Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris
Trade Paperback, 464 pages
Berkley Books, 1996
ISBN-13: 9780425182123
highly recommended


She was the most beautiful film and fashion statement of her era, with or without the Givenchy designs. She was a ballet dancer, who never performed in a ballet. She was the world's highest-paid film actress, who never took an acting lesson. She was Audrey Hepburn, and she had the aura of a beloved real-life princess. With unprecedented access to family and friends, never-before-published photographs and meticulous research, biographer Barry Paris gives us a vibrant new portrait of Hepburn. Beginning with her childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland, he weaves the tale of her storybook career, its dizzying launch after the liberation, her title role on Broadway in Gigi, and her Oscar- and Tony- winning performances within the same year of her arrival in America. In the late 1950s and the 1960s, her star shone brighter with leads in Sabrina, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Wait Until Dark and My Fair Lady. In 1980 she met and fell in love with Rob Wolders, the widower of Merle Oberon. With his assistance, from 1988 until the end of her life, Hepburn became special ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund. Her trips to Ethiopia and Somalia demonstrated her whole-hearted and tireless commitment. Never before had so great a star so vigorously lent herself to such a crusade.

My Thoughts:

Barry Paris does a wonderful job collecting and presenting the facts in this complete biography of Audrey Hepburn. Paris' research was quite extensive and the book includes 57 photos, a filmography, source notes, bibliography, and an index. There are no great scandals or startling information in this account of her life because there really was nothing to disclose. Obviously, this well written biography will appeal to fans of Hepburn's movies and her later work with UNICEF.

Highly recommended


Audrey Hepburn is the biographer's dream and nightmare simultaneously. No other film actress was so revered - inspired and inspiring - both for her on-screen appearances and for her passionate off-screen crusade. Foreword, opening

But, by and large, she did not recall her early childhood fondly. She was a puny, introverted little girl who had trouble making friends and preferred the tomboyish companionship of her much older half-brothers. She cared much less for dolls, which "never seemed real to me," she said, than for animals. pg. 7

"Don't discount anything awful you hear or read about the Nazis. It's worse than you could ever imagine." pg. 21

Far better nutritionally was the food she and thousands of others received soon after from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the forerunner of UNICEF. Her commitment to that organization began then and there. pg. 32

Something was happening on a grander scale, and "the look of that girl" was making it happen. It had to do with the changing standards of beauty and with film and fashion overall, but perhaps most with the era itself. pg. 76

Marni Nixon remembers watching Hepburn the actress at work. "listening and carefully taking all their directions and then, after they were through, doing it exactly the way she wanted. Everybody around the room said 'Oh, isn't she wonderful, she took what I said to heart.' But to me, all she did was thread it through herself. She was just placating everybody." pg. 209

"It wasn't a put-on. she genuinely loved the beauty of small things. She was connected to the simplicity of how life could work and tried not to complicate it." pg. 324

"She was very shy, and she looked very frail. She did a tremendous job of calling attention to the plight of children in ways that nobody else could." pg. 350

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