Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Synopsis: Audrey: More Than An Icon is a documentary by Helena Coan that displays the real Audrey Hepburn, a side that has been overlooked.
There was once a little girl from Belgium, who dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina but instead she became a female screen legend and a fashion icon. Her name was Audrey Hepburn.
Hepburn was born on the May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her mother was of Dutch nobility and held the rank of Baroness and her father Joseph Anthony Hepburn-Ruston became heavily involved with the British arm of the Fascist Union. He would later align himself with the Nazis after abandoning his family and leaving poor Audrey utterly heartbroken. Her trauma from this event stayed with her throughout the rest of her life.
After Britain declared war on Germany during the events of WWII, Audrey’s mother decided to move them to the Netherlands which had remained neutral and perhaps might be spared the German invasion. However, in 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and plunged the country into famine. Audrey became severely malnourished during the five-year occupation which would have dire results on her physical development. As a girl she would perform for the Dutch Resistance in “underground concerts” and became a messenger for the Resistance by hiding messages and flyers from the Allies in her shoes.
When the war ended, they moved once again to Amsterdam where she began ballet training under Sonia Gaskell, a leading figure in Dutch ballet, and Russian teacher Olga Tarasova. Unfortunately, she was eventually told that her height and weak constitution (due to the malnutrition from the war) was not suitable for prima ballerina status, crushing her dreams.
She decided to pursue acting and would eventually land the lead role for Broadway’s Gigi in 1951. The show ran for a little over two years before closing in May 1953. Coincidentally this same year she would land the role as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday starring opposite Gregory Peck. For her performance she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best British Actress in a Leading Role, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama in 1953.
The beautiful actress continued to charm Hollywood with her wide, doe-eyed innocence, grace, and charm. After a meeting of mistaken identity with the iconic fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy (he thought that he was actually going to meet actress Katherine Hepburn, no relation) the two hit it off instantly, with Audrey becoming Givenchy’s muse and ambassador for haute couture designs. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a 40-year relationship of two people who loved fashion.
The dress that started it all was known as the décolleté Sabrina or the Sabrina dress which paved the way for what we refer to today as the little black dress or LBD staple that most women consider a necessity to their wardrobe. The dress was featured in her 1954 film Sabrina. But nothing compares to the iconic black cloque dress worn by Hepburn in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 which included a long, strand of dangling white pearls and long white gloves. The dress was eventually sold at an auction for almost one million dollars in December 2006.
Audrey’s grand-daughter Emma Ferrer speaks lovingly about her now deceased grandmother. Emma reveals that her grandmother’s best kept secret was her sadness. Emma wears her hair like the character of Princess Ann from Roman Holiday and she tears up with sympathy and compassion thinking about her grandmother, a woman who is most loved in the world but had such a lack of love.
This is explained further in interviews with Hepburn’s closest friends and family, including her son Sean Ferrer. They discuss Hepburn’s heartbreak and disappointment in her first two marriages. Audrey married fellow actor Mel Ferrer in 1954. Ferrer was rumoured to be too controlling at times and even admitted to having a short temper. During the course of their marriage the actress suffered two miscarriages one when she fell off a horse whilst filming The Unforgiven in 1960, and the second when she at six months terms during the pregnancy. It was a little girl, and it became deeply traumatic for the actress. When Ferrer’s career began to wane and Hepburn’s kept climbing, they began to drift apart and after 14 years of marriage they divorced in 1968.
Hepburn soon met her second husband Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti eventually marrying him in January 1969. She had her last son Luca in 1970 for which she was put on bed rest before delivering him via cesarean. However, Dotti became unfaithful and after 13 years of marriage theirs also ended in divorce in 1982. But her relationship with Dutch actor Robert Woders would be the happiest of them all which lasted until her death.
A reunion is spoken of between Hepburn and her estranged father but he remained indifferent and cold towards her. However, she financially supported him until his death.
After retiring from showbiz, the late 80s found the actress in a new role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She took on many physically arduous tours all over the world, visiting countries like Ethiopia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Somalia. Hepburn would always remember the role that the Red Cross and UNICEF played when the Netherlands were liberated after WWII. After her personal experience suffering from malnutrition it became an extremely important goal for the actress to use her status to influence the funding for programmes that would provide much-needed food and medicine to children all over the world.
We are provided with many behind-the-scenes and candid footage of Hepburn speaking to the children, playing with them, holding them, and feeding them. Some were so emaciated that they gasped for breath in her arms while she smiled lovingly at them in an effort to cheer them up.
Upon returning home to Switzerland from Somalia in September 1992, the actress began to experience abnormal abdominal pain. She was flown to Los Angeles where she was discovered to have a cancerous tumour on her small intestine. The actress underwent surgery and chemotherapy before being able to return home to celebrate her last Christmas surrounded by her family. Sadly, she died on the January 20, 1993 in her sleep. She was 63. She is remembered lovingly by her son Sean Ferrer and granddaughter Emma Ferrer. You can see the love in their eyes whenever they spoke about her.
Hepburn was known as the woman with infinite love to give and unlucky in receiving the love that she so craved from her father. But most important is her contribution to the Dutch Resistance, theatre, cinema, fashion industry, and charitable work on behalf of the world’s starving children.
This documentary is extremely heartfelt and sincere as it encompasses the two different sides of the iconic actress by giving us a peek behind the glamour.
Alice’s Score: 8.5 out of 10
For my review of Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind you can click here.
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.
I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.