Audrey Hepburn Biography
Audrey Hepburn Biography – background
Audrey was born on May 4th, 1929, in Brussels, Belgium, and she died three weeks later, when she got sick and her little heart shopped beating. Her mother revived her and stayed with her days and nights until the crisis passed.
Her name at birth was Andrey Kathleen Ruston. Andrey was quite an uncommon name for a girl. Because it was so frequently misspelled, it was later transferred to "Audrey". The name Hepburn had been the maiden name of the great-grandmother of Audrey on her father’s side. Later Audrey would use "Hepburn" as her professional name.
Although born in Belgium, Audrey never had Belgian citizenship. Her father was British and her mother Dutch-born. Her ancestry was very multinational – English, Scottish, Irish, French and Austrian on her father’s side; and Dutch, Hungarian and French on her mother’s. Audrey’s parents had met and got married in the Netherlands East Indies (since 1949 Indonesia). Baroness Ella van Heemstra, the mother of Audrey, had had two sons from her previous marriage.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – childhood
Raised in the company of her two elder brothers, Audrey developed quickly into a tomboy. She hated dolls and any girls activities. She loved her brothers’ adventure books, and often acted out scenes from them, using the household dogs and cats as her supporting staff.
The girl was very sensitive and very artistic. She used to fill her notebooks with delicate drawings of the hands and feet of ballet dancers.
The background and lifestyle of her parents made Audrey multilingual. She could speak English, Dutch and French since her early age.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – years at school
At the age of five Audrey was sent to a boarding school in Elham, Kent (England). She was teased for being shy and plump, and for her imperfect English. Eventually she was able to adapt, when she discovered that she had fallen in love with ballet. Her teacher advised her mother that Audrey had a natural talent and would be able to make an excellent career in ballet if she received the right training and worked hard enough.
When Audrey was six, her father left the house. Audrey called it later one of the most "traumatic and terrifying" events of her life. "When I fell in love and married, I lived in constant fear of being left. I learned that you can’t love without the fear of losing," remembered Audrey later.
On September 3, 1939, when England and France declared war against Germany, the Baroness happened to be in Holland with her sons. She took an immediate action toward Audrey’s evacuation to Holland.
Audrey Hepburn Biography in Books
Audrey Hepburn Biography – years during the war
In Arnhem, Holland, Audrey continued taking dance classes at the Conservatory of Music. She was very serious about it and dreamed of dancing the solo roles. Speaking about her childhood dream, Audrey noted: "I couldn’t express myself while conforming to a line of twelve girls. I didn’t want to conform. I was going to hit my mark and I was working very hard."
As many other students, Audrey assisted the Resistance, which operated out of the Conservatory of Music. Later she would never let picture herself as a young heroin of the Resistance. According to her, every loyal Dutch schoolgirl and boy did their best to help.
In 1944 the family meals became scarce. The girl started suffering from anemia, asthma and chronic migraine headaches. She missed school and ballet classes frequently, because she did not have strength. Because of malnutrition, Audrey developed jaundice and swollen joints.
One of many lessons that the long war taught Audrey was that the human body and mind can endure much more deprivation than might seem possible.
Audrey would never completely recover from the war. Until the end of her life, she never weighed more than 110 pounds.
"The things I saw during the occupation made me very realistic about life, and I’ve been that way ever since. Don’t ever discount anything awful you hear or read about the Nazis. It’s worse than you could ever
I came out of the war thankful to be alive, aware that human relationships are the most important thing of all, far more than wealth, food, luxury, careers, or anything you can mention."
Audrey Hepburn Biography – beginning of her career
After the war, Audrey and her mother moved to Amsterdam, where Audrey continued taking her ballet classes, and her mother earned family income, working in a flower shop and later in a beauty salon.
To help pay for her ballet classes, Audrey came up with an idea of making hats and selling them to her mother’s clients at the beauty salon. According to her friend, Audrey had an exquisite taste. She could buy ordinary hats and make them look like they had come from the top designer.
At some point of time Audrey discovered that she might be eligible for a scholarship to the London Academy of Marie Rambert, the celebrated ballerina. The decision was made to move back to England.
