Hepburn, Audrey (1929–1993)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Hepburn, Audrey (1929–1993)

Elegant Dutch actress, nominated for four Best Actress awards, who became an advocate for starving children worldwide. Born Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929, in Brussels, Belgium; died on January 27, 1993, in Tolochenaz, Switzerland; daughter of Baroness Ella van Heemstra and Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston (an English-Irish banker); studied ballet with Marie Rambert and Olga Tarassova ; married Mel Ferrer (an actor), on September 25, 1954 (divorced 1968); married Andrea Mario Dotti (a psychiatrist), on January 18, 1969 (divorced 1983); lived with Robert Wolders; children: (first marriage) Sean Hepburn Ferrer (b. January 17,1960); (second marriage) Luca (b. February 8, 1970).

Filmography:

(bit) Laughter in Paradise (British, 1951); (bit) One Wild Oat (British, 1951); (bit) The Lavender Hill Mob (British, 1951); Young Wives' Tale (British, 1951); Secret People (British, 1952); Monte Carlo Baby (British, 1953); Roman Holiday (1953); Sabrina (1954); War and Peace (1956); Funny Face (1957); Love in the Afternoon (1957); Green Mansions (1959); The Nun's Story (1959); The Unforgiven (1960); Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961); The Children's Hour (1962); Charade (1963); Paris When It Sizzles (1964); My Fair Lady (1964); How to Steal a Million (1966); Two for the Road (1967); Wait Until Dark (1967); Robin and Marian (1976); Bloodline (1979); They All Laughed (1981); Always (1989).

Television:

played Marie Vetsera opposite Mel Ferrer's Prince Rudolph in "Mayerling" (90-minute special for NBC's "Producer's Showcase"), 1958; appeared with Robert Wagner in television movie "Love Among Thieves" (ABC, 1987).

Awards:

American Academy Award and British Film Academy Award for Best Actress in Roman Holiday (1954); Tony Award for Best Actress in Ondine (1954); nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actressfor Sabrina (1955), The Nun's Story (1959), and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961); New York Critics' Circle Award and British Academy Award for Best Actress in The Nun's Story (1959); Cecil B. De Mille Award from the Hollywood Film Producers' Association (1990); British Academy Special Award (1992); Presidential Medal of Freedom (1991); the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award given posthumously (1993).

In her early years, Audrey Hepburn was frequently asked to portray Anne Frank in the dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank. Each time, she declined. Then at a charity appearance with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1991, Hepburn read from Anne Frank's diaries. Sheridan Morley was in attendance. "Heart-breakingly fragile," he writes, "looking as though she were made of glass, she stood in front of that huge orchestra and gave a performance of such mesmerizing dramatic intensity that afterwards I was not alone in begging her to return to the stage." Later, Hepburn told Morley: "It is not that I am a very good actress, you know; it is just that my family, too, lived under the German occupation of Holland and I knew so many girls like Anne…. That was why I always declined to make the movie; I knew I would have cried too much."

Born Edda Hepburn-Ruston in Brussels, Belgium, on May 4, 1929, Audrey Hepburn was the product of a second marriage for Dutch aristocrat, Baroness Ella van Heemstra , who had grown up in The Hague, Netherlands, while spending her summers at the family ancestral castle at Doorn, in Utrecht. Pampered by nannies and maids, Ella's every whim was catered to, except one: she longed to become an actress. Her father, the baron, felt it beneath the van Heemstra name. Instead, to please him, 20-year-old Ella married Jan van Ufford of the House of Orange-Nassau. Five years and two sons later, she'd had enough of his arrogance. On one of Ella's visits to her father, now governor of the Dutch South American country of Suriname, she met the dashing, indulgent commoner Joseph A. Hepburn-Ruston. In 1926, they married and moved to Brussels, where Joseph was managing director of the Belgian branch of the Bank of England.

It was a horrendous mismatch; the Hepburn-Rustons fought continually. The child Audrey stayed in her room with her books, convinced the rows were her fault. "Chocolate was my one true love …," said Hepburn, "I've always said it was either chocolate or my nails in those years. There was a lot of anxiety." The loudest fights were at dinner time. By age six, Hepburn was so miserable that she was clinically depressed and went for days without talking—only a chocolate bar or the ballet barre gave her surcease.

