Audrey Hepburn is famous for being a fashion icon, an actress, and a loving humanitarian. She was ranked as the 3rd greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute in 1999.
Born:May 4th, 1929 at Brussels, Belgium
Died: Jan. 20, 1993 @ 63 at Tolochenaz, Switzerland
Audrey is the only child of the Englishman Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston and his second wife, the former Dutch Baroness Ella van Heemstra. She had 2 half-brothers fron her mother's 1st marriage to a Dutch nobleman named Jonkheer Hendrik Gustaaf Adolf Quarles van Ufford. Her 2 half brothers names are Jonkheer Arnoud Robert Alexander 'Alex' Quarles van Ufford and Jonkheer Ian Edgar Bruce Quarles van Ufford. Since her mother was a noblewoman and her father had lots of ancient lineage... there are many specualtions that she's related to much of the English and Dutch royalty, including Mary (Queen of Scots), Diane (former Princess of Wales), King Edward III of England, and Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.
"I never thought I'd land in pictures with a face like mine."
Audrey's Early Life
Hepburn's father's job with a British insurance company meant the family traveled between Brussels, England and The Netherlands very often, so this made Audrey more fluent in both English and Dutch. She later attended at boarding school in Kent, England from 1935-1938. In 1939, her mother moved her and her 2 half-brothers to their grandfather's home in Arnhem in the Netherlands. Audrey's mother believed that the Netherlands would be relatively safe from German attack, yet she was wrong. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945, where she trained in ballet along with the standard school curriculum.
In 1935, her parents divorced and her father, a Nazi sympathizer, had left the family. She later called this event "the most traumatic time" of her life. Audrey later located him in Dublin Ireland through the Red Cross, yet he remained emotionally detached. She stayed in contact with him and supported him financially until his death. Both her parents apparently supported Hitler and were members of the British Union of Fascists, according to a family friend.
In 1944, Hepburn had become a ballerina and secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance. During her stay in Arnhem, she and many other resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits. Although, there was a cost for being in the Resistance for Audrey, her uncle and her mother's cousin were shot right in front of her and her half-brother Ian van Ufford spent time in a German labor camp. She later suffered from malnutrition, had developed acute anemia, and respiratory problems.
Whilst she was a ballerina,
Audrey later went on the America because she felt she had no real future in Europe. Her first starring role and American film was with Gregory Peck in the Hollywood motion picture Roman Holiday. Audrey impressed many people, and had replaced many actresses because of her stunning 1st impressions. In 1954, she was awarded Best Motion Picture Actress Golden Globe and Academy Award for Roman Holiday. In that same year she also received a Best Actress Oscar and Best Actress Tony in the same year, one of only three actresses of all time. Audrey became a box-office attraction after that and established herself as one of Hollywood's most popular actresses.
In 1963, Hepburn starred in Charade, her first and only film with Cary Grant, who had previously withdrawn from the starring roles in Roman Holiday and Sabrina. Cary Grant was one of the other more debonair and popular actors as well.
As of 2007, she and Katharine Hepburn are the only "Best Actress" Oscar-winners to share a last name. Of course, they are not related.
Audrey Hepburn married twice, first to Mel Ferrer and then to an Italian doctor, Andrea Dotti. She had a son with each husband — Sean in 1960 by Ferrer, and Luca in 1970 by Dotti.
Hepburn met Mel Ferrer at a party hosted by Gregory Peck, and they were later married on September 24th. The marrige was reportedly a happy one for a few years, and Hepburn claimed that they were inseparable and were very happy together. She later said he had a bad temper and Ferrer were rumored to be too controlling of Audrey.Before having their first child, Hepburn had two miscarriages and was almost inconsolable, during her 3rd pregnancy, she was notabley more careful. During her time of grief, Ferrer bought her a fawn and she called it “Ip” short for “Pippin.” The marriage to Ferrer lasted 14 years, until Dec. 5, 1968, their son was quoted as saying that Hepburn had stayed in the marriage too long. In the later years of their marriage, Ferrer was rumored to have had a girlfriend on the side and Hepburn had an affair with her younger Two for the Road co-star Albert Finney. Hepburn had broken off all contact with Ferrer (she would only speak to him twice in the remainder of her life; at Sean's graduation and first wedding.
During the last years of her life, she was involved with Robert Wolders, a Dutch actor. Audrey met Wolders through a friend, in the later stage of her marriage to Dotti. After Hepburn’s divorce was final, she and Wolders started their lives together, although they were never married. In 1989, after nine years with him, she called them the happiest years of her life. When asked why they never married. Hepburn replied that they were married, just not formally.
In 1992, when Hepburn returned to Switzerland from her visit to Somalia, she began to feel abdominal pains. She went to specialists and received inconclusive results, so decided to have it examined while on a trip to Los Angeles in October. On November 1, doctors conducted a laparoscopy surgery and discovered abdominal cancer that had spread from her appendix and had grown slowly over several years, and metastasized not as a tumor, but as a thin encasing over her small intestine. The doctors performed surgery and then put Hepburn through 5-fluorouracil Leucovorin chemotherapy. A few days later, she had an occlusion. Medication was not enough to dull the pain. She was unable to tolerate a commercial flight, so Givenchy arranged for friend to fly her to Switzerland. She died of cancer on Jan. 20, 1993 in Tolochenaz, Vaud, Switzerland.
Impact on the World
After Hepburn's final film role, she was appointed a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). One of the main reasons she joined UNICEF, was because she was grateful for her own good fortune after enduring the German occupation as a child. She dedicated the remainder of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest nations. Hepburn's travels were made easier by her wide knowledge of languages; she spoke French, Italian, English, Dutch, and Spanish. Those close to her say that the thoughts of dying, helpless children consumed her for the rest of her life. Her first Field Mission was to Ethiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek'ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food
In October, Hepburn and Wolders went to Bangladesh. John Isaac, a UN photographer, said, "Often the kids would have flies all over them, but she would just go hug them. I had never seen that. Other people had a certain amount of hesitation, but she would just grab them. Children would just come up to hold her hand, touch her - she was like the Pied Piper."
In 1992, President George Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity. This was awarded posthumously, with her son accepting on her behalf.
The "little black dress" from Breakfast at Tiffany's, designed by Givenchy, sold at a Christie's auction on December 5, 2006, for £467,200 (approximately $920,000), almost seven times its £70,000 pre-sale estimate. This was the highest price paid for a dress from a film. The proceeds went to the City of Joy Aid charity to aid underprivileged children in India. The head of the charity said, "there are tears in my eyes. I am absolutely dumbfounded to believe that a piece of cloth which belonged to such a magical actress will now enable me to buy bricks and cement to put the most destitute children in the world into schools."
Last updated: January 18, 2008