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Book Review & Giveaway – Audrey Hepburn: A Charmed Life

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The Classic Film Connoisseur

audrey hepburn: a charmed lifeBook: 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.)

Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer

A domestic Audrey Hepburn with husband Mel Ferrer

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.

But if getting cast opposite Gregory Peck in her first Hollywood movie sounds like a charmed life, you may be surprised to learn that her family fell from wealthy aristocrats with a country mansion in Holland to starving refugees during World War II.

[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.

But besides the inside information on movies and the quotes from famous people, this book has 177 photographs of the charming Audrey on stage and off. The book is a winner for movie fans.

GIVEAWAY

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.

Basic Rules:

  • 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.

Good luck!

Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher first went to the movies at the Duncan Theater in Killbuck, Ohio, when her grandmother was selling tickets. Now she watches Netflix and TV movie channels more often than movies in theaters, but she loves to rediscover old favorites. When she’s not at the movies, she’s reading and traveling and writing at A Traveler’s Library and Ancestors In Aprons. Follow her on Twitter at @pen4hire.

Vera Marie Badertscher has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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18 comments

  1. I love Audrey Hepburn and can’t wait to read this book!

  2. She absolutely defined that era of hollywood movies!

  3. Audrey Hepburn defines what being classy is all about. I’ve never seen such a graceful actress and I’m very curious to learn more about her work with UNICEF.

  4. Audrey Hepburn left an unforgettable impression from Roman Holiday through her final appearance in Speilberg’s Always. That voice, full of yearning and awe, and those piercing, vulnerable eyes, what more could one want from a star. family andAnd those iconic roles: wait Until Dark, the magnificent Two for the Road, the dazzling Charade,
    and the incomparable Breakfast at Tiffany’s…Audrey Hepburn was a rare creature, breathtakingly stunning in every film she made and every move she made.

  5. Brette Sember

    My college-aged daughter has a thing for Audrey Hepburn. Thanks for this – I’m going to buy this for her for Christmas (unless I win it!)

  6. Would make a fab present for a friend of mine.

  7. What a natural beauty! Would make a wonderful gift for the holidays, I think!
    Best Irene

  8. Amazing person, I know the book is one I’d enjoy. Can’t wait to read it!

  9. Alexandra

    I have been a fan since AH played Natasha in War and Peace. I’m fascinated by movie stars who manage humanitarian “careers” on the side, or after their Hollywood success.  That choice definitely sets them apart.

  10. Jennifer Margulis

    I was just talking about Audrey Hepburn with my husband on a long drive north from California. She was so smart and svelte and beautiful. I would love to read this book! If I don’t win in (pick me! pick me!) I’ll definitely ask our local library to buy a copy. On second thought, I’ll do that anyway. Thanks for bringing the book to my attention.

  11. I would love to read this book about an amazing person.

  12. Loved her in My Fair Lady, despite the singing having been dubbed.

  13. I didn’t know that about Audrey Hepburn/Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady. I thought Hepburn was great in the role.

  14. She seemed like such a beautiful person, inside and out! I would love to read this book.

  15. We have a winner! The winner of Audrey Hepburn: A Charmed Life is… [drum roll here]… Brette Sember! Thanks to everyone for playing, and stay tuned for more great giveaways.

  16. Audrey was one of my favorites. I really want to read that book. My favorite movie she played in was Wait Until Dark. I like the suspense.
    Shay recently posted…Audrey Hepburn QuotesMy Profile

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