By 1931, Joseph was carousing with a sort of expatriate British bund which included Unity Mitford and Diana Mitford Mosley. Sympathetic to Hitler, in 1935 Joseph moved to London where he marched with Oswald Mosley's fascist group, the Black Shirt Brigade. Ella claimed that their eventual split was caused by the Black Shirts, but there were rumors that he had mismanaged the van Heemstra fortune. When Hepburn begged to visit him, her mother capitulated. "Even at age eleven, I knew Hitler was evil," said Hepburn. "But my father supported him. And I loved my father. I prayed that my father would change his mind, and then maybe the family could get back together. I think for the rest of my life I prayed that my family could get back together." To offset the effects of her parents' 1938 divorce, Hepburn was sent to a London school where she seemed to thrive, began to have friends, and enjoyed her weekly ballet lesson. She had effectively learned how to keep her unhappiness a secret but began to suffer from migraine headaches.

Heemstra, Ella van (1900–1984)

Dutch aristocrat who worked in the Resistance. Born in 1900; died in 1984; third of five daughters of Baron Aarnoud Van Heemstra (burgomeister of Arnhem and a lawyer at the court of Queen Wilhelmina ) and Elbrig Van Asbeck (a baroness); married Jan Hendrik Gustaaf Quarles van Ufford of the House of Orange-Nassau (an aristocrat), in 1920; married Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston (an English-Irish banker), in September 1926; children: (first marriage) Alexander and Jan (Ian); (second marriage) Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993).

Ella van Heemstra grew up in a sizeable castle at Doorn in Utrecht, surrounded by a moat. In 1918, her parents sold the estate, now called Huis-Doorn, to Kaiser Wilhelm II as his last refuge when he fled Germany. It is now a museum. One of Ella's sisters was lady-in-waiting for Queen Juliana .

In 1939, when England declared war on Germany, Ella insisted Audrey return to Belgium. Not only was she fearful of a German invasion of Britain, but she knew Joseph's pro-Nazi stance would haunt her daughter while on English soil. Ella took her children to the family estate at Arnhem in Holland, convinced that the Netherlands

would remain a neutral country and that Hitler would never violate its sovereignty. Arnhem was 15 miles from the German border.

By spring 1940, those in the Netherlands were bracing for Hitler's assault, and the formerly pampered baroness had become the unofficial leader of the Dutch Resistance in Arnhem. Using a pro-German, aristocratic cover, she spent hours in strategy sessions, creating codes, and throwing informal parties, mixing royalty with commoners, to recruit for her group.

In May of that year, despite the danger, the Sadler's Wells ballet, featuring Margot Fonteyn , danced in Arnhem. Audrey and her mother were in attendance. Receiving word that Hitler's troops were drawing near, the English dancers nervously abridged their performance, but Ella saw her chance to strengthen the illusion of her pro-German stance. For the benefit of the many Nazi-sympathizers in the audience, Ella, as president of the British-Netherlands Society, stalled the dancer's departure with a long curtain speech, seemingly indifferent to the plight of the British cast, then motioned her daughter to advance with bouquets. As the shy 11-year-old delivered the flowers, Audrey told the artists that she too was a dancer. "It's what I dream about every night." Thirty minutes after the troupe had hastily departed, having abandoned costumes and scenery, German parachutes rained down on Arnhem, and the Hepburn family took to their basement. Said Hepburn:

I was too exhilarated about meeting Fonteyn to be as frightened as I should…. It was almost as if the bombing started and the shooting became constant because I had screwed up my courage and told my idol that I wanted to be a dancer just like she was…. Oddly enough, I think my depression began to lift that night…. I had discovered a purpose in life. I was to become a dancer.

