“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others;
for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and
for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
— Audrey Hepburn.
Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born on this day in Brussels, Belgium in 1929. Today is the 85 anniversary of her birth.
Her mother was a member of the Dutch aristocracy. Her father was banker. She had two older half brothers.
She grew up in Belgium, England and the Netherlands. She attended a small boarding school in Elham England (there were only 14 students) before the outbreak of WWII. Her parents divorced and her mother, Ella took Audrey back to Arnhem hoping that the Netherlands would remain neutral. There she attended the Arnhem Conservatory and continued to study ballet. She used the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra during the war because Audrey sounded too English. “Hepburn and her mother struggled to survive. She reportedly helped the resistance movement by delivering messages.” [Biograph.com] She carried messages in the toes of her ballet slippers and performed in a dance troupe that gave concerts to raise money for the Dutch resistance. She survived starvation by eating cakes made of flour made of ground tulip bulbs. She suffered from anemia and malnutrition. She never forgot the hardships of her war-time youth and devoted herself to the humanitarian organization UNICEF in her later years.
After the war, Hepburn continued to pursue an interest in dance. She studied ballet in Amsterdam and later in London. In 1948, Hepburn made her stage debut as a chorus girl in the musical High Button Shoes in London. [Ibid]
Her first film role was an untitled one in 1951’s One Wild Oat. She met the French writer Colette who insisted that Hepburn play the lead in the Broadway play version of her book Gigi. So at 22 Hepburn found herself the star of major Broadway production.
Soon she was making movies and at 24 she starred opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. She won an Academy Award for her performance as the elegant, spunky, yet somehow fragile Princess Ann.
The following year, in 1954 she won a Tony for her role in the Broadway play Ondine opposite Mel Ferrer. She played a water nymph who falls in love with a human. In real life Hepburn and Ferrer fell in love off stage. They married in September of that year.
Also in 1954 Hepburn starred in Sabrina opposite Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. She got an Oscar nom. for this bittersweet romantic comedy.
Hepburn turned to dramatic costume drama in 1956 co-starring with her husband, Ferrer, and Henry Fonda in War and Peace.
She teamed up with Fred Astaire for 1957’s Funny Face. The film allowed Hepburn to show off her dancing skills.
In 1959 she received another Oscar nom. for her role as Sister Luke in The Nun’s Story, which Variety called “her most demanding film role.” [Ibid]
Then in 1960 she went Western starring in John Huston’s classic The Unforgiven with Burt Lancaster.
In 1961 she went back to rom/coms in Truman Copote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her Holly Golightly earned her a fourth Oscar nom.
For the rest of the 1960s, Hepburn took on a variety of roles. She starred with Cary Grant in the romantic thriller Charade (1963). Playing the lead in the film version of the popular musical My Fair Lady (1964)… Taking on more dramatic fare, she starred a blind woman in the suspenseful tale Wait Until Dark (1967) opposite Alan Arkin. …This film brought her a fifth Academy Award nomination. That same year, Hepburn and her husband separated and later divorced. She married Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti in 1969, and the couple had a son, Luca, in 1970. [Ibid]
The roles slowed down in the 1970’s and 80s. She worked with Sean Connery, playing an aging Marian in Robin and Marian in 1976. She brought sophisticated grace to the crime thrilled Bloodline with Ben Gazzara in 1979. The two switched gears to comedy and starred again in They All Laughed in 1981. Steven Spielberg had the honor of directing her last film, when she took on a cameo role as an angel in Always.
Hepburn died on January 20, 1993 of appendiceal cancer.
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