Audrey Hepburn, 1929-1993

  • Audrey-Hepburn-WWP

Woman Category: Fashion & Beauty and Theater & CinemaWoman Tags: Actress and NYC Women

  • HerStory

    Academy Award-winning actress, fashion icon, and Humanitarian.

    Born Audrey Kathleen Ruston in Brussels, Belgium. Her mother was a Dutch baroness, and her father was British with an aristocratic background. In her early childhood, the family traveled between Brussels and England. At the age of 6, after her father left the family, she moved with her mother to the family estate in Arnhem, The Netherlands, and two years later, she returned to England to attend boarding school. In 1939, after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, Hepburn returned to Arnhem, thinking that it would remain neutral. During WWII, Hepburn and her mother were relatively safe but did endure hardships – her half-brother got deported to a German labor camp, her uncle was murdered, and she suffered from anemia as a result of malnutrition due to the 1944 Dutch famine.
    After the war, 16 years old Hepburn moved with her mother to Amsterdam, where she worked at the Royal Military Invalids Home and continued her ballet training. At 19, she returned to London to study acting and ballet, supporting herself by working as a model. When she was told that she was too tall and too weak to become a prima ballerina, Hepburn channeled her focus toward acting.
    At 23, while shooting a film in Monte-Carlo, Hepburn caught the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s attention. who decided to cast her for the leading role in the Broadway adaptation of her novel Gigi. Hepburn received praises for her performance, and in the same year, she launched her Hollywood career, starring in the movie Roman Holiday alongside Gregory Peck. The film was a hit, and Hepburn charmed the audience with her portrayal of the young princess, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe Award. Following her success, Hepburn signed a seven-picture contract with Paramount Studios, which included the film, Sabrina, gaining her another BAFTA Award.
    In 1954, Hepburn returned to the stage as the water nymph in Ondine, for which she received a Tony Award. At the production, she met her first husband, her co-star Mel Ferrer, and the couple settled in Switzerland, the place she called home when she did not film in the US. In the next decade, Hepburn starred in a series of successful features, such as War and Peace, The Nun’s Story, and Green Mansions, starring alongside A-list actors. In her 30’s, Hepburn began playing more sophisticated and worldly characters. Including her acclaimed appearance as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Regina in the thriller Charade, and Eliza Doolittle in the musical, My Fair Lady. At 40, after her divorce, Hepburn decided to focus on her family and went into semi-retirement for a few years. She married the Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti and had another child. At the age of 47, she resumed her acting career, appearing alongside Sean Connery in Robin and Marian and hosting a traveling documentary-series called Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn. Her last film role was in 1989 as the angel in Steven Spielberg’s Always. Overall, Hepburn participated in more than 20 movies and received more than 10 awards for her performances.
    Throughout her career, Hepburn was known as a fashion icon, recognized for her distinctive look and fashion choices. She had a unique, minimalistic style, wearing clothes with simple silhouettes and monochromatic colors, associated mainly with the “little black dress” she wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
    Since 1988, Hepburn devoted herself to her duty as a special Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). She traveled to famine-stricken areas to raise awareness of children in need, making more than 50 trips to Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. In 1992, after returning from Somalia, Hepburn was diagnosed with colon cancer. She died in her home in Switzerland at the age of 63.

    “Giving is living. If you stop wanting to give, there’s nothing more to live for.”

    “Giving is living. If you stop wanting to give, there’s nothing more to live for.”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was 5’7” and wore size-10 shoes.
    • She was multilingual, speaking six languages fluently – Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian.
    • Growing up in the Netherlands during Nazi occupation, she performed silent dances to raise money for the Dutch resistance.
    • During WW2, she used the name Edda van Heemstra to disguise her English-sounding name.
    • She is one of few entertainers who have won EGOT – Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.
    • She was twice divorced and had two sons.
    • In 2006, the “little black dresses” she wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was sold for a record sum of £467,200.
    • She was one of only three people to wear the Tiffany Diamond.
    • She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
    • Her son founded the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund in her honor.
    • There are rose and tulip breeds named in her honor.
    • In Arnhem, The Netherlands, there is a square named after her.
    • Since 2002 a sculpture at UNICEF’s New York headquarters is honoring her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. It is called The Spirit of Audrey. A copy of it is located at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, England.
  • More About Her Legacy

    * Theatre World Award (1952)
    * Academy Award for best actress (1954)
    * Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (1954)
    * A Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children
    * 3 BAFTA awards
    * 2 Golden Globe awards
    * 2 New York Film Critics Circle Awards
    * UNICEF's International Danny Kaye Award for Children (1988)
    * The Council of Fashion Designers of America's Lifetime of Style Award (1992)
    * Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work for UNICEF (1992)
    * Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (1993)

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Actress, NYC Women

    Audrey Hepburn interview on Donahue (not complete)--1990

  • Photo credit - WWP team

  • Citations and Additional References:
    IMDB page.
    Wikipedia page.