WolfmanOz at the Movies #25

Audrey

Born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4th, 1929 in Ixelles near Brussels, Audrey Hepburn spent her childhood in Belgium, England and the Netherlands. She experienced the ravages of Nazi occupation of Holland during WWII where she witnessed many traumatic events including the transportation of Dutch Jews to concentration/extermination camps plus her uncle was executed in retaliation for sabotage acts. Hers was not as easy childhood.

She took up ballet lessons and after WWII moved to London where she was told, despite her talent, that due to her height and weak constitution (after malnutrition during the war) she wouldn’t be a ballerina so she decided to concentrate on acting.

She managed a few bit roles in films in the next few years but it was the lead role in the Broadway play Gigi that brought her to prominence which led to her casting in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday also starring Gregory Peck.

Playing the role of a European princess who escapes the rigours of royalty with an American newsman she delighted audiences and scooped all the major acting awards for that year.

A new movie star was born.

She followed up Roman Holiday with a leading role in Sabrina opposite heavyweights Humphrey Bogart and William Holden and was again utterly charming.

She then starred in a number of successful films during the remainder of the decade where she was by far the best thing in the ponderous War And Peace as Natasha Rostova; she showed off her dancing skills in Funny Face with Fred Astaire and was superb as Sister Luke in The Nun’s Story which depicted her character struggles to succeed as a nun.

By the 1960s she was arguably the most loved female movie star in the world and she then played the role for which she is now most identified with – Holly Golightly in Blake Edwards lush romantic film Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

As introverted person, Hepburn had to expand her range to play the wildly extroverted character, but so she did in a performance that has now become iconic.

She followed that with playing opposite to Cary Grant in the splendid Charade – arguably the best Hitchcock type film that Hitchcock didn’t direct. Their chemistry was simply sublime.

Next came My Fair Lady, and although Hepburn was marvellous as Eliza as a lady she just didn’t quite seem right when she was a cockney guttersnipe.

She wasn’t happy when she learnt the singing for her role was to be dubbed by Marni Nixon.


Another romantic comedy beckoned where she shone with Peter O’Toole in How To Steal A Million and her last major starring role was as a blind woman terrorised by a group of criminals in the excellent Wait Until Dark.

After 1967, Hepburn chose to devote more time to her family and acted only occasionally in the following decades where her main focus was as an ambassador for children for UNICEF.

In late 1992 she was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and on January 20th, 1993 she died in her sleep at home in Switzerland aged 63.

I can think of no other actress/movie star from the 20th century who epitomises the glamour, style and acting skill of films from yesteryear whilst not only projecting an outer beauty but also containing an inner beauty that still endures today.

Enjoy.

12 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #25”

  1. She was often compared to Bardot, who was similarly gamine in style and features although more voluptuous, which Hepburn never was. Holly Golightly was her best role, imho, then My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle. As Eliza she was the perfect constructed princess. She could turn a simple dress into an event, and at a ball she was an Empire-line Cinderella, in classic gowns that had no flounce in them at all. Pure style. I think she was believable as Eliza, for Higgins would have to have seen in Eliza the inherent determinaton towards grace and style that must have lain behind her dreams of ‘betterment’ into a warm room somewhere and her own flower shop. No ordinary flower seller would have cut it with him.

    Interestingly, I saw the second Downton Abbey movie recently, in a cinema populated only by a scattering of lesbians. I was accompanied by my bemused husband, the Hairy One. As I expected, it was predicable and bland, for this was a tableau movie par excellence, as well as being over-long: it needed time to soap up the range of fave characters in the froth and bubble. Interestingly though, it did bring the focus of class in Britain back to accent, which became a hook to hang the movie on. The rise of the talkies shot down a few rising Hollywood stars who couldn’t get the accent sufficiently classy, as happened in this offering from Julian Fellowes pen, creating a device which served as a means of see-sawing the upstairs and downstairs components of this romp. Americans, as usual, to the rescue.


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  2. Audrey was one of my all time favourites. And my favourite film with her is “Love in the Afternoon” with Gary Cooper.

    She was THE style icon.

    Two things about Audrey…

    1. Her mother came from a very aristocratic Dutch family. After World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm fled to Holland and stayed at her grandmother’s estate, Doorn, for the rest of his life. No doubt Audrey would have met the Kaiser.

    2. As for Audrey’s “celebrated” thinness which helped her become a fashion icon, this was probably a result of the great hunger that the Dutch endured over the winter of 1944/1945 when they were starved by the Germans. The Germans cut off food and fuel shipments. Later in life Audrey spoke about it. The Netherlands was the last country in Western Europe to be liberated by the Allies. And in this day and age when we revile and parody men, it was many Dutch men who sacrificed their food intake for women and children.


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  3. My absolutely favourite movie star: elegance,intelligence,restraint, chic and style I love her in all the movies ahe made but one of my favourites is Two for the Road with Albert Finney


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  4. Audrey Hepburn was the muse of Hubert Givenchy, one of the great French couturiers. She remained beautiful until the end. No plastic surgery for her, like Ingrid Bergman and other women stars of Hollywood’s golden age, she aged gracefully and so remained beautiful till the end. They don’t make make women like Audrey Hepburn anymore. They’re gone.

    Wolfman, on Youtube there’s a site which has Roddy McDowell’s old home movies, movies that he filmed when he had beach parties at his Malibu beach house in 1965. They were fun get togethers, there’s no sound, just film….and you see Paul Newman, Jason Robards, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, James Fox, Julie Andrews, Samantha Eggar, Tuesday Weld, Dominic Dunne, Hope Lange, Natalie Wood and many others. McDowell was known to be a superb host and everyone flocked to his gatherings. And you know what, unlike today’s cashed up plastic Hollywood mediocrities, they were real people enjoying the sun and company. They’re worth a look.


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  5. Yes, Louis, Two For The Road was an excellent film.
    Her bit part in Always was a very fitting postscript, her last role before her own demise, as she played an angel tending to the recently crashed and deceased pilot (Dreyfus), who was soon to become the ghost companion to his pilot mates and former girlfriend.


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  6. Also of note, is the fact that as a teenager, she joined the Dutch resistance. She acted as a courier between resistence cells and also to downed allied pilots. If captured the Naizi’s would have tortured and executed her. Bravery above and beyond for a half starved teenager. And as Wolfman summarised, she had witnessed Nazi brutality first hand, but did it anyway. Add that to her humanitarian work later in life and she was one special lady.


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  7. Cassie of Sydney says:
    June 16, 2022 at 9:24 pm
    Audrey Hepburn was the muse of Hubert Givenchy, one of the great French couturiers. She remained beautiful until the end. No plastic surgery for her, like Ingrid Bergman and other women stars of Hollywood’s golden age, she aged gracefully and so remained beautiful till the end. They don’t make make women like Audrey Hepburn anymore. They’re gone.

    Wolfman, on Youtube there’s a site which has Roddy McDowell’s old home movies, movies that he filmed when he had beach parties at his Malibu beach house in 1965. They were fun get togethers, there’s no sound, just film….and you see Paul Newman, Jason Robards, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, James Fox, Julie Andrews, Samantha Eggar, Tuesday Weld, Dominic Dunne, Hope Lange, Natalie Wood and many others. McDowell was known to be a superb host and everyone flocked to his gatherings. And you know what, unlike today’s cashed up plastic Hollywood mediocrities, they were real people enjoying the sun and company. They’re worth a look.

    Thanks Cassie I’ll look it up.


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