Audrey Hepburn was a truly inspiring woman and one of the most iconic film stars of all time. She came to this world as Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4th, 1929. Many fellow writers tag her as British, but she is of truly international background.
To begin with, she was born in Ixelles, Brussels and grew up in Belgium, England, and the Netherlands. As a result, she was fluent in five languages. In addition to Dutch and English that she learned from her parents, she could converse freely in French, Spanish, and Italian.
Audrey’s father, Joseph Ruston was a British subject, but one of those Brits who sided with Hitler. In the mid-1930s, he forced his wife into helping him recruit members of the British Union of Fascists and collect donations for the organization. In 1935 Joseph left the little Audrey and her mother and went to London, where he became even more obsessed with the fascist propaganda.
Although Hepburn’s parents’ divorce was finalized in 1938, she tracked him in Dublin in 1960s and reestablished the link with the man who had given her life. Like a good daughter, Hepburn supported him financially till his end.
Hepburn’s mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra was a truly exceptional woman. She was the daughter of Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra and Baroness Elbrig Willemine Henriette van Asbeck.
Ballet dancing in The Netherlands and England
It can be said that Audrey’s artistic career started in Amsterdam, where she attended the ballet class of Sonia Gaskell, who was later to become the Godmother of classical dance in the Netherlands. Hepburn moved to London in 1948 and joined the ballet class of Marie Rambert. Born in Warsaw in 1888, Rambert was the most influential dance teacher in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century.
Because of the constant starvation that Audrey was subjected to during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands, she was advised to give up on her ambitions to become a prima ballerina.
Audrey Hepburn’s Movie Debut
Thus, the young girl left the dance floor to pursue a career on the big screen. Surprisingly, she made her breakthrough in the theatre after several minor roles in small-budget movies. For instance, Hepburn’s film debut was in 1948, when she played an air hostess in Dutch in Seven Lessons, an educational film made by Charles van der Linden and Henry Josephson.
In 1951, Hepburn played the lead female part Broadway play Gigi. She was recommended for the role by French novelist Colette, on whose work the play was loosely based.
In the limelight
Roman Holiday (1953) is the movie that made Audrey Hepburn a big star – for her role of Princess Ann she won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA.
Ironically, the initial plan of the producers was to invite Elizabeth Taylor for the role of the Princess, but director William Wyler was so fascinated by Hepburn’s charisma during the audition that he immediately cast her.
Originally, the film was to have had only Gregory’s name showcased, but Peck reportedly told Wyler: “You’ve got to change that because she’ll be a big star and I’ll look like a big jerk!” This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Peck and Hepburn.
Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly and the unforgettable little black dress
When she started making the headlines in Hollywood after Roman Holiday, the public quickly took to her boyishly short hairstyle, her thick eyebrows, and slender body. Hepburn was the film star that thousands of working women and housewives in the USA and around the world had been waiting to identify with. For them, the dazzling looks of Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor were simply unattainable.
Audrey Hepburn was not without her imperfections. Being a delicate and slender woman, Hepburn actually wore a size 10 in shoes!
The world will probably forever remember Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, in Blake Edwards’s 1961 romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Capote, on whose short novel the film was loosely based, initially disapproved of the director’s choice of lead actress, but later admitted that Hepburn “did a terrific job”.
The dress Hepburn wears during the opening credits is considered a fashion icon of the mid-twentieth century and the most famous “little black dress” in history.
Audrey Hepburn’s movie career continued with a number of highly-successful appearances in Sabrina (1954), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964), and Wait Until Dark (1967).
Her last film was Steven Speilberg’s 1989 romantic comedy Always, starring
Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter. Hepburn appeared as an angel called Hap.
Audrey’s EGOT Club membership
The great Audrey Hepburn is among the few actors and actresses in the world members of the elite EGOT club. This is the Grand Slam in the film industry. E stands for an Emmy, which she won for hosting Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn. G stands for the Grammy she won for Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales. Naturally, O stands for the Oscar Hepburn won for best actress in Roman Holiday. Finally, T stands for the Tony Award she received for best actress in Ondine.
Marriages and miscarriages
Like many other great actors and actresses, Audrey Hepburn was an introvert. Back in 1953, she told LIFE Magazine: “I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
Hepburn was a strong woman who knew what she wanted in life. In 1952, she got engaged to James Hanson, whom she had known since her early days in London. After having her wedding dress fitted and the date set, she felt that something was not quite right and called it off. “When I get married, I want to be really married,” she told the bewildered journalists
Audrey met her first husband at a cocktail party hosted by her friend Gregory Peck. Initially, Hepburn and Mel Ferrer became partners on stage, in the play Ondine. They tied the knot on September 25th, 1954 in Bürgenstock, Switzerland.
Unfortunately, Hepburn suffered a miscarriage the next year and her second attempt to become a mother in 1959 also failed for the same reason. When she got pregnant for the third time, Audrey took no chances and quickly went on hiatus.
