President John F. Kennedy watched the 1953 film Roman Holiday at the White House on October 27, 1962. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, Hepburn plays the sheltered “Princess Ann,” on a tour of Europe and letting her hair down when she falls in love with Joe Bradley (Peck), an American reporter in Rome.
Amazingly, October 27, 1962 was smack dab in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis—a thirteen day saga where the world was on the brink of nuclear war. That date in particular has been called “the most dangerous day in human history.” Strategic Air Command was at Defcon 2, and both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted nuclear weapons tests on that day. An American U-2 spy plane even traveled into Soviet territory, and to make matters worse, an American destroyer, the USS Beale, started dropping “practice round” depth charges on a Soviet submarine, the B-59, causing the Soviets to think they were under attack. Soviet sub commander Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov refused to launch a nuclear torpedo in response. If he had, it almost certainly would’ve started World War III.
President Kennedy watched Roman Holiday that night with an unnamed person in the White House screening room. The White House projectionist typically made note of whoever joined the president during a screening, but his logs for that day are blank except to note that there was one other person there. Before watching Roman Holiday, the pair watched a 1962 propaganda movie called An Answer, which features several shots of Kennedy.
While not a remake, Roman Holiday share a number of plot points with the romantic comedy classic It Happened One Night from 1934 starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. Both feature a wealthy woman who’s on the run with a scheming journalist who can’t help but fall in love with her. Roman Holiday was directed by William Wyler (Ben Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives) and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1999.
President Jimmy Carter watched the 1980 movie The Stunt Man starring Peter O’Toole in the White House screening room on October 26, 1980. O’Toole plays a fugitive on the run from police who decides to pose as a movie stunt man while he’s hiding out.