The Classic Film Connoisseur
Book: Audrey Hepburn: A Charmed Life by Robyn Karney
(Read to the end to see how you can WIN this book!)
Charmed? Not if you are talking about the life of the real person, Edda Kathleen Van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston, who became the more manageable “Audrey Hepburn” in her performing life.
Charming? Definitely! As Robyn Karney talks about all of the hardships that Hepburn endured in her life — and there were more than you ever dreamed of — she constantly emphasizes that “grace, dignity, charm and compassion were Hepburn’s hallmarks,” as we read in the introductory chapter.
I generally write about personalities and films that I fear might be forgotten. Audrey Hepburn is nowhere near being forgotten, but the image we have in our minds skims over many of the details of her life that made her so attractive to us. (Details of her life and the enviable big doe eyes and an elfin face that she always thought was unattractive and too wide on screen — all contributed to the mythical Audrey Hepburn.)
So I’m writing about her today, just because this new biography has been released in the United States by Skyhorse Publishing, and I found it an absolute delight. (As far as I can tell, this is exactly the same book that was released in Britain in 1995 by Arcade Publishers as Audrey Hepburn, A Star Danced.)
Robyn Karney, who is very experienced in writing about films and celebrities, has done thorough research and covers Audrey Hepburn’s personal life, her experiences during filming, reviewers’ reactions, and the work she did with UNICEF. The book is enhanced by liberal quotes from directors and stars you have heard of, and from Hepburn herself.
The photographer Richard Avedon:
“I am, and forever will be, devastated by the gift of Audrey Hepburn before my camera … She has achieved in herself her ultimate portrait.”
Director Billy Wilder:
“Not since Garbo has there been anything like her, with the possible excepton of Ingrid Bergman. After so many drive-in waitresses in movies, here is class.”
Her first big success in Broadway was as Gigi, because the French novelist Colette discovered her and fostered her in the role. That led to Hollywood. How better to start in Hollywood than as the co-star of Gregory Peck? She won everyone’s hearts in Roman Holiday.
[See A Traveler's Library companion article for a review of a lesser-known Hepburn film, Two For The Road -- a road trip through Southern France. ]
Hepburn, who never held a high opinion of her own talent, wanted only to be a ballerina, so the transformation to a mere actress was an unhappy one for her. More disappointments came in marriages that she was unable to rescue, despite devoting herself to the role of wife and mother (after several devastating miscarriages).
Of course she was devastated when, after months of vocal study, her singing voice was dubbed in the film version of My Fair Lady. I have to admit that is one of the Hepburn movies I have NOT seen, because I was so annoyed that Julie Andrews was not allowed to play the role she originated on Broadway.
She never seemed to “play the star,” accepting hardship and working diligently while filming. But she knew when to refuse a job that was outside her comfort zone. Her childhood experiences led to an abhorrence of violence and meant that she turned down a film with Alfred Hitchcock that included a brutal rape scene. Hitchcock, who was notoriously chauvinistic and egotistic, not only never offered her another role, he never spoke to her again.
Too bad. His loss. The Hitchcock-esque Charade (directed by Stanley Donen) with Cary Grant hints at what she could have done in Hitchcock films.
If you would like to win this book (It would make a great present for someone you know, and we will not tell that you’re re-gifting!), leave a comment about Audrey Hepburn in the comments section below.
If you would like an extra chance to win, leave a comment on this post about Two For the Road at A Traveler’s Library. A winner will be chosen by random selection from all comments left on both sites.
- Must have a U.S. mailing address.
- Must be over 18.
- Contest closes November 2, 2012, midnight EST.
- Do NOT leave shipping address in your comment — we will contact you for your address if you win.