Audrey Hepburn

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

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Audrey as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Copyright © Paramount Pictures.

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

A Summary

Audrey Hepburn was born on the 4th of May 1929. She worked as an actress for most of her life and later used her fame for humanitarian efforts, as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

She was born in Belgium but spent most of her childhood in Netherlands where she studied ballet.

She later moved to London and worked as a model. Through her modeling work, she was spotted by a producer and soon appeared in a couple of European films.

Her big break could be when she was spotted to play the protagonist “Gigi” in the 1951 Broadway play.

Her debut into Hollywood came when she played the lead female role in Roman holiday in 1953.

She became a very successful actress, making a string of successful films and becoming only the third actor to receive $1,000,000 for a film role at that time.

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Her Other Life When She Was Not Filming

Family was very important to her, and so she took a long break from filming from 1968 to 1975 to spend more time with her two sons.

When she retired from film making, she was asked to be a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Her war-time experiences inspired her compassion for humanitarian work.

She dedicated the last few years of her life to some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia.

In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn’s Early Life

She was born as Audrey Kathleen Ruston, the only child of Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston (an English banker) and his second wife, Ella Van Heemstra (a Dutch aristocrat)

According to Wikipedia, her father “later prepended the surname of his maternal grandmother, Kathleen Hepburn, to the family’s and her surname became Hepburn-Ruston”.

She had two half brothers by her mother’s first marriage.

Audrey hepburn had British citizenship and attended school in England. However, due to the nature of her father’s job, the family divided their time between Belgium, England and Netherland.

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn During World War II

Her parents divorced and a couple of years later, her mother moved her family to Arnhem in Netherlands in 1939. It was Audrey’s grandfather’s home. Audrey’s mother believed that Netherlands would be safe from Germans’ attack.

From there, Audrey trained in ballet along with the school standard curriculum.

However, unfortunately, the Germans invaded a year later. Audrey then modified her birth documents and adopted the name “Edda Van Heemstra” because an ‘British sounding’ name was considered dangerous.

By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballerina. She secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance.

Food was scarce during the war and Audrey survived by making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits.

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

Her Journey to Stardom

She wanted to be a prima ballerina but perhaps lack of proper nutrition hindered her health, or that she was too tall or, she may not have sufficient talent.

Some biographies suggested that her Ballet teacher or mentor, Marie Rambert advised her NOT to pursue ballet. She started to look elsewhere and took up acting jobs because they paid a little bit more than ballet jobs.

She did minor roles, theatre and whatever her hands could find to survive, as her mother could not provide sufficient income for both of them.

She was soon spotted to play a lead role in broadway and soon major films which she won awards for.

See list of Audrey Hepburn movies

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

Personal life

She was first engaged to James Hanson in 1952 but called it offbecause she felt that the demands of their careers would keep them apart most of the time.

She then married American actor Mel Ferrer and later again to an Italian doctor, Andrea Dotti

She had a son with each – Sean in 1960 by Ferrer, and Luca in 1970 by Dotti.

Child bearing was not easy for her. She had at least five miscarriages.

Her marriages did not work out either and both ended up in divorce.

She found true love right at the end, and claimed she finally found him, and it “took long enough”.

From 1980 until her death, she lived with the actor Robert Wolders. She died of appendiceal cancer at her home in Switzerland at the age of 63.

Her fondness of pets:She had a Yorkshire Terrier named Mr. Famous, and another Yorkshire named Assam of Assam (when Mr Famous died in a car accident).

She also kept Ip, a deer; and later a Cocker Spaniel named Cokey.

When Hepburn was older, she had two Jack Russell Terriers.

Biography of Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn’s Work for UNICEF

Her first field mission was to Ethiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek’ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food. Of the trip, she said

She quotes:

“I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can’t stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, not because there isn’t tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa.

It can’t be distributed.

Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars… I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die.

Horrible. That image is too much for me.

The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering.”

Referenced from ^ “Audrey Hepburn – Ambassador of Children”. audrey1.com. Retrieved 2008-01-14.

In 1992, President George H. W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity. This was awarded posthumously, with her son accepting on her behalf.

For more of her work with UNICEF, please go to http://audreyhepburn.com

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