I love Audrey Hepburn.
When I get depressed I’ll turn both phones off, climb into bed with Oreos and a sack of M&Ms and watch Sabrina, Roman Holiday and Funny Face in one glorious sitting. Just seeing her gallop around like a gorgeous gazelle snaps me right out of my swoon.
I remember when she died in 1993, I had a friend who worked at NBC and apparently the news of her death had come over the feed before it went public so she called to tell me.
I was with Bill Hicks at the time who, not being acquainted with Audrey, couldn’t quite comprehend the extent of my upset. His response, as I recall, was very subtle.
“What are you nuts? “You didn’t even know her crying like that. Are you some kind of an idiot?”
This launched a colossal fight with me running away in tears. Two days later a dozen roses appeared at my door with a note that just said, ‘I get it now.’ Bill.
He had gone to Blockbuster Video and rented 5 of her films watching them back to back. Let me say it was a rare day for Bill Hicks to admit that he was wrong over anything but this time he was admittedly humbled.
I believe the whole world cried that day. She was such a light even now when you see her as Holly Golightly strolling in front of Tiffany nibbling her Danish or running through the streets of Paris, her cello tucked beneath graceful arms in Love in the Afternoon. It makes you very grateful for the miracle of cinema.
Her beginnings weren’t easy. She was born on the 4th of May, 1929 in Brussels Belgium living more than modestly during the second world war sometimes not having enough to eat which explained her perpetual thinness. At one point she was forced to eat roots and tulip bulbs in order to stay alive which did something to her metabolism that kept her from gaining weight for the remainder of her life.
When Audrey was 22 studying in Paris to be a serious ballerina she was discovered in a hotel lobby by the French writer Colette who deemed her perfect for the role of her heroine Gigi launching Audrey’s career on Broadway in 1951.
Then came her performance in the film Roman Holiday (1953) which won her an academy award for best actress. Gregory Peck, who played opposite her with initial top billing, called the studio and said, “This girl is stealing the movie and if you don’t put her name up alongside mine we’re all going to look pretty stupid.” I may have paraphrased that a bit but you get the gist. She took the world by storm and the world embraced her with open arms.
Another tale I like is when she first meets French designer Hubert de Givenchy. She had just finished Roman Holiday and was still a pretty well kept secret when she shows up at his Parisian atelier asking if he’ll dress her for her next movie Sabrina. As the story goes, he curtly told her he was busy but she could look on the racks if she’d like which is exactly what she did and if you’ve ever seen the film, her wardrobe is stunning. Everything she wears in 1954 could easily be worn now…sigh
Givenchy made all her costumes from that point on becoming her lifelong friend. When she passed away almost 40 years later he quietly retired because as he poignantly put it, “My muse is simply no longer.”
(just wiped away a tear)
In 1992 she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work in UNICEF, a cause she was very involved in when she was diagnosed with colon cancer the same year. Rather than have extensive treatment for something she knew she couldn’t beat she chose to return to Somalia Africa to finish the work she had started there. It’s because of her going before Congress pleading their plight did the U.S. finally offer relief to the millions starving including thousands of children. Having lived through the German Occupation she knew better than anyone what it was like to go hungry.
As you can see she was great on many levels and I like how she’s described not just as an actress but a great humanitarian all in the same breath.
“I was born with an enormous need for affection and a terrible need to give it…”
If you need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm – as you get older, remember, you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others…”
Audrey Hepburn died 19 years ago today at her home, La Paisible in Tolochenez Switzerland at the age of 63 surrounded by her two sons, Sean and Luca and Robert Wolders, her long time live-in love. She was laid to rest in a little graveyard near her home with Hubert de Givenchy as one of her pall bearers.
Her work lives on through The Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund founded by her sons and Mr. Wolders.
I think it may be time to turn off the phones and watch Roman Holiday again or maybe Charade.
I like when she turns to Cary Grant and says, “You know what’s wrong with you? Nothing.”
And that goes for her too.