The movie that made me love movies

So, I must have been about 11 or 12 years old. I had been living in Germany for about a year or so and my German was fluent by now (languages are best learnt when you are young). In Germany all films are dubbed into German, which took a little getting used to, but once you speak the language, you can live with that. German TV very often showed old movies at the time. I don’t know if they still do that, but in the 1980s that was the case. They don’t do that here in the Netherlands which I think is a huge shame…

Anyway, on one weekend afternoon I was spread out in front of the TV (I can still see myself lying on the ground, leaning against this bright red pillow/chair), undoubtedly with some of my many brothers and sisters around as well, and we watched this old Hollywood movie called “Roman Holiday” on TV.  Yes, in German. It was many years later when I first saw it in English but the German version did not deter me! Roman Holiday is a 1953 black and white movie starring Gregory Peck and introducing Audrey Hepburn to the world in her first starring role (it won her an Oscar too, I learned later!).  All I knew about the movie from the TV guide was that it was about a runaway princess enjoying an incognito day in Rome with a reporter (although she doesn’t know he’s a reporter). I didn’t know anything about the actors or much about movies in general (I was more of a reader than a movie goer) and then this movie happened.

From the very beginning I was riveted. I fell in love with Audrey Hepburn, then fell in love with Gregory Peck (hence starting my fascination with tall, dark, handsome actors) and I fell in love with Rome which resulted in me visiting several sites of the movie when we went to Rome for our summer vacation five years ago. The story that unfolded in this movie was funny and heartwarming  and the ending was… well… I won’t spoil it but it was heart wrenching. That’s it… I was hooked… old movies were cool!

All of this happened before the internet, so I went to the library to find information about this film in film encyclopedias, I copied what I could copy, found out about the stars and started watching more and more and more old movies on TV during weekend afternoons. I was always looking for movies that could live up to Roman Holiday. That was a tough act to follow (many movies didn’t live up to it or only sort of lived up to it, while some movies did live up to it) but this movie was the doorway to opening up a whole new world of stories. Now I didn’t only have books and “Little House on the Prairie” on TV (shoot me, but I loved Laura Ingalls), I also had movies and some of them even made my books come to life! I started a scrapbook, cutting out pictures of actors and movie scenes from the TV guides and other magazines. I did that until I was, oh, about 18 and very occasionally added to the scrapbooks until I was in my twenties! After that, the internet came… 😉 I still have my scrapbooks and they show what my taste was at the time… I now cringe at some of the things I used to like but other likes still hold up today.

So, before Richard Armitage and before Colin Firth there was Gregory Peck for me! When everyone was into George Michael and Duran Duran, I was in love with Gregory Peck. Totally uncool, so I never told anyone at the time, but I was immersed in adoring several old-school actors and actresses. I read biographies, collected pictures, and yes, somewhere (although I can’t find it at the moment) I even have a signed Gregory Peck photo! That’s a story in itself! I had sent out an autograph request but at first never heard back. Then a few years later (I think maybe 3 or 4 years after I sent out the request) I came home one day and my mother said I had a letter from Gregory Peck! Be still my beating heart! In the envelope was a signed photograph and a typed apology note stating that a bag of mail had been misplaced and suddenly found again and my letter requesting an autograph had been in that bag. Wow. I was so pleased.

Not only did I love Gregory Peck, I also loved Audrey Hepburn. Read all I could about her, saw all her films and together with my husband I have even visited her grave not far from Geneva when we were there once many years ago. I remember once in the early 1990s (I was living in The Netherlands by then) I heard she would be coming to Den Haag, not far from where I lived, for her Unicef work. At the time I was too cool to fangirl publicly, so I thought it would be uncool to go and cheer at her near the venue she was going to be at. “There’ll be other chances, it’ll be too crowded anyhow”, I reasoned, and I watched at home on TV as she attended that fund-raising event. Sadly, there were no other chances to see her in person. She died suddenly of cancer not too long afterwards and I have forever regretted my decision to not go that day. I remembered that regret when I read Richard Armitage would be in London doing The Crucible… London was doable for me. I have a little more money now than I did as a student plus my brother lives in London, so I could stay at his place. All I had to do was buy a plane ticket and a Crucible ticket and, remembering my regret at having missed Audrey Hepburn all those years ago, I just could not let that chance go by….  I had to see Richard Armitage and I had to be outside the stage door to meet him, even if only for ever so briefly. Same goes for when I had the chance to briefly see Pierce Brosnan on a red carpet this past September. And for seeing Michael Palin in Utrecht this past November. Nope, I am not letting chances go by me again if I can help it…

I still await for such a good chance to meet Colin Firth one day… And I wish I could’ve met Ingrid Bergman, another actress I have adored ever since living in Germany. Sadly she died in 1982 only very shortly after I had found out she even existed.

