Audrey Hepburn was known for her work as a fashion icon, dancer, and humanitarian, along with her lead actress appearances in many great films during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She was among the most successful actresses of all time over her four-decade career in film.
Hepburn has appeared in 20 feature films, with her best work in the 1950s and 1960s. Roman Holiday, Funny Face, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, My Fair Lady, and How to Steal a Million are all classics. Hepburn is credited for adding grace and sophistication to each of them.
She built a name for herself in musicals, comedies, adventures, dramas, and romance films by portraying strong-willed and lovable female characters. Because of her on-screen and off-screen manners and sense of taste, she came to represent the splendor of Hollywood in its most glamorous age.
For her first starring part in a feature film, Roman Holiday, she won an Academy Award nomination for best actress. She was nominated for four additional Oscars over the next two decades but never awarded for performance.
Hepburn is one of only 14 persons to have received the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) award, recognizing someone who has won all four awards. Unfortunately, this honor was not bestowed to her until after her untimely passing in 1993. She was honored in her later years for her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, traveling the world to bring awareness and funds for children living in poverty.
The term “legendary” is used far more frequently than it should be. Audrey Hepburn, however, is the only person who properly embodies the word. After all, the life and legacy of the British actress are connected with fashion, movies, and beauty.
And, without sounding cliche, the Breakfast at Tiffany’s actress is the definition of effortless glamour and timeless flair. She is, in fact, the original influencer, as this article will establish.
The following made Audrey Hepburn one of the most glamorous women of all time.
Hepburn was well-known for her distinct appearance and style choices that she was dubbed a “recognizable brand.” In contrast to the more sexual and curvy Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly, she was perceived as an alternative feminine ideal that resonated more to women than men when she first soared to popularity in Roman Holiday (1953). She provided an appearance that young women found easier to copy than more sexual cinema stars, with her short hairstyle, slender figure, thick eyebrows, and “gamine” looks.
In Vogue, Cecil Beaton, a fashion photographer, declared Audrey Hepburn the public personification of their new feminine ideal in 1954. The magazine and its British counterpart frequently covered her style throughout the next decade. Hepburn has been credited as being one of the major prominent individuals that made being extremely slender trendy, alongside model Twiggy.
Film and Ballet
Audrey’s mother, Dutch baroness Ella Van Heemstra (her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, abandoned the family when she was six years old), relocated the girl to the Netherlands in 1939, believing that the neutral nation would be safer than England. Audrey suffered hardships in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II. She did, however, manage to go to school and still take ballet lessons.
Audrey’s mother briefly changed her name to Edda Van Heemstra during this time, fearing that her birth name might disclose her British ancestry. She went on to study ballet in Amsterdam and London after the war.
Hepburn studied acting and worked as a dancer and model in her early twenties. She also began to be cast in minor cinema roles under the name Audrey Hepburn.
Hepburn caught the eye of French novelist Colette while filming a film in Monte-Carlo, and she thought Hepburn would be perfect for the title part in the theatrical production of her novel Gigi. Despite her lack of experience, Hepburn was cast in the play, which received wonderful reviews when it premiered on Broadway in 1951.
Her next assignment sent her to Rome, where she featured in Roman Holiday, her first major American film (1953). Hepburn bagged a best actress Academy Award for her performance as a young princess who foregoes the responsibilities of royalty for a day of romance and adventure with a reporter (played by Gregory Peck). Here, she proved her ability to combine a tomboyish winsomeness with a regal bearing that utterly charmed audiences.
Hepburn made her comeback as a water nymph in Ondine in early 1954, costarring Mel Ferrer, who she married later that year. Her performance, which turned out to have been her final on Broadway, earned her a Tony Award.
However, she continued to dazzle movie audiences in light romantic comedies like Sabrina (1954), which gave Hepburn her first opportunity to appear in Hubert de Givenchy designs, and Funny Face (1957), and notable dramatic films like War and Peace (1956) and The Nun’s Story (1959).
By the 1960s, Hepburn had outgrown her ingenue image and began playing more sophisticated and worldly, albeit still vulnerable, characters, such as the mysterious and effervescent Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), an adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella, a chic young widow costarring Cary Grant caught up in a suspenseful Charade (1963), and a free-spirited woman caught up in a difficult marriage in Two for the Road (1967).
Perhaps her most divisive portrayal was Eliza Doolittle in the film musical My Fair Lady (1964). Many spectators had difficulty accepting Hepburn as a character they felt rightfully belonged to Julie Andrews, who had developed the part onstage.
Acts of Humanitarianism
After acting in the thriller Wait Until Dark (1967), Hepburn went into semiretirement. She married a notable Italian psychiatrist after divorcing Ferrer in 1968 and preferred to focus on her family over her career. She didn’t return to acting until 1976, when she costarred in Robin and Marian, a nostalgic love story.
Hepburn starred in a few more films before beginning a new profession as the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) special goodwill ambassador in 1988. She dedicated herself to humanitarian work until her death from cancer in 1993, visiting famine-stricken towns in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Later that year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented her with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which she received posthumously.