one of the loveliest big-screen depictions of Rome, omits entirely the city’s sacred heritage.


 CAVEAT SPECTATOR:  The Bitter Tea of General Yen:  Stylized violence and sexual situations. Teens and up. Roman Holiday: Romantic complications. Teens and up.