On this day, 83 years ago, one of Hollywood’s most beautiful and famous screen sirens and fashion icons was born. Let’s take a look back at the life and work of the legendary Audrey Hepburn in this installment of Today in History!
Hollywood has known and raised many notable actors and actresses, and among them was the lovely and timelessly classy Audrey Hepburn, who remains popular and loved to this day. She was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, to English banker father Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston and Dutch baroness mother Ella van Heemstra. The Hollywood star-to-be’s father, mistakingly believing that he is a descendant of the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, James Hepburn, double-barrelled his surname to Hepburn-Ruston. Audrey eventually dropped the “Ruston” from her surname and came to be known by her “Hepburn” surname.
As a child, Hepburn was a smart and playful child, able to speak English, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian fluently due to her multi-national background. She also discovered a love for ballet at a very young age, and loved to read. She had two half-brothers from her mother’s previous marriage; however, they spent much of their time with their father in The Hague, while Audrey and her mother resided in Arnhem after her father abruptly left the family.
Much of Hepburn’s childhood and adolescent years were marked by wartime struggles during the German occupation of the Netherlands during the 1940s. This included malnutrition, acute anemia, respiratory problems, and oedema. Despite the hardships, Hepburn eventually became a proficient ballerina, secretly performing to collect funds in support of the Dutch resistance.
In 1945, after the end of the war, Hepburn and her mother moved to Amsterdam. There, she took ballet lessons with famous Dutch ballet personality Sonia Gaskell, then later with British dance and ballet figure Marie Rambert. According to Rambert, she was an excellent learner and would have become an “outstanding ballerina” if she persevered. However, she decided to pursue a career in modeling and acting after Rambert also told her that her tall height 5’7" and malnutrition during the war would hamper her way to become a prima ballerina.
For her first film, she was casted as an air stewardess for an educational travel film produced in the Netherlands in 1948, entitled Dutch in Seven Lessons. Three years later, French writer Colette “discovered” Hepburn in Monaco, and wanted her to star in the title role of the Broadway version of her novel entitled Gigi. So, a star was born.
Hepburn’s successful performance in Gigi eventually landed her the lead role in the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday, starring as a headstrong European princess who desires to escape her royal duties and later falls in love with an American journalist. Hepburn later called it her “dearest movie,” which earned her several notable awards in 1953: the Academy Award for Best Actress, her BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress — Motion Picture Drama.
Hepburn went on to star in many successful Hollywood flicks, the most memorable being her role as the stylish Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Her other notable films include Sabrina (1954), War and Peace (1956), and My Fair Lady (1964).
Now, let’s take a look at back at the images that documented the life and work of the legendary screen siren and fashion icon as we greet her a happy birthday!
Here’s a bonus: the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s!
All images for this article were taken from Audrey Hepburn on Wikipedia, and History.com. Photos via Hollywood Photo Shop, The Fab Corner, Fanpop.com, Gdefon.com, La Feem on Blogspot, Picasa Web, Daily Mail and Doctor Macro.