While filing the applications and waiting for the answers, Audrey got a role in a television project. She was 19 years old. According to the Dutch film director, "Audrey was bright, cheerful, chummy, and just emanated style, breeding, intelligence, and good manners." However, the young ballerina saw it at that time as a means to pay for her next ballet class.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – years in London
As soon as the emigration formalities were completed, Audrey and her mother moved to London. As a ballet student of Marie Rambert, Audrey began receiving modeling offers from fashion and advertising photographers. Commercial modeling did not pay well at that time. But the fashion fundamentals she had learnt, served her all the subsequent years.
She had learnt that she looked best in black, white and subtle tones like beige and primrose. "Bright colors overpower me and wash me out," she said. "Paler ones bring out my eyes and make my hair seem darker."
Audrey also learned how to deal with what she considered her two main flaws – her height (five-foot-seven) and her scrawny figure. She would prefer never to wear high heels, preferring flat shoes or ballet slippers instead. She also avoided any accessories directing attention to her wide shoulders and long neck.
At the age of twenty Audrey had to reconsider her goals for the future. She was too tall to become a solo ballerina. Besides she needed about 5 more years of training before she could qualify for dancing in chorus. She simply could not afford putting more years in training.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – her dancing career
Together with some of her classmates she started going to auditions and casting calls, applying for the openings in theaters and nightclubs. "I knew nothing about modern dance steps, and my ear wasn’t attuned to the rhythms. I don’t know how I even had the nerve to try for the job in the first place," said Audrey.
One of her first roles was in the chorus of international revue "Sauce Tartare" in 1949. In this role she sparked an interest of a noted magazine photographer Antony Beauchamp, who got bewitched with her. Her photos landed in British Vogue and some other society magazines. Beauchamp also thought she had a potential as a film actress and sent her to his friend who worked for Metro-Goldwin-Mayer. It turned to be one of many other rejections.
No one could deny there was something special about Audrey. People who watched her in a show, got fascinated by her. And it was not because of her outstanding performance. Even if she just jumped up and down, the whole audience would be still attracted to her.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – the break through
The role in the film "The Secret People" was one of her first film roles, and the acting side of the work came surprisingly easily. According to the film director Thorold Dickinson, she hardly needed to worry about technique. Her faunlike beauty and presence made her remarkable, her natural charm and intelligence shone through.
Audrey later commented on this time of her life: "I probably hold the distinction of being one movie star who, by all laws of logic, should never have made it. At each stage of my career I lacked the experience. But at least I never pretended to be able to do the things that were being offered."
Her role in "The Secret People" had hardly raised her public recognition. But she was immediately hired for ABC comedy "Monte Carlo Baby". The filming took place in Monaco, and it was there that her career took a new turn.
During the filming in the Hotel de Paris, she got noticed by Colette, the legendary French writer and novelist, who was staying there as the guest of Prince Rainer and the royal family.
"You are my Gigi! You have that piquant quality so essential to the part. Would you not like to do it?" "Gigi" was a Broadway show in the early 1950. It took numerous interviews for Audrey to be finally accepted for the leading role.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – Broadway
Audrey had never been happier or more incredulous. Acting a leading role on Broadway and the trip to America, were something she could imagine only in a dream.
According to people who worked with her on a show, Audrey did not have much idea of phrasing, and even less of how to project. But she had a very rare quality – audience authority – that made everybody look at her.
During the rehearsals she was fired several times. But fortunately, it was too late to replace her. The end result was fabulous. "Variety" reporter wrote: "Miss Hepburn has real talent as well as a magnetic personality." Audrey ended up acting the leading role in a play eight times a week.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – "Roman Holiday"
Audrey and "Roman Holiday" seemed to have been made for each other. You could believe Audrey was a real princess. Even if you had never seen her before, you would have assumed that she was one.
To the sketches for "Roman Holiday", Audrey added her own preferences: simpler necklines and wider belts. She knew exactly how she wanted to look and what worked best for her, yet she was never demanding nor arrogant.
"Roman Holiday" exceeded all the expectations. Time magazine did a cover story about Audrey issued in September 1953, which was unusual for a Hollywood newcomer. From that time on, Audrey became a special favorite of both Time and Life magazines.Audrey Hepburn Biography in Pictures
Women identified with Audrey and tried to look like her by going on diets and buying full skirts and tailored blouses like those she wore in the film.
