More than a decade after her death in 1993, Audrey Hepburn remains an incomparable icon of movie style, of high fashion and mid-twentieth-century elegance.
Born in Brussels in 1929, Audrey was the daughter of a British father and a Dutch Baroness. But when she was five, her father deserted the family, and it was not until she was 30 that Audrey found him again.
With the outbreak of war in 1939, her mother thought they would be safer in Holland than Holland Park, but, although they survived the German Occupation, the experience left its physical and emotional scars.
Back in England again, Audrey studied ballet with Marie Rambert. After a few West End musicals and a few minor film parts, she was spotted by the colourful and eccentric author, Colette, to star in a stage version of her novel, GIGI. And then Audrey’s career took off. Her debut screen role was the Princess in William Wyler’s enchanting ‘Roman Holiday’. It won her an Oscar.
Audrey often described herself as an actress who didn’t have much technique because she never learned to act. But she had that rare, instinctive ability to reach out to an audience. Billy Wilder, who directed her in ‘Sabrina’ said, ‘She was just born with this kind of quality and she made it look so unforced, so simple, so easy... You cannot learn it. God kissed her on the cheek and there she was.’
She brought a unique grace and high spirits to a number of highly acclaimed films – from ‘Funny Face’ and ‘The Nun’s Story to My Fair Lady’, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, ‘Charade’, ‘Wait Until Dark’ and ‘Robin and Marian’.
For a while it looked as though her personal life would follow the Hollywood dream. But her marriage to Mel Ferrer, with whom she starred in ‘War and Peace’, was not to last. There were passionate but short-lived affairs, some revealed for the first time in this book.
She married and divorced a second time. But she pretty much retired from movie-making, and dedicated the last years of her life, as Special Ambassador for UNICEF, to touring Africa and South America to help hungry children. With all the insight, background knowledge and innate sympathy for his subject, qualities that have made his biographies of Hitchcock, Dietrich, Monroe and Bergman such international successes, Donald Spoto truly captures the spirit of an elusive, beautiful, talented and vulnerable woman.