With the invasion, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands fled for England, Arnhem became part of the Third Reich, and the Germans commandeered the van Heemstra house, stripping the baroness of all properties and bank accounts. Though the family was allowed to remain in one section of the house, it was primarily a German headquarters. The brutality of the occupation was felt immediately. When he refused to join the Hitler Youth, Audrey's half-brother Alexander was rushed off to a German labor camp. Then Ella's brother was caught blowing up a train and executed, along with five others, in the town square; his son was also shot. Ella cried for hours, recalled Hepburn:

I had never seen my mother display emotion before, let alone cry…. I was so used to seeing my mother in charge, taking care of things, making them right. To see her lose her senses frightened me beyond measure. I made up my mind I would take care of her from then on. And I realized almost intuitively that the best way to do that would be to let her think she was taking care of me, that she had to be strong to make sure I would pull through.

At the Arnhem School of Music, Jewish teachers were dismissed, German language was required, and everything Dutch was eradicated. Fearing for her daughter's life (there was a Jewish ancestor on the genealogical chart), the baroness pulled Audrey out of the school. Meanwhile, food supplies for civilians were becoming dangerously low, the people of Arnhem were starving.

On the surface, Hepburn accepted Nazi rule; secretly, she helped raise funds for the Resistance. After 70 Dutch children, some of them her friends, were sent to prison for acts of sabotage, she heightened her efforts. The amiable little girl with nothing in her stomach skipped about town with coded messages in her socks, forged signatures on identity cards, and, because of her knowledge of English, greeted English parachutists or downed pilots in the Arnhem woods. At one point, Hepburn found herself standing between an advancing German soldier and a British paratrooper who was hiding behind a rock. "I knew I must appear carefree," she said. Bending down, Hepburn picked some wild flowers and pretended to be startled by the German's arrival; then she handed the flowers to him with a shy smile and received a pat on the head before he walked away. A few minutes later, she was entering town and winking at a streetsweeper, in effect telling him there would be a flyer to hide in his home. The skipping, the whistling, the lightheartedness was all an act. Subsisting on lettuce and an occasional potato, Hepburn lived in a continual state of apprehension:

On a fairly regular basis… I would see families being taken away…. They wouldbe loaded onto wooden train cars, thrown in there sometimes with such force you could hear the bones break. There was very little air to breathe. You could hear people gasping. The sound of that was so frightening, I would begin to gasp, too. I developed asthma soon after…. Everyone seemed to try sohard to maintain dignity. But the spouses were often separated at the station. Of all the tragedies, this one struck me the hardest: that people who loved one another, families, could be pulled apart when they needed each other most.

Then, in 1944, the Germans began rounding up Dutch women for slave labor, and Hepburn was almost caught in the net. While out walking, she had happened upon friends and acquaintances being put into trucks at gunpoint. One of the girls was wearing a red scarf.

I used to see that scarf next to her books all the time when she was studying. It was a comforting, familiar sight. Now I saw her being pushed with the butt of a rifle into a truck. A woman with a limp, whom the Nazis did not take, was trying to pull back this girl. I presumed it was her mother. In those few seconds, I wished the girl would give her mother the scarf. I did not want that red square of pretty material to wind up a ripped and soiled rag in a labor camp. Tears came to my eyes. If I think about it now, I was grieving for the loss of this girl, this human life. But that was too much for me to acknowledge at the time. I just wanted the scarf to be safe and sound.

Moments later, there was a rifle in the small of Hepburn's back, and she was hustled to the boarding area. She watched, terrified, as the Nazis went off to gather more women. Then, for an instant, the only guard became distracted while rolling a cigarette, and she bolted. Fleeing round a corner, she ducked into an alley and raced down the steps into an abandoned cellar. For nearly a month, Hepburn remained there in hiding with the rats. When she finally dared leave for home, she had contracted hepatitis and was suffering from jaundice. "Save for a few tulip bulbs and dirty rainwater," writes Diana Maychick , "she had done without [food] for a month. In her mind, she didn't need it. For the rest of her life, in times of great stress [she] would just stop eating."

