Film, Lifestyle

Audrey Hepburn: On and Off-Screen

Now that Suite101 is no more, I’m re-sharing some old articles over on the blog. Audrey Hepburn has long been a fascination of mine.

Even though she died 17 years ago, Audrey Hepburn is still considered to be the one of the most fashionable actresses to have ever graced our screens.

Audrey Hepburn was an ambassador for UNICEF, a tremendously talented actress and hard-working mother years before Angelina Jolie was even born. Long gone are the days where there was an element of awe and mystique about actors. Her name has become synonymous with grace, class and beauty; a rarity in these celebrity-obsessed days.

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The Early Years
As a child, Audrey dreamed of being a dancer but she became severely malnourished during the Second World War and developed a series of illnesses. By the time she recovered, she was considered too old to make it and began pursuing a career as an actress. Her break-out role was as Princess Ann in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday (1953). She won the Best Actress Oscar and the film picked up another two awards. She played a Princess who breaks out of the confines of the palace for 24 hours to try and experience a normal life. Gregory Peck played a journalist who befriends her to try and get a story. As part of the film’s narrative, Hepburn’s luscious long locks were cut into a short crop. After seeing this, an entire generation of young women went out and had all of their hair cut off and started following her sense of style.

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Famous partnerships
Roman Holiday was just the first film she made with Wyler, following it up with The Children’s Hour (1961) and How To Steal A Million (1966). Her second film, Sabrina (1954), saw the start of three lifelong friendships. Hepburn dated her co-star William Holden for a while and starred alongside him again in the 1964 film Paris When It Sizzles. Billy Wilder also directed Audrey in Love in the Afternoon and Audrey often had dinner with Wilder and his wife, also named Audrey. The third, and most significant, friendship was with designer Hubert de Givenchy. At the time of the film’s release, Givenchy was an up and comer in the fashion world but the team’s careers blossomed alongside their friendship, with the designer creating many of the costumes for her films, including that Little Black Dress for Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

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A Dream Come True
In 1957, Audrey’s childhood dream came true when she got to dance alongside Fred Astaire in Funny Face. She played Jo Stockton, a librarian who falls into a career as a model and the arms of a top photographer (Astaire). The musical features infectious songs and fabulous costumes, designed again by Givenchy. Audrey clearly loved many of her directors, working with Stanley Donen again in Charade (1963) and Two For The Road (1967).

Hepburn then starred as a forest girl in the little-known Green Mansions alongside Psycho’s Anthony Perkins, as Sister Luke in The Nun’s Story (both 1959) and as a half-Indian girl in The Unforgiven (1960). Then came the defining role of her career as Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961). Audrey was Oscar-nominated again and the film won two awards including Best Original Song for her performance of Moon River. The dress she famously wore at the start of the film recently sold in a charity auction for £467,200.

Over the next few years she starred alongside Shirley Maclaine in The Children’s Hour (1961), Cary Grant in Charade (1963), played Eliza Doolittle in the big screen adaption of the West End show My Fair Lady (1964). Even though she sang the Oscar-winning Moon River in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and sang in Funny Face, her songs were dubbed by vocalist Marni Nixon (who also dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember and The King and I). Come awards season the film was nominated for pretty much every award going except Best Actress, an insult to Hepburn as many people were against the idea of her replacing Julie Andrews who performed the part on stage. The Oscar went to Andrews for her leading role in Mary Poppins.

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The Star Continues to Rise
Next came How To Steal A Million (1966), a comedy caper with Peter O’Toole and Two For The Road (1967). The latter saw her play one half of a married couple who look back on their relationship and wonder how they became so unhappy. Hepburn dated her co-star Albert Finney for a while when shooting was over and their chemistry in the film is illuminating. Audrey’s smile never lit up the screen as much as it did here.

Hepburn’s role as a blind woman in the 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark earned her another Oscar nomination but she didn’t win her second award until after she passed away. Her final role was in Steven Spielberg’s Always (1989) where she played Richard Dreyfus’s guardian angel, a fitting performance, especially given that she helped so many children as part of her worldwide campaigns with UNICEF. Her work continues through her sons Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti. Proceeds from several books about her go to charity, as well as the money raised through AudreyBag.

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