Audrey Hepburn has become one of the most enduring screen icons of the twentieth century. She had magical screen presence, was a shrine to good taste and in her later years became a crusader for children's rights.
She was born in or near Brussels, Belgium on May 4, 1929. Her father, Joseph Hepburn-Rushton was an English banker and her mother, Ella Van Heemstra was a Dutch baroness. During Audrey's early years she traveled between England, Belgium and the Netherlands because of her father's job.
In 1935, when Audrey was only six years old, her parents were divorced, an event that had a profound effect on her. In her early school years she lived in England with her mother. After the outbreak of World War II, in 1939, her mother decided to move back to her native country, the Netherlands because it was neutral. She assumed the Netherlands would remain neutral as it had been during the First World War. Unfortunately, the following year, on May 10, 1940, the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazi Germans and the family consisting of Audrey, her mother, and her two half-brothers from a previous marriage were forced to endure the hardships of the five-year Nazi occupation of the country. During the German occupation Hepburn suffered from malnutrition, which would permanently affect her weight. During the last year of the war the family was caught in the cross fire of the battle of Arnhem, and along with the rest of the population, caught in the middle of a ferocious battle, was fortunate to escape with their lives.
Audrey's birth name was Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Rushton. Her mother changed her name to Edda during the war because she felt the name Audrey, being English, could prove to be a problem with the occupiers during the war. After the war Audrey again assumed her birth name, and later she adopted the now famous stage and screen name of Audrey Hepburn for the rest of her life.
After the war, in 1945, when Audrey was 15 years old, the family moved to London, England, where Audrey began to study dance on a ballet scholarship. She was graceful, slender and long-legged and soon began winning modeling assignment from fashion photographers. One iconic photograph taken of her by the British photographer Angus McBeam, helped propel her into the world of stage and screen.
In the early fifties Audrey began taking acting classes and began playing bit parts in British movies. Her first substantial role was Linda Farrell in "Monte Carlo Baby" in 1951. During that same year she also played the lead in the Broadway play "Gigi".
Her next major film was "Roman Holiday" in 1953 in which she played the role of Princess Ann. Hepburn received an Academy Award for her role, a major achievement so early in her film career. Six weeks after being awarded the Academy Award for Best Actress she won the Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway play "Ondine". In 1954 she received another Best Actress Academy nomination for her performance in "Sabrina".
In 1956 Audrey played Natasha Rostow in "War and Peace", followed in 1957 by a superb performance in the classic film "Funny Face". In 1959 Hepburn received another Academy nomination for her role in "Nun's Story". She probably reached the pinnacle of her career in 1961 for her role in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", including still another Academy nomination.
One of Hepburn's most radiant roles was in "My Fair Lady" in 1964 with her co-star Rex Harrison. In 1967 she received another Academy nomination for her role in "Wait until Dark". Hepburn's final film of note was "Robin and Marian" in 1976, with Sean Connery. In between the above smash hits there were a number of other films.
Following her retirement from stage and screen, Hepburn devoted most of her time to the cause of children in Latin America and Africa. In 1988 Audrey Hepburn became a special ambassador to the United Nations Unicef Fund, a position she retained until 1993, the year of her death. During her professional career she had acted in 31 top quality films. People Magazine in 1993 named her one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world, and Empire Magazine listed her in "The Top 100 Movie Stars of all Time".
Hepburn was married twice. In 1954 she married Mel Ferrer, the movie actor. The marriage lasted fourteen years until 1968. With Ferrer she had a son, Sean, born on July 17, 1960. She got married again in 1969 to Dr. Andrea Mario Dotti. She also had a son with him named Luca, born on February 8, 1970. Hepburn's second marriage also ended in divorce in 1982.
In 1991 Hepburn was diagnosed with colon cancer. President George Bush recognized her contributions as an actor and as an ambassador for children's rights with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. On January 20, 1993 she succumbed in Tolcheney, Switzerland.
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PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC
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FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015
DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS
ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017
THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017
FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015