In September 1944, with the Allies pushing across France and Belgium, the battle for the bridge at Arnhem began. During the conflict, the subject of Richard Attenborough's film A Bridge Too Far, 10,000 British soldiers parachuted into a three-square-mile area, unaware that two SS German Panzer armored divisions had moved into the region; 8,000 parachuters would be killed. To escape the bombardment, Audrey and her family sat hunched in the basement with 40 others, subsisting on bug-infested flour from which they concocted a sort of gruel, helplessly listening to the screams of British soldiers shot while still floating in the air. Eventually, they took in six injured airmen who landed nearby. On September 23, the Germans ordered the evacuation of the city: 90,000 citizens were forced to evacuate Arnhem, including the Hepburn-Rustons, 3,000 died on the road. In the battle, the town was sacked; only about 200 houses still stood when the fighting ended. The van Heemstra estate had been demolished by a bomb while they were away.

In April 1945, the Allies liberated what was left of Arnhem. The Germans surrendered on May 5, one day after Hepburn's 16th birthday, and her brother Alexander walked home from Germany. For Hepburn, the war was far from over:

I could never get rid of this war. I had to live with it…. So I used what I witnessed to form a philosophy of life. It's simple…. [N]othing is more important than empathy for another human being's suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dignity.

With no assets, the family moved to Amsterdam where the baroness found work as a cook and housekeeper with living accommodations in a basement apartment. Two years later, 18-year-old Hepburn, who had continued her ballet lessons with Sonia Gaskell , convinced her mother to accompany her to London. She wanted to study with Marie Rambert .

Arriving with ten dollars between them, Ella took a job while Audrey trained, did odd jobs for Rambert, and changed her name from Edda Hepburn-Ruston to Audrey Hepburn to "give herself a boost." But the 5′7" Hepburn stood out on stage and found it hard to blend in with the troupe. Just as she was becoming aware that her dream might be impossible, she was hired as a chorus girl in a West End production of the musical High Button Shoes. The casting agent had noted after her audition: "Lousy dancer, great verve."

What set her apart … was her ability to live … with her emotional disabilities…. She herself would have held this to be her good fortune rather than something to admire.

—Robyn Karney

When Hepburn danced in two nightclub revues, audiences began to notice the tall, skinny kid in the back row. She started to model, did a walk-on for a film, and was offered a seven-year contract by Associated British Pictures; mother and daughter finally had enough to eat. There followed a few more years of walk-ons until Hepburn landed a bit part in The Lavender Hill Mob with Alec Guinness. On his recommendation others took note, and Hepburn was cast as a sister to Valentina Cortesa in The Secret People, a movie about the Resistance. At first, Audrey had difficulty facing the emotions of certain scenes reminiscent of life in Arnhem. Sent to a corner to concentrate and dredge up the memories, she proved an apt pupil, and the movie established her as a serious actress.

While Hepburn was shooting a small part in Monte Carlo, Colette visited the set and ecstatically turned to her husband, proclaiming, "Voilà. There's our Gigi." For two years, adapter Anita Loos had been searching for a leading lady for Colette's novella which was headed for Broadway. Convinced she did not have the technique to sustain her acting on stage, Hepburn tried to talk Colette out of it. The more she protested, the more she was wanted. The resulting publicity of the casting of an unknown for Broadway brought other offers, including a screen test for the movie Roman Holiday. Hepburn sailed for New York, gaining 15 pounds on the 18-day voyage, the result of chocolates. It was the first time she had ventured forth without her mother.

The problems started immediately. In rehearsal, she could not project her voice, and the producer joked about her weight. Hepburn stopped eating, losing 20 pounds, along with her energy and self-confidence. With the help of cast-mate Cathleen Nesbitt who was giving her diction lessons on the side, Hepburn finally regained control, and, when Gigi opened on November 24, 1951, she was a New York sensation. The second week, the marquee was transposed from " Gigi with Audrey Hepburn" to "Audrey Hepburn in Gigi." "Oh, dear," said Hepburn. "And I've still got to learn how to act."

For the role of the princess who wanted to be a commoner in the movie Roman Holiday, Paramount was eager to sign her to a seven-year contract, but Hepburn would not agree to the long-term condition. Said Edith Head , the film's designer: "What I liked best about her is that she calculated all her business decisions, but made it look as if she didn't have a clue." Advice generally came from her mother. The baroness was the center of her life, writes Maychick, with more influence than any of Hepburn's future husbands. Hepburn would remain close to her mother, living with her or talking to her on the phone daily, until Ella's death in 1984.