My bedroom wall (which is my movie shrine) also boasts a huge Casablanca poster (that one was up on my wall even before I met my husband, which was a long time ago, and it’s fading now!) and a huge Roman Holiday poster. I was recently watching Roman Holiday again for about the zillionth time and that film still holds up, even today! Morals about marrying into royalty may have changed now and maybe the film, if made today, would be less bitter-sweet.  Still, for me that doesn’t take away from any of it. I still adore this film, it remains one of my favorites ever and if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!

And now, because I have been gushing over it and I just can’t resist while I go through the old screenshots I once made, here is the story in stills (beware SPOILERS!)

Roman Holiday in movie stills…

Every inch a princess… but she can’t sleep that evening even after getting sleeping medication and she studies the ornate ceilings of the palace bedroom.

Roman Holiday (1) Roman Holiday (9)

The princess watches a street party outside her window, dreams of life outside the constraints of royalty and escapes the palace in the back of a small delivery truck.

Roman Holiday (10) Roman Holiday (11)

Meanwhile the reporter is finishing the poker game he is losing and decides to walk home…

Roman Holiday (13) Roman Holiday (14)
Finding a well-dressed young woman sleeping in the streets of Rome… not your usual sight.

Roman Holiday (15) Roman Holiday (18)

He takes pity on the pretty, well-read, well-dressed “drunk” and brings her to his apartment to put her up for the night. “Is this the elevator?” she asks.

Roman Holiday (20) Roman Holiday (25)

“I’ve never been alone with a man before with my dress on. With my dress off it is MOST unusual!”

Roman Holiday (26) Roman Holiday (30)

Next day at work he realizes he has a princess in his apartment! And he checks if it’s really her.

Roman Holiday (36) Roman Holiday (40)

“I was dreaming of a man, he was tall and he was so… mean… to me…”. After the shock of finding herself in a man’s apartment, first introductions are made but he doesn’t tell her he’s a reporter wanting to do a story on her. And she doesn’t tell him she’s a princess when it looks like he doesn’t know who she is…

Roman Holiday (45) Roman Holiday (55)

On the balcony of his apartment, he then has to let her go but follows her through the streets of Rome.

Roman Holiday (60) Roman Holiday (67)

At the hairdresser’s getting her hair cut. “Are you sure? All off?” “Yes! Off!”

Roman Holiday (75) Roman Holiday (76)

And thus a legendary Audrey Hepburn look is born…

Roman Holiday (77) Roman Holiday (83)

Reporter Joe ‘accidentally’ sees her again at the Spanish Steps… and says he’ll take the day off and come with her and do all the things with her she has ever dreamed of doing. First thing: sidewalk café.

Roman Holiday (100) Roman Holiday (111)

Ann says she’s running away ‘from school’ for a day. “What do you do, Mr. Bradley?”… Er….

Roman Holiday (113) Roman Holiday (115)

Photographer friend Irving is enlisted to take secret pictures using a Zippo lighter as a camera…

Roman Holiday (119) Roman Holiday (127)

Sightseeing on a scooter ends in being picked up by the police…

Roman Holiday (129) Roman Holiday (134)

And then there’s the matter of testing the Mouth of Truth… if you lie, you get your hand chopped off…

Roman Holiday (140) Roman Holiday (148)

Little Italian cars are too small for tall, dark, handsome men….

Roman Holiday (150) Roman Holiday (152)

The wall where wishes come true…

Roman Holiday (156) Roman Holiday (160)

Evening dancing on the barges near Sant’Angelo.

Roman Holiday (168) Roman Holiday (169)

“You spent the whole day doing things I always wanted to. Why?” “It seemed the thing to do…” “I’ve never heard of anybody so kind.” “It wasn’t any trouble…” “Also, so completely unselfish.” Gulp…

Roman Holiday (171) Roman Holiday (176)

Chaos ensues and they escape by jumping into the river and swimming across….   The mood changes…

Roman Holiday (185) Roman Holiday (193)

Getting dry back at Joe’s apartment…

Roman Holiday (209) Roman Holiday (219)

An inevitable farewell is nigh… and they are reluctant to part…

Roman Holiday (230) Roman Holiday (238)

A difficult farewell in the car…

Roman Holiday (244) Roman Holiday (249)

The princess has grown as a woman but is alone… as is Joe…

Roman Holiday (262) Roman Holiday (264)

“Don’t go around spilling things!” Joe says to Irving in front of the newspaper editor the next morning. He won’t write the princess story after all and Irving won’t sell the pictures… but they do get good laughs from looking at the pictures.

