Roman Holiday is probably the film that I attribute to the start of my love for the movies. I was about nine years old, somewhat eloquacious and bored out of my mind on a rainy day. While snooping around my parents’ movie collection (I believe I had exhausted my own pile of forgettable tween flicks) I came across an intriguing title: “Roman Holiday.” I slotted the rather crummy-looking disc in and before I knew it, I had been transported to the charming world of a runaway princess.
Everything about the movie fascinated me; the girls in their dresses and the gentlemen in the suits, the enormous lira notes that the characters fished out of their pockets, not to mention the fabulous Vespa on which the leads zoom about through the streets of Rome. More importantly though, it was the effortless charm of the film that struck me greatly. As Joe Bradley, Gregory Peck emulated the quintessential American good-guy. The film though, really does belong to Audrey. Her performance at the age of 22 was just the perfect mix of sprightly innocence and delightful charisma that even the simplest things are a pleasure to watch. I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this kind of movie has been done a thousand times, but I think the simplicity of the story, as well as the lovely mix of lighthearted humour and sweet poignancy, make Roman Holiday truly unique.
I still adore the movie; its two stars, and, of course, the very capable William Wyler without whom Roman Holiday would not have been quite as perfect. Wyler really was a perfectionist in every sense of the word and someone even asked Greg years later how he ever stood the endless takes for two-line scenes. Peck replied simply: “I want to reach for my ultimate best. Once it’s on film, it’s there forever.”