Just saw the old film Roman Holiday today at a local theatre that was screening Hollywood classics. Ever since I bought a postcard in Rome for vacances romane a few years back I've been wanting to see the movie just to watch Audrey Hepburn swooping around the Coliseum on a Vespa driven by Gregroy Peck. The movie did not disappoint in the charm department, but in my opinion, director William Wyler didn't devote enough time to the scooter ride. Still, since the movie dates from 1953 it was fun to watch the first Vespas on the streets of Rome. They were few and far between compared to the numbers that pack the streets today.
In publicity photos like the one below, the Vespa appears to get equal billing with the stars, which was great news for the brand. Since Piaggio's Vespa, with its handle-bar controls, was relatively new when the movie came out - it was only about seven years old - the publicity gave the company and scooters a Hollywood boost. Roman Holiday is credited with increasing the sale of Vespas by 100,000.
For those of you who don't know Roman Holiday, it's the story of a bored princess from some unnamed European country who escapes the confines of her role to experience the simple joys of life. Gregory Peck plays a journalist determined to show her the pleasures of Rome while gaining an exclusive story along the way. What better symbol for the joy of new-found freedom, of increased mobility than a scooter. It was a brilliant choice on Wyler's part.
I hadn't seen the photo below before seeing the movie. The glee on Audrey Hepburn's face when she inadvertently took control of the scooter and rode madly for a few crazy moments was priceless, even if the scene became a slapstick one of inept riding. But to the director's credit, he didn't have Hepburn panic and hand back the controls to Gregory Peck who hops on the back. Maybe I'm overstating it here but to me, at that moment, the character looking for escape learned a valuable lesson in taking charge of her own destiny.
All photos are publicity shots available widely on the web