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A life in pictures: Audrey Hepburn

A life in pictures: Audrey Hepburn

2 min read

Audrey Hepburn was and always will be a distinctive figure, with a varied career and a fascinating life. Here, we present her life in pictures
Audrey Hepburn was and always will be a distinctive figure. Imprinted in all our minds as the picture of elegance intellect and charm and often one to play the ingénue, she embodied so much more than her actress vocation, taking on the world as her business later in life. Here we take a look at the eventful life she lived and the love she brought to the world.

An introduction to Audrey

Hepburn was born in Belgium, Brussels on May 4, 1929 to Baroness Ella van Heemstra and her father J.A. Hepburn-Ruston. At the age of five, Hepburn was sent to study in England but was brought back to her mother's home town, Arnhem, Holland, when the Second World War broke as her Mother assumed the neutral country would be safer. When it became clear safety Hepburn’s safety was in fact at more risk in Holland, her Mother demanded she only spoke Dutch and she did so until the war ceased.

Audrey and her parents

Quite contradictorily to Audrey’s own humanitarian views, both her parents were devoted funding members of the British Union of Fascists before the Second World War and continued their Nazi-sympathetic views well into the war. Her father was later arrested for the duration of the war as an enemy of the state and her mother’s fraternisation with the Nazis caused the rest of her family to disassociate from them.
This knowledge would have undoubtedly harmed the star’s rising career when she burst onto the American film industry, so it was largely buried. The stark difference in her views and actions compared with those of her parents however, shows how the courage, bravery and empathetic tendencies Hepburn held dear could not be diminished by even the worst role models.

Audrey during the war

During the war, times were so hard in Holland and Hepburn’s town of Arnhem that the inhabitants were extremely malnourished and often made flour using tulip bulbs and grass in order to make bread.
Hepburn continued to practice her beloved ballet despite suffering a host of problems from malnutrition and it could be said that the joy she found from spreading positivity started here. Hepburn and her fellow dancers began to host “black performances” that were private shows held in total silence to raise money for the Dutch resistance, in an interview Hepburn revealed, “I designed the dances myself. I had a friend that played the piano, and my mother made the costumes. They were very amateurish attempts—but…it amused people.”
The girls would hide messages and money in their shoes afterwards to be passed to other resistance workers the next day—a courageous feat that risked their lives. Hepburn revealed what these shows meant to her in an interview, “The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance.”

Audrey's love of ballet

Hepburn’s love for ballet landed her a job in musical theatre in the last 1940s when she returned to England. She changed her name back to “Audrey” and dropped her father’s name to become the star we recognise today.
Audrey looks over her shoulder, wearing a a dressing gown and earplugs
Hepburn played many roles in her early days, most of which involved her character being portrayed as a “damsel in distress” who needed rescuing from an ageing and much wiser man. Her first big break—which outed her as one of Hollywood’s last “classic” actresses—was 1953 film, Roman Holiday, when she caught the eye of director, by simply being herself in a now legendary audition.
Banner photo: Audrey Hepburn in 1957 for the film Love in the Afternoon (credit: Michael0986 (Wikimedia Commons))
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