Roman Holiday, which also starred Gregory Peck, would be a huge success. When director William Wyler saw the rushes, he claimed he had:

that rare gut feeling that I was witnessing something very special indeed. She was a princess…. But she was also every eageryoung girl who has ever come to Rome for the first time, and she reacted with so natural and spontaneous an eagerness that I, crusty veteran that I was, felt tears in my eyes watching her…. I knew that very soonthe entire world would fall in love with her, as all of us on the picture did.

The studio was just as ecstatic. Before Roman Holiday was even released, Hepburn was cast for Sabrina, in which she conspired with designer Givenchy to permanently set her style: classic, sleek, simple—the minimal look.

While shooting Sabrina, Audrey fell hard for co-star William Holden, who was married with two children. When she learned that he had had what was then an irreversible vasectomy, Hepburn, who longed for children, cut short the romance, though she remained the love of Holden's life. On the rebound, Hepburn turned to the twice-married actor-director Mel Ferrer; during the courtship, the two co-starred on Broadway in Jean Giraudoux's Ondine in which Hepburn played a water sprite. Unfortunately, Hepburn had a tendency to hand over her power in a relationship, and Ferrer took it gladly, making all decisions, including those concerning costumes. Director Alfred Lunt was irritated by his meddling and rehearsals were tense. Hepburn lost 10 pounds before opening in New York on February 19, 1954. On March 25, she accepted an Academy Award for Best Actress for Roman Holiday. Three days later, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in Ondine. Only one other actress, Shirley Booth , had taken both awards in the same year.

But Hepburn was uncomfortable with her lavish success and felt only the "responsibility to live up to it." She was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Ferrer's domination, along with her mother's dislike of Ferrer, had combined to cause Hepburn to stop eating once again. She even found broth difficult to ingest, and she was now suffering from the effects of malnutrition. In late summer, she had to abandon Ondine and seek doctor-ordered bed rest in Switzerland (the doctors also ordered that neither Ferrer nor the baroness accompany her). The fresh air had its effect, and she slowly began to eat.

Ferrer arrived, proposed, and the baroness reluctantly flew to Switzerland for the autumn 1954 wedding. But something was still wrong. Hepburn hated leaving the house and her eating was once again problematic. Nominated for another Academy Award for Sabrina (Grace Kelly would receive the Oscar for The Country Girl), Hepburn abhorred the fact that she was getting all the attention and let it be known that she would not work without her husband. Soon, however, she was blissfully pregnant. She wanted "lots of babies."

Carlo Ponti was willing to hire Ferrer if Hepburn would take the part of Natasha in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Hepburn agreed, but, in March 1955, she miscarried. Distracted by the loss of her child, she only went through the motions during the filming. "Too much peace, not enough war," complained one film critic, and the movie did not do well. Preferring something light for her next feature, she chose Funny Face. Though thrilled to be dancing with Fred Astaire, Hepburn also had to sing and fight her insecurities. By production's end, she had dropped another 17 pounds.

Following Love in the Afternoon with Gary Cooper, Hepburn took a year off before the 1958 filming of The Nun's Story, a semi-autobiographical account of the life of Marie-Louise Habets , written by Kathryn Hulme . (Hepburn and Habets would become good friends.) Directed by Fred Zinnemann, the movie was "the most substantial film of her career" writes Robyn Karney. The stellar cast included Peggy Ashcroft, Edith Evans , Peter Finch, as well as Colleen Dewhurst who was then little known outside theater circles. Though Hepburn feared working in the Belgian Congo because of her fragile health, "there was no ego," said Zinnemann, "no asking for favours; there was the greatest consideration for her coworkers." It was the "real humility" of Hepburn, he noted, who brought the same aspect to her character in the film. In the movie, Sister Luke is torn between her medical avocation and her vocation. "Most of my roles were depictions of women who knew exactly what they wanted and went out and got it," said Hepburn. "Well, that wasn't me. I was always more like Sister Luke, always a little unsure." In 1959, the movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Actress, but that award went to Simone Signoret for Room at the Top.

