by Erika Cox
One of the most popular actresses of the 1950s and 1960s was Audrey Hepburn. She was in countless movies during these decades and beyond, and she is truly a cultural icon. Along with Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn was a major film role model for aspiring actresses and fans alike.
Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston in Belgium under Nazi rule. Her father was an Englishman who was a descendant of King Edward III of England and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. The family changed their last name and Audrey's surname became Hepburn-Reston. Hepburn's mother was Dutch aristocracy and was a former baroness.
Her father was a Nazi sympathizer and left the family during Hepburn's childhood and the family moved to the Netherlands became her mother believed they would be safer from Nazi rule that way. However, when the country was invaded, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra, because having an English-sounding name at the time was dangerous.
She trained to be a ballerina and secretly danced to raise money for the underground movement. During her life in Europe, she saw an uncle and cousin shot by Nazis and other members of her family spent time in labor camps. When the war ended, the United Nationals Relief and Rehabilitation Administration sent food to the starving people, and this inspired her to become involved with UNICEF later in life.
After the war, Hepburn moved to Amsterdam and later to London to continue her ballet training. She decided to pursue acting because it came with a bigger paycheck. He early work includes films like Dutch in Seven Lessons, One Wild Oat, and Monte Carlo Baby.
She got her big break when chosen to play the lead in Broadway's Gigi. She went on to find instant celebrity in 1953 with the film Roman Holiday, also starring Gregory Peck. Later that year, Hepburn graced the cover of TIME.
After Roman Holiday, Hepburn was offered starring roles in a number of great films and plays, including Sabrina, Ondine, Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon, War and Peace, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade, My Fair Lady, How to Steal a Million, and Robin and Marian.
Some of he costars included men like Humphrey Bogart, Rex Harrison, Peter O'Toole, and Sean Connery.
Although Marilyn Monroe was famous for her rendition of "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy, Hepburn sang it to him as well and was actually his favorite actress. She got along well with all of her co-stars, despite rumors of trouble between her and Bogart and the media frenzy surrounding her rivalry with Julie Andrews.
At the start of her movie career, Hepburn became engaged to James Hanson, a European businessman. However, she decided to call off the marriage to focus on her career instead, since he was also a busy man.
She is famous for giving her wedding dress to a poor Italian family. She later went on to marry Mel Ferrer, an American actor.
The couple had a few miscarriages, and it was claimed that they were unhappy and that Ferrer was very controlling. She finally gave birth to Sean in 1960. However, the marriage ended while the boy was still a child.
It was rumored that Ferrer was keeping a mistress and that Hepburn was having an affair with Albert Finney, her costar in the movie Two for the Road. Both denied these rumors
Hepburn went on to marry Dr. Andrea Dotti after meeting him on a cruise, and they had one son together, Luca. Hepburn always wanted many children, but had a number of miscarriages that prevented this. Dotti and Hepburn also got divorced, but remained in contact, while she broke off all contact with Ferrer.
As her marriage to Dotti ended, Hepburn became the companion of Robert Wolders, a Dutch actor. The two lived together, but never formally married. However, Hepburn considered him her husband.
They worked together on a varied of UNICEF projects, which was truly Hepburn's passion in life. In 1992, Hepburn companied of stomach pains and found out she had cancer. She ultimately died from it in 1993. However, her fame lives on in popular culture, and her face is seen everywhere from Gap commercials to postage stamps.
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