Spotlight on Audrey Hepburn

Originally born in Brussels a young Audrey Hepburn spent her youthful years around Europe after the Second World War drove her family out of their homeland. Over time the young Hepburn began to develop a skill and passion for performing. Initially she was trained in ballet which eventually gave way to the stage. In 1953 Audrey Hepburn made her screen debut in Roman Holiday and immediately became a star. Not only did she become a moviestar in every definition but also a true cultural icon. To this day even those who do not know Breakfast at Tiffany’s from Lunch at Raoul’s know the importance of having a “little black dress”. Following a generational career in Hollywood, Hepburn eased away from acting and focused all of her attention into traveling to impoverished and war-torn regions as an ambassador for UNICEF. Her incredible work as a humanitarian only added further to her incredible legacy.

Roman Holiday (1953): In what turned out to be her star-making vehicle, Hepburn had the backing of three Hollywood heavy hitters in the form of director William Wyler, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and co-star Gregory Peck. On a state trip, the frustrated Princess Ann (Hepburn) heads off on her own and ends up in the company of American reporter Joe (Peck). Seeing the potential career boost the royal young woman provides and propelled by a bet he takes Ann on a whirlwind tour of Rome. Unexpectedly the two fall for each other which of course only complicates things. Though she was the opposite of the type of actress Wyler had originally planned to cast, upon seeing Audrey Hepburn’s screen test the filmmaker knew she was too perfect to pass up on.

Sabrina (1954): Directed by the great Billy Wilder and being the centerpiece of an all-star cast so in early in one’s career would cause a normal person to crumble. But in this position Audrey Hepburn completely stole the show. The Larrabee family are on of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the world and Sabrina Fairchild (Hepburn) is merely the daughter of their chauffeur (John Williams) with an unrequited crush on playboy David Larrabee (William Holden). After time in Paris Sabrina returns home with a new level of beauty and sophistication. While she initially hopes to attract David, Sabrina finds herself growing closer to his workaholic brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart). This puts the young woman squarely in a love triangle between the man she carried a torch for and the man she has actually fallen in love with.

Funny Face (1957): This movie paired Hepburn with the genius of musical cinema legend Fred Astaire. Dick Avery (Astaire) is looking for the kind of model who can pull off being both pretty and smart what his boss (Kay Tompson) dubs “The Quality Woman”. This leads him to Greenwich Village and to bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (Hepburn). Though she is not one of the professional models and her face is found to be funny (only in the movies) Dick knows that Jo is exactly what he is looking for.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): This is undoubtedly the film Hepburn is most associated with as she stars as York socialite Holly Golightly. Carefree and a bit eccentric, Holly her life changes when she meets her neighbor, the struggling writer Paul (George Peppard). On the surface they have little in common but beneath the surface they have their own hidden pasts which for Holly includes escaping from a depressing rural life to remake herself. But now that her past is coming back, Holly has to decide whether to continue her lifestyle and flee to Brazil or get together with Paul. While Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi is disgusting, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is loaded with cool 60’s style with Audrey at the center of it all.

Charade (1963): A Unique combination of colorful and suspenseful follows the recently widowed Reggie Lampert (Hepburn) finds herself in the middle of a cat-and-mouse game thanks to a fortune her husband stole. As she evades three criminals (George Kennedy, James Coburn, and Ned Glass) Reggie forms a connection Peter (Cary Grant). But with this much money on the line can even Peter be trusted? Both Hepburn and Grant deliver sharp performances in the movie dubbed by many the “best Hitchcock movie he never directed” as that credit goes to the great Stanley Donen.

My Fair Lady (1964): This George Cukor adaptation of a famed George Bernard Shaw play is centered around a bet. The stuffy Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) wagers that he can take the working-class Cockney girl Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) and transform her into a member of high society. Through pageantry and catchy songs Eliza is transformed into someone Higgins feels worthy of going to the upcoming embassy ball. Against Higgins’ best efforts he finds himself falling for his protégé but will she return those feelings when she finds out she was just the subject of a bet? With an embarrassment of musical riches like “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “The Rain in Spain” as well as incredible performances has made My Fair Lady a certified classic.

Wait Until Dark (1967): This home invasion thriller is dealt an extra layer of suspense in that the protagonist is visually disabled during her frightening ordeal. An incident her husband (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) means he unintentionally picks up a batch of heroin which is left at home with his wife Susy (Hepburn) when he goes on a business trip. This leads to a ruthless criminal (Alan Arkin) and his goons to formulate a plan to get the heroin while preying on her handicap. This leads Susy into a night of terror as she has to use her wits to survive the night. Audrey Hepburn turns in a phenomenal performance that earned the actress what would be her final Oscar nomination.