Audrey Hepburn (May 4, 1929 – January 20, 1993) was a Belgian-born actress, fashion model, and humanitarian. Born Edda Kathleen Ruston in Brussels she was the daughter of Joseph Anthony Ruston , a British banker, and Baroness Ella van Heemstra , a Dutch aristocrat descended from French and English kings. Her father appended the name Hepburn to his surname, and Audrey became Audrey Hepburn-Ruston at the same time. She had two half-brothers, Alexander, and Ian Quarles van Ufford, by her mother's first marriage to a Dutch nobleman.
Life during World War Two
Hepburn attended private schools in England and the Netherlands, but after the 1935 divorce of her parents she was living with her mother at Arnhem when the German invasion and occupation of World War II occurred. At that time she adopted the pseudonym Edda Van Heemstra, modifying her mother's documents to do so, because an "English-sounding" name was considered dangerous. It was never her legal name. .
After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, things grew worse under the German occupiers. During the Dutch famine over the winter of 1944, brutality increased and the Nazis confiscated the Dutch people's limited food and fuel supply for themselves. Without heat in their homes, or food to eat, people in the Netherlands starved and froze to death in the streets; particularly so in Arnhem, which was devastated during Operation Market Garden. Suffering from malnutrition, Hepburn developed several health problems, and the impact of those times would shape her life and values.
Rise to Stardom
After the war, Hepburn and her mother moved to London where she studied ballet, worked as a model, and in 1951 began acting in films, mostly in minor or supporting roles; her first major performance was in the 1951 film The Secret People . After being chosen to play the lead character in the Broadway play Gigi (opened on November 24, 1951), and after a successful six-month run in New York, she was offered a starring role in the Hollywood motion picture Roman Holiday, co-starring Gregory Peck. For her performance in this movie she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and over her illustrious career she would be nominated for best actress four more times. In the film Funny Face, Hepburn's mother appeared as the patron of a sidewalk café. Her performance as Holly Golightly in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's resulted in the creation of one of the most iconic characters in 20th Century American cinema. Having become one of Hollywood's most popular box-office attractions, Hepburn co-starred with other major actors such as Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, Peter O'Toole, and Sean Connery.
Work for UNICEF
From 1967 onward, after fifteen highly successful years in film, Hepburn acted only occasionally and her last role was filmed in 1988 just before she was appointed a special ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Grateful for her own good fortune after being a victim of Nazi atrocities as a child, she dedicated the remainder of her life to helping impoverished children in the world's poorest nations. In 1992, President George Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity, and her son accepted the award shortly after her death. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1652 Vine Street.
Marriages and Death
Hepburn married twice, to actor Mel Ferrer and to Italian doctor Andrea Dotti , and had two sons. At the time of her death she was the companion of Robert Wolders, a Dutch actor who was the widower of film star Merle Oberon. Hepburn died of colon cancer on January 20, 1993, in Tolochenaz, Vaud, Switzerland at the age of 63, and was interred there.
- Always (1989)
- Love Among Thieves (1987) - made for television
- They All Laughed (1981)
- Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline (1979)
- Robin and Marian (1976)
- Wait Until Dark (1967)
- Two for the Road (1967)
- How to Steal A Million (1966)
- My Fair Lady (1964)
- Paris - When it Sizzles (1964)
- Charade (1963)
- The Children's Hour (1961)
- Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- The Unforgiven (1960)
- Green Mansions (1959)
- The Nun's Story (1959)
- Love in the Afternoon (1957)
- Mayerling (1957) - produced as an episode of the TV series Producers' Showcase and released to theatres in Europe.
- Funny Face (1957)
- War and Peace (1956)
- Sabrina (1954)
- Roman Holiday (1953)
- The Secret People (1952)
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) - bit role
- Monte Carlo Baby (1951) - two versions of this film were released, one in English and one in French.
- Young Wives' Tale (1951) - bit role
- One Wild Oat (1951) - bit role
- Laughter in Paradise (1951) - bit role
- Nederlands in 7 lessen (1948) - bit role; also known as Dutch in Seven Lessons.
In addition to the above, Hepburn hosted the 1993 television series, Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn for PBS, a nine-episode documentary series which premiered the day of her death. She also appeared in an April 1952 episode of CBS Television Workshop entitled "Rainy Day at Paradise Junction" which predates her "official" American debut in Roman Holiday. According to some biographies, Hepburn claimed to have made "several" American and British TV appearances before Roman Holiday, and a poster for a 1951 British public appearance listed her as a TV actress, but so far a copy of "Rainy Day" is the only example of this early work to have surfaced.
Some sources state that Hepburn makes a cameo appearance in the 1963 Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward film, A New Kind of Love but this has not been confirmed.
To date only one biographical film based upon Audrey Hepburn's life has been attempted. The 2000 American made for television effort, The Audrey Hepburn Story starred Jennifer Love Hewitt as the actress. Hewitt also co-produced the film. The film received mixed reviews, with some of the criticism being directed at the casting of American actress Hewitt in the role. The film concludes with footage of the real Audrey Hepburn shot during one of her final missions for UNICEF. Several versions of the film exist; it was aired as a mini-series in some countries, and in a truncated version on America's ABC television network, which is also the version released on DVD in North America.
Potential 'Audrey Hepburns'
A handful of current actresses have been noted for their physical similarities to Audrey Hepburn, with some media and Internet writers suggesting they might make good choices for a future bio-pic. Among the names often mentioned are Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman, French actress Audrey Tautou, and American teen actress Emmy Rossum. Portman once dressed as Hepburn for a modelling photo shoot, while Tautou closely resembles Hepburn physically, a fact noted by reviewers of her film, Amélie. Rossum played Hepburn as a child in the Hewitt film.
Audrey Hepburn was one of the few people who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.
Opera diva Maria Callas reportedly loved Hepburn's look so much that she adopted it for herself in the 1950s.
- Despite the similar career choices, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn were neither sisters nor even closely related in any way despite occasional, and mistaken, press reports to the contrary.
- Hepburn is considered by many in Japan as a model for feminine beauty, a theme explored in Alan Brown's novel Audrey Hepburn's Neck (ISBN 0671526723).