Roman Holiday (265) Roman Holiday (267)

Joe goes to the princess’s press conference and only there does she realize he is a reporter. In diplomatic terms he is able to reassure her he won’t use her for a story.

Roman Holiday (271) Roman Holiday (272)

“May I present your highness with some commemorative photos of your visit to Rome?” …. and then one last touch.

Roman Holiday (279) Roman Holiday (285)

The final farewell… sob…

Roman Holiday (286) Roman Holiday (290)

OK, enough gushing… I truly believe that had I lived in the Netherlands at the time, things wouldn’t have developed as they did for me, so: thank you German TV for helping make me a movie fan by teaching me all about movie history…

15 thoughts on “The movie that made me love movies

  1. Is it blasphemous to suggest a remake of “Roman Holiday” with Armitage as the journalist? That’s another remake wish of mine, apart from the Bicycle Thieves.
    And I am totally with you on the film, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. I was a teenager at the same time as you ;-), and loved watching those old b/w classics. This is one of my all-time favourites, a sweet story, beautifully filmed, with fabulous actors. Peck was very handsome indeed. Nice story of that autograph!!! (And as a German I am very pleased to read that you credit Germany with instigating that love ;-))


    1. There once was a 1987 remake for TV of Roman Holiday with Tom Conti and Catherine Oxenberg. I saw that only once and remember it being horrific… I have recently searched for it to see if it really is as horrific as I remembered it to be but it is nowhere to be found, so it really must have been bad. 😉 Yes, I was thinking of a remake with Richard Armitage as well, but, in honesty, I find it hard to imagine such a classic with such classic performances can be remade… Some things should best be left alone, maybe…Or maybe not, with Richard involved…
      And Gregory Peck wasn’t only handsome but an awesome human being as well, which always makes any tall dark handsome actor even more attractive to me. It is said he was very much like the character Atticus Finch whom he played in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (which happens to be one of my favorite books ever). He won his Oscar for that role. 🙂
      Oh man, I wish I had known you in my teens, then! I knew no one around me who liked what I liked… 🙂


      1. I suppose you are right – sometimes it is best to leave the magic of the original untouched… although… nah, I’ll stop here.
        Hehe, and there must have been a hotbed of weirdos in my town then, because my best friend was hugely into Hepburn and Peck in our teenage years. We would’ve welcomed you with open arms 😀


  2. It was a little eerie reading your experience with Roman Holiday. It echoed mine in many ways. Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, oh myyyyyy. Scrapbooks, libraries, posters on the wall. Yes! It’s no accident that a dear Tumblr friend and I regularly talk about Richard in Gregory’s role in To Kill a Mockingbird. And then we usually fancast him into many Gregory Peck roles – there is a quality to both actors which is quite complementary. Hehehehe and not just the tall, dark, and handsome – of which they both most definitely are 😀 Thank you for this lovely post – I feel all warm and nostalgic on the first snow day of the season. Now, I must go and dig out my old vhs copy of Sabrina and see if the vcr still works 🙂


    1. Aw, yeah, Sabrina! They remade that as well, with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. It was OK, but I liked the Audrey Hepburn one better. 🙂 She made some really lovely movies… Breakfast at Tiffany’s (I recommended that to a friend of mine who watched it but it didn’t do anything for her… how is that even possible?), The Nun’s Story, My Fair Lady, Funny Face, Wait Until Dark…
      And Gregory Peck: To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentleman’s Agreement, Spellbound (he was so young then! And that one is with Ingrid Bergman!), Moby Dick, Guns of Navarone, The Big Country, On the Beach, Horatio Hornblower… oh man, I now really have to dig up some of these again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOVE Audrey Hepburn … and Ingrid Bergman may well be one of the most beautiful creatures of all time. Sigh. I didn’t mind the Sabrina remake and thought really big things were going to happen for Julia Ormond – quite liked her. Was disappointed that her career never really took off. It’s insane how many of these movies I have on video tape. It would cost a fortune to replace them with dvds.


  3. I came upon these much, much later but fell in love with Roman Holiday just as you did. It also started an exploration of her other movies. Later on I became interested in seeing as many old b/w movies as I could. Audrey Hepburn is an all time favorite of mine. Thanks for reminding me and for all of the lovely screen caps!


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