A year or two earlier, Hepburn and Ferrer had worked together on a disappointing television production of "Mayerling" in which Hepburn starred as Marie Vetsera . In a second effort to resurrect her husband's flagging career, Hepburn played Rima, the jungle girl, opposite Anthony Perkins, in Green Mansions. The movie, directed by Ferrer, was another major failure.

Once again pregnant, Hepburn thought it better to work than fret, so she undertook the filming of The Unforgiven for John Huston and found herself on location in Durango, a remote area of Mexico, surrounded by baked earth and dust winds. It was an unfortunate decision. She was thrown from a horse that bucked under the lights, causing four broken vertebrae, two sprained ankles, a sprained wrist, and torn muscles in her lower back. After being nursed for 20 days in Los Angeles by friend Habets, Hepburn climbed back on the horse and resumed filming in a back brace, but eventually she miscarried her second child. "I blamed God. I blamed myself. I blamed John Huston…. I felt like hell. I looked like hell. And I didn't care." Deep in depression, she turned down one movie after another, smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day, and refused to eat. Her mother came and went to no avail. Seven months later, in early summer 1959, Hepburn was pregnant once more and took to her bed. Sean Hepburn Ferrer was born on January 17, 1960. His mother was 30 years old.

Habets, Marie-Louise (1905–1986)

Ex-nun whose life was the basis for The Nun's Story. Name variations: Marie Habets. Born in the Netherlands on January 14, 1905; died in May 1986 in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii; lived with Kathryn Hulme (1900–1981), a writer.

Marie-Louise Habets met Kathryn Hulme while nursing at a UN refugee camp in Germany following the war. Hulme was the director of relocation camps in Bavaria. As the two became close friends, Habets told Hulme of her 17 years in the Congo as a nun and her subsequent defection from the convent to work for the Belgian Resistance. Hulme than wrote The Nun's Story, using the fictitious name Gabrielle Van Der Mal (Sister Luke). Habets also formed a strong bond with Audrey Hepburn as they worked together on the movie adaptation. Eventually, Habets would nurse Hepburn back to health after her fall from a horse while shooting The Unforgiven.

Following their work with World War II Displaced Persons, Habets and her companion Hulme moved to the United States, lived in Connecticut, then southern California, then finally in Kapaa, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Hulme died there in 1981; Habets died there five years later, in 1986.

The following year, she appeared in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, playing party waif Holly Golightly and singing "Moon River," written especially for her by Henry Mancini. Though some thought she was miscast, she also took her fourth Oscar nomination. (Sophia Loren was the winner for Two Women.) Next came Lillian Hellman 's The Children's Hour with Shirley MacLaine ; the story concerned two women teachers accused by a child of being lovers. During the filming, Hepburn was tailed by a stalker and her beloved dog Famous was killed by a car on Wilshire Boulevard. Then reviews of the film were lukewarm, almost hostile. Hepburn returned home to Burgenstock, Switzerland, and rarely went out. With her marriage failing, she eagerly accepted a part in Paris When It Sizzles with William Holden, but the filming was a disaster. By then, Holden was an alcoholic, arriving on the set drunk, and Hepburn felt more insecure than ever.

Hepburn was ecstatic when she learned she had the part of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. She assumed she would do her own singing as she had before, and no one said otherwise. Thus, throughout the summer of 1963, she worked 14-hour days to prepare for the film, much of it to improve her voice. The powers that be knew from the start that Marni Nixon would dub her voice, but they did not tell Hepburn. When she found out from underlings, it was the lie that bothered her the most. For the first time in her career, she was prickly on the set.