Her first-born son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, came to this world on the seventeenth day of the seventh month of 1960. Audrie and Mel made two more attempts to have children in 1965 and 1967, but both ended with miscarriages. Eventually, they divorced in 1968.
While Hepburn was on a Mediterranean cruise with friends in June 1968, she met her second husband – the charming Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dott. They got married on January 18th, 1969 and their son, Luca, was born on February 8th the next year. Audrey and Andrea tried to have a second child, but their attempt was unsuccessful. The reason? Another miscarriage!
During the filming of Bloodline in 1979, Hepburn had a brief affair with actor Ben Gazzara. Her marriage to Dotti ended by mutual agreement in 1982.
Two years before that Audry had started a relationship with Dutch actor Robert Wolders, who would remain with her to her death. In 1989, Hepburn called the nine years she had spent with him the happiest period of her entire life.
Commitment to UNICEF and cancer
Parallel to Hepburn’s movie career was her volunteer work for UNICEF. She went to famine combating and inoculation missions in Ethiopia, Turkey, Vietnam, Sudan, and Bangladesh.
Upon returning from her last humanitarian mission in Somalia to Switzerland in late September 1992, Hepburn felt some unusual abdominal pain, but the routine medical checks she underwent revealed nothing suspicious.
As the issue persisted, she had a laparoscopy performed by a team of experts at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in early November. The results revealed a rare form of abdominal cancer.
Death and legacy
The surgery she underwent and the chemotherapy that followed were of little help. Hepburn
spent her last days in hospice care at her home in Tolochenaz. On the evening of January 20th, 1993, she peacefully left this world for good in her sleep at home.
Her death triggered waves of shock and profound grief across Hollywood and among her numerous fans around the world.
Her first partner on screen and lifelong friend Gregory Peck went on camera and tearfully recited Hepburn’s favorite poem, “Unending Love” by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 1966-1977, delivered a eulogy.
The funeral service was held at the village church of Tolochenaz on January 24th, 1993. It was led by pastor Maurice Eindiguer, who officiated Hepburn and Mel Ferrer’s wedding and baptized their son Sean.
To her final resting place, Audrey Hepburn was accompanied by her two sons, Sean and Luca, ex-husbands Andrea Dotti and Mel Ferrer, as well as her last partner, Robert Wolders. Hollywood stars Alain Delon and Sir Roger Moore, while the Dutch Royal Family sent flowers.
Flower arrangements were sent to the funeral by Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Dutch royal family. Later on the same day, Hepburn was interred at the Tolochenaz Cemetery.
In her will, she mentioned her two sons as co-equal heirs to her estate. To Robert Wolders, the man who, in her own words, had given her the happiest years of her life, Hepburn left two silver candlesticks worth about 500 CH in 1993.
The Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, founded shortly after her death by her son, Sean, has helped millions of children in need around the world ever since. The great actress’s second husband, Luca Dotti, chaired the Audrey Hepburn Society, which provides a “wall of fame” for UNICEF’s biggest donors and has raised almost US $100,000,000 since its establishment
The Tulip Queen
The Netherlands shall never forget their dearest daughter. In 1990, a white hybrid variety of the flower was developed in Holland, and its creators decided to name it after the great actress, CRfashionbook’s Ali Webb reports
According to the Netherlands Flower Information Society, the white-bulb tulip was named for Hepburn, as a tribute to the actress’s career and her longtime commitment to the causes of UNICEF.
Even when dying of cancer, Hepburn did not lose his profound optimism. Looking back on her life, she once said:
“How shall I sum up my life?
I think I’ve been particularly lucky!
The twenty inspirational quotes by the fashion icon that you are going to read below represent an inexhaustible source of life power!
1. The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. – Audrey Hepburn
2. A woman can be beautiful as well as intellectual. – Audrey Hepburn
3. They say love is the best investment; the more you give, the more you get in return. – Audrey Hepburn
4. Nothing is impossible. The word itself says “I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn
5. Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same. – Audrey Hepburn
6. As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. – Audrey Hepburn
7. Anyone who does not believe in miracles is not a realist. – Audrey Hepburn
8. Not to live for the day, that would be materialistic — but to treasure the day.
I realize that most of us live on the skin, on the surface, without appreciating just how wonderful it is simply to be alive at all. – Audrey Hepburn
9. Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it. – Audrey Hepburn
10. For me the only things of interests are those linked to the heart. – Audrey Hepburn
11. Good things aren’t supposed to just fall into your lap. God is very generous, but he expects you to do your part first. – Audrey Hepburn
12. I’ve been lucky.
Opportunities don’t often come along. So, when they do, you have to grab them. – Audrey Hepburn
13. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Audrey Hepburn
14. The most important thing is to enjoy your life, to be happy, it’s all that matters. – Audrey Hepburn
15. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles. – Audrey Hepburn
16. 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
17. To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn
18. Giving is living. If you stop wanting to give, there’s nothing more to live for. – Audrey Hepburn
19. You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him. – Audrey Hepburn
20. Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once. – Audrey Hepburn