She received Oscar as a Best Actress for her performance. "Roman Holiday" made her an instant star all over the world, not only in U. S., England and Europe, but also in Japan, where she is still one of the favorite actresses and role models. "Roman Holiday" turned out to be Japan’s favorite foreign movie of all times, together with "Gone With the Wind".
Audrey Hepburn biography – on the top of fame
Her next film was "Sabrina". All the glamorous costumes came from the young rising star of fashion design, Hubert de Givenchy. Audrey flew to Paris, never dreaming that it would be the beginning of the most important alliances and friendships of her life. For each of the films she made afterwards she wanted Givenchy to dress her or help with the fittings of costumes.
"Sabrina" did not bring Oscar to Audrey. The winner was Edith Head for the costumes, who took the credit for Givenchy’s work. Givenchy was too polite to register a protest. Audrey got very upset. She called Givenchy to apologize and promised that she would make sure that it never happened again. She kept her promise.
Her role in "Ondine" in Broadway brought her an Antoinette Perry Tony Award, as a Best Dramatic Actress of the 1953-1954 season, the highest Broadway’s honor.
Audrey Hepburn Biography – her best roles
On September 24, 1954, Audrey and Mel Ferrer, her co-star in "Ondine", got married in Switzerland. For the rest of her life Audrey would call Switzerland her home.
The next big project was "War and Peace" based on the novel of Tolstoy. The character of Tolstoy was as if written especially for Audrey: "a dark-eyed girl full of life, with a wide mouth, slender bare arms…, her shoulders thin, her bosom underfined," wrote Tolstoy about his Natasha.
The verdict of critics was "the least Russian movie ever made." Audrey’s performance, however, was called captivating and dominating this epic movie.
"The Nun’s Story" with Audrey Hepburn, became Warner Brothers’ biggest hit of 1959.
For "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" Audrey was able to choose Hubert de Givenchy to design her wardrobe. With so many glamorous dresses created for this film, Givenchy’s most simple little black dress won hearts all over the world.
A lot of other wonderful roles in films would follow. "My Fair Lady", "How to Steal a Million", "Wait Until Dark" , etc.
Audrey never took credits for her acting, claiming that her acting technique was no method at all. "I never really became an actress – in the sense that when people ask me how I did it, my only answer is ’I wouldn’t know.’"
Audrey Hepburn Biography – Her private life
After several miscarriages Audrey gave a birth to her first child Sean in 1960. Since then her life became more centered around her family and home. Many people thought at that time that Audrey tried to diminish herself not to threaten her husband’s career. It was probably a hard work to do with her popularity. In spite of her efforts to make her marriage work, her marriage to Mel Ferrer ended in 1967.
Two years later she married Dr. Andrea Dotti, the famous psychiatrist and a playboy from Rome. She had no interest in the title "Countess", to which she was entitled. She became just Signora Dotti, who did her own shopping and who answered her own phone. Luca Dotti, her second son, was born in 1970. Audrey’s second marriage lasted 13 years, but ended up in another divorce. Even though Mr. Dotti had the reputation of being a very good father, a good doctor and a brilliant person, he missed the reputation of being a faithful husband. The same as with her previous marriage, Audrey did her best to make her marriage work. But in the end she came to the conclusion: "Those open marriages don’t work. If there’s love, unfaithfulness is impossible."
Some people have to have meaningful experiences in life before they can truly love. This was probably the case of Audrey Hepburn, when she met the actor Rob Wolders. It was the love at first site. He was "her spiritual twin, the man she wanted to grow old with". Rob Wolders, who had also had Dutch background, became Audrey’s companion until the end of her life.Audrey Hepburn Biography in books
Audrey Hepburn Biography – Work for UNICEF
Instead of retiring in comfort, Hepburn began the job that would occupy the last five years of her life. She became Special Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund. It took her two minutes to accept this position.
Her commitment to UNICEF was very strong. "It shouldn’t happen anymore, a child be a victim of war. That’s why we have to get on with it. It is a question of time for so many children…"
The job was physically exhausting for her, but she did not want to slow down the pace. At the age of sixty-three she was diagnosed cancer. She died at her home in Switzerland on January 20, 1993.
Once, when asked to pick a single word to describe herself, Audrey Hepburn replied smiling: "Lucky".
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