There’s not much I could say about Audrey Hepburn that the rest of the world hasn’t already said. Still, only a handful can claim such titles, such as icon, trendsetter, talented, compassionate, idol, and humanitarian. I’m sure I could list more, but you get the idea. She earned every title she donned.
Every. Single. One.
As one of the brightest stars we’ve ever had the privilege to be entertained by, it was her spirit and heart that made her light shine so bright.
Her bloodlines were of royalty and she poised herself with such grace and elegance. Without knowing of the personal events she endured, you would think her life was a fairy tale existence. However, this darling princess experienced more than her share of tragedy.
The Blue-Blood Baby
Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston) May 4th, 1929, in Ixelles, Brussels. She was known to her family as Adriaantje. Hepburn’s early childhood was sheltered and privileged. Audrey’s mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra (June 12, 1900 – August 26, 1984), was a Dutch noblewoman. Her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston (November 21, 1889 – October 16, 1980), was British, born in Auschitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. He left when Audrey was just 6. Hepburn later professed that her father’s departure was “the most traumatic event of my life.”
However, before that, she learned five languages: Dutch and English from her parents, and later varying degrees of French, Spanish, and Italian. In the mid-1930s, Hepburn’s parents recruited and collected donations for the British Union of Fascists.
In addition to other traumatic events, she witnessed the transportation of Dutch Jews to concentration camps, later stating that “more than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child.
She spent parts of her childhood in Belgium, England, and the Netherlands. Audrey was a teenager during wartime. After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse. With the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, she developed acute anemia, respiratory problems and, edema as a result of malnutrition.
After the war ended in 1945, Hepburn moved with her mother and siblings (her half-brothers Alex and Ian) to Amsterdam, where she began ballet training. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945, during the first world war.
Out Of Desperation Comes Success
As the family’s fortunes had been lost during the war, Ella supported them by working as a cook and housekeeper for a wealthy family. Hepburn made her film debut playing an air stewardess in Dutch in Seven Lessons (1948), an education travel film. Later that year, Hepburn moved to London after accepting a ballet scholarship with Ballet Rambert, which was then based in Notting Hill. She supported herself with part-time work as a model, and dropped “Ruston” from her surname. After she was told by Rambert that despite her talent, her height and weak constitution (the after-effect of wartime malnutrition) would make the status of prima ballerina unattainable, she decided to concentrate on acting.
Her first significant starring role was as Princess Ann, in Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck… (Lucky girrrrl). But, we all know her best from her big hit, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This launched her into superstardom, and she became a fashion trendsetter and Icon. Hepburn stated that the role was “the jazziest of my career.”
The Compassionate Humanitarian
United States president George H. W. Bush presented Hepburn with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posthumously awarded her the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity.
In 2002, at the United Nations Special Session on Children, UNICEF honoured Hepburn’s legacy of humanitarian work by unveiling a statue, “The Spirit of Audrey”, at UNICEF’s New York headquarters. Her service for children is also recognized through the United States Fund for UNICEF‘s Audrey Hepburn Society.
How does she do it all?!
I can barely manage to take a shower, going to work, and trying to write… All in the same day! No wonder she was so thin, she was too busy to eat. I don’t know for sure but, the girl had a lot going on!
Other than being a super-star and humanitarian, she married American actor Mel Ferrer, on September 25, 1954. Audrey had two miscarriages before the successful birth of her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, on July 17, 1960. She had two more miscarriages before they divorced in 1968, after a 14-year marriage.
Marrying her second husband, Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, January 18, 1969. They had a son, Luca Andrea Dotti, born on February 8, 1970. Audrey then had another miscarriage. The Dotti-Hepburn marriage lasted thirteen years and was dissolved in 1982.
From 1980 until her death, Hepburn was in a relationship with Dutch actor Robert Wolders, the widower of actress Merle Oberon. In 1989, she called the nine years she had spent with him the happiest years of her life, and stated that she considered them married, just not officially.
To live an enchanted life such as hers would be an incredibly hard goal to achieve. She packed more into her life than most people could in a century.
In early November 1992, a laparoscopy was performed at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It revealed a rare form of abdominal cancer having grown slowly over several years, the cancer had metastasized as a thin coating over her small intestine. After surgery, Hepburn began chemotherapy.
On the evening of January 20, 1993, Hepburn died in her sleep at home. She was 63.
Audrey’s son, Sean Ferrer, founded the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund in memory of his mother shortly after her death. The US Fund for UNICEF also founded the Audrey Hepburn Society: chaired by son, Luca Dotti, it celebrates UNICEF’s biggest donors and has raised almost US$100,000,000 to date. Dotti also became patron of the Pseudomyxoma Survivor charity, dedicated to providing support to patients of the same rare cancer Hepburn suffered from, and the rare disease ambassador since 2014 and for 2015 on behalf of European Organisation for Rare Diseases.
“Nobody ever looked like her before World War II … Yet we recognize the rightness of this appearance in relation to our historical needs. The proof is that thousands of imitations have appeared.”
Hepburn was associated with a minimalist style, usually wearing clothes with simple silhouettes, which emphasized her slim body, monochromatic colors, and occasional statement accessories. In the late 1950s, Audrey Hepburn popularized plain black leggings.
Slim black trousers, flat ballet-style pumps, and a fine black jersey
This was one of her signature looks as well as the little black dresses.
This style was new at the time when women still wore skirts and high heels more often than trousers and flat shoes.
In her private life, Audrey preferred to wear casual and comfortable clothes, contrary to the haute couture she wore on-screen and at public events. Despite being admired for her beauty, she never considered herself attractive, stating in a 1959 interview that “you can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or maybe just plain too ugly… you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found the only way to get the better of them was by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.”
In 1989, she stated that “my look is attainable … Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying the large glasses and the little sleeveless dresses.”
Ok… I found more than a couple things for you. It’s a legitimate great start.
Audrey Hepburn’s Filmography
Baroness Caroline DuLac
Gabrielle Simpson / Gaby
Sister Luke (Gabrielle van der Mal)
Ariane Chavasse / Thin Girl
Linda Farrel / Melissa Farrell
1950 Saturday-Night Revue (TV Mini-Series)
The Audrey – Kathrine Connection
credit to www.fiveminutehistory.com
Audrey Hepburn is not related to Katherine Hepburn
There are a surprising number of questions on the web asking whether Audrey and Katherine are related. It has been a persistent misconception since Audrey came to prominence in the 1950s.
Katharine was the daughter of two wealthy Connecticut Americans; Audrey the daughter of Dutch nobility. There is no meeting of family lines.
They do, however, have a lot in common: talent, beauty, the same star sign, multiple acting awards. Both are listed in the American Film Institute’s greatest screen legends: Katherine at #1 and Audrey #3.
There is a humorous story of a series of telegrams during Paramount Pictures’ selection of Audrey Hepburn for the role of Princess Ann in Roman Holiday:Studio very interested Hepburn … Ask Hepburn if OK change her last name avoid conflict Katherine Hepburn.
At such an amazing opportunity to play the lead female role in a Hollywood movie as a relative unknown with no acting training, most would have acquiesced. But not Audrey, who boldly replied,
“If you want me, you’ll have to take my name, too.”