Actress, philanthropist. Born on May 4, 1929, in Brussels, Belgium. A talented performer, Audrey Hepburn was known for her beauty, elegance, and grace. Often imitated, she remains one of Hollywood's greatest style icons.
A native of Brussels, Hepburn spent part of her youth in England at a boarding school there, she had a difficult childhood. At at age 5 she was sent to the boarding school inEngland, at 6 her father walked out on the family, and as a teenager she lived in occupied Holland during the war. During much of World War II, she studied at the Arnhem Conservatory (1939 to 1945) in The Netherlands, where she trained in ballet, in addition to learning a standard school curriculum. After the Nazis invaded the country, Hepburn and her mother struggled to survive.
Hepburnnoted the similarities between her and Anne Frank. "I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both 10 when war broke out and 15 when the war finished. I was given the book in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend. I read it . . . and it destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life. I didn't knowwhat I was going to read. I've never been the same again, it affected me so deeply."
Like Anne Frank, who was in hiding in Holland at the same time, she experienced the terror of the Nazi occupation and her own family tragedies - her father walked out for good when she was six - along with a child's natural irrepressible excitement about life which, in Anne Frank's case found an outlet in herdiary, and in Audrey Hepburn's case, was the wellspring of the emotional energy she drew on in her film career.
One way in which Audrey Hepburn passed the time was by drawing, and some of her childhood artwork can be seen today.
In 1935 her parents divorced, one reason was that her father was a Nazi sympathiser; the divorce was very traumatic for Audrey, she would later say it was the mosttraumatic incident of her life, she was 6 at the time. After the war, despite suffering under the Nazi occupation, Audrey later tracked down her father to Dublin and supported him financially.
At one time she considered taking ballet as a serious career occupation. During the occupation it was said she would often dance in various locations helping to raise money for the underground movement. Afterthe war, Hepburn continued to pursue an interest in dance. She studied ballet in Amsterdam and later in London. In 1948, Hepburn made her stage debut as a chorus girl in the musical High Button Shoes in London. That same year, Hepburn made her feature film debut in 1951's One Wild Oat in an uncredited role. She went on to parts in such films as Young Wives' Tales (1951) and The Lavender Hill Mob(1951) starring Alec Guiness.
Her next project on the New York stage introduced her to American audiences.
At the age of 22, Audrey Hepburn went to New York to star in the Broadway production of Gigi, based on the book by the French writer Colette. Set in Paris around 1900, the comedy focuses on the title character, a young teenage girl on the brink of adulthood.
Only a few weeks after the playpremiered, news reports indicated that Hepburn was being wooed by Hollywood. Only two years later, she took the world by surprise in the film Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck. Audiences and critics alike were amazed by her portrayal of Princess Ann, the royal who escapes the constrictions of her title for a short time. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this performance.
Thenext year Hepburn returned to the Broadway stage to star in Ondine with Mel Ferrer. A fantasy, the play told the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a human played by Ferrer. With her lithe and lean frame, Hepburn made a convincing sprite in this sad story about love found and lost. She won the 1954 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance. While the leading characters...
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