There were other problems. Furious that Julie Andrews , who had created the part on Broadway, had been shut out, My Fair Lady creator Alan Jay Lerner gave Hepburn the cold shoulder. Said her co-star Rex Harrison: "Audrey also had to weather a great deal of adverse publicity about how much she was being paid, for most of the press had sided with Julie…. Audreyis a very sensitive person, and could not fail to feel all this." The media, usually the first to throw bouquets in its love affair with Hepburn, played up Andrews' winning of an Academy Award that year for Mary Poppins. The columnists seemed particularly gleeful that Hepburn was not even nominated, though My Fair Lady received 12 nominations. She was also panned for lip-synching the vocals. It was another bad year.

Intent on saving her marriage for the sake of her son, Hepburn found an 18th-century farmhouse, La Paisible (The Peaceful), above Lake Geneva in the tiny village of Tolochenaz-sur-Morges, an easy distance from Lausanne. In the winter of 1966, she was pregnant again but miscarried a week after Christmas. Ironically, her next film, Two for the Road, was about the death of a 12-year marriage. On the set, Hepburn seemed to let her hair down and shared a close friendship, some say more, with co-star Albert Finney. Her marriage did not survive the disappointment of another miscarriage in August 1967, and the couple separated that September. Once again, Hepburn stopped eating. Once again, she was down to 94 pounds and refused to go out. "Her cheekbones were so pointy," said her close friend actress Capucine , "I was afraid if I kissed her they would hurt."

On January 18, 1969, Hepburn married Andrea Mario Dotti, a Neapolitan psychiatrist nine years her junior with an aristocratic background. At first, the couple lived in Rome. Soon pregnant, the 40-year-old Hepburn returned alone in April to Tolochenaz to rest in bed for the next six months. On February 8, 1970, she gave birth to another boy, Luca. Shortly after the wedding, rumors of her new husband's philandering had begun to reach her. Even so, she luxuriated in being a homebody, turning down movie after movie, year after year. It was her friend David Niven who convinced her that if she wanted to stop her husband from straying she should stop being the devoted housewife and go back to work. After nine years away from the screen, she filmed Robin and Marian.

Though she did not divorce Dotti until 1982, they had separated much earlier. Meanwhile, Hepburn had met Robert Wolders, who was recovering from the death of his wife Merle Oberon . In 1981, Wolders, who had also grown up in Holland during the war, moved into Tolochenaz and never left. Hepburn began to appear more in public, on his arm.

At home, Hepburn, who had a passion for animals and flowers, spent her days in her garden surrounded by white roses. Though she had no interest in returning to films, she felt purposeless. "I wanted to do something worthwhile. I feel funny … phrasing it that way: 'worth-while.' But I wanted to give back a little of my good fortune—share the wealth, so to speak." Though frail and concerned that her health would not permit her to travel to remote areas, she became involved with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). For five years, she worked with UNICEF, "travelling in conditions that were often physically as well as emotionally painful for her" writes Karney, publicizing the plight of starving children, walking through the slums of Bangladesh, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, the Sudan, Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Vietnam. "She insisted on seeing the worst of the worst," said a UNICEF official who accompanied her. "Lost to the film industry," writes Karney, "she had transcended its ephemeral fame to become an international figure of wider substance."

Convinced she had become famous to use that fame for the good of the children, she became ambassador-at-large in 1988 while Wolders set up schedules and connections. "In the beginning," said Hepburn, "I knew my role was 'the lure.' Starvation in third-world countries was not hot copy." It was Hepburn who first brought the television cameras into Somalia. While there, she began to experience stomach pain. Diagnosed with metastasized colon cancer in November 1992, Audrey Hepburn died two months later on January 20, 1993, with her two sons and Wolders by her side and Dotti and Ferrer in close attendance. She was 63. On the day of her funeral, an exquisite display of flowers arrived from all corners of the globe. Among the profusion was a small bouquet which read, "From all the world's children."

sources:

Karney, Robyn. A Star Danced: The Life of Audrey Hepburn. London: Bloomsbury, 1993.

Maychick, Diana. Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait. NY: Birch Lane Press, 1993.

suggested reading:

Harris, Warren G. Audrey Hepburn. 1994.

related media:

"Gardens of the World," (180 mins.) six-part PBS series, a guided tour with Hepburn of over 60 of the world's best gardens, including Versailles, Mount Vernon, Tintinhull, and Monet's gardens at Giverny.