Classic Video Showplace

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Audrey Hepburn (Part 1)

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In honor of Women’s History Month, the Showplace will feature prominent female-driven classic programs and films…and women who “changed the game” and made a lasting impact in the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond.

While Audrey Hepburn is known as one of the greatest actresses of all time, she also should be remembered for amazing contributions to the world through her humanitarian and charitable efforts.

Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4th, 1929 in Belgium.  To avoid possible occupation at the start of World War II, the family moved to the Netherlands–a decision which proved costly.   

In 1942, Hepburn’s uncle was executed in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement. While he had not been involved in the act, he was targeted due to his family’s prominence in Dutch society.  Hepburn’s half-brother Ian was deported to Berlin to work in a German labor camp, and her other half-brother Alex went into hiding to avoid the same fate.

After the war, Hepburn began taking ballet lessons and got her first motion picture role in 1948’s Dutch in Seven Lessons.  After several small roles on film and television, she earned her first starring role in Roman Holiday, winning her first Academy Award for Best Actress.  She also began a lifelong friendship with co-star Gregory Peck, who reportedly insisted her name appear about the title with his, even though she was still relatively unknown before the film’s release.

Later in 1954, she starred on Broadway in Ondine, becoming just one of three actresses to date to win an Oscar and Tony Award in the same year.  Other starring and critically acclaimed roles followed, like Sabrina, (with Humprey Bogart and William Holden), War and Peace (co-starring Henry Fonda), Love in the Afternoon (with Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier), The Nun’s Story (with Peter Finch), The Unforgiven (opposite Burt Lancaster) and Paris When It Sizzles (again co-starring with Holden).

Hepburn next starred as New Yorker Holly Golightly, in Blake Edwards’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a film loosely based on the Truman Capote novella of the same name. The character is considered one of the best-known in American cinema, and a defining role for Hepburn.   The dress she wears during the opening credits has been considered an icon of the twentieth century, and perhaps the most famous “little black dress” of all time.  According to a November 1st, 1964 article in “The New Yorker,” Hepburn stated that the role was “the jazziest of my career” yet admitted: “I’m an introvert. Playing the extroverted girl was the hardest thing I ever did.”  She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Hepburn teamed with Director Stanley Donen for two classic early 1960s films, Two for the Road (with Albert Finney) and Charade (co-starring Gary Grant).

Grant initially balked at the idea of Hepburn playing his on-screen love interest in the latter film–pointing out a 26-year difference in the actors’ ages.  However, upon meeting Hepburn for the first time before production, he was so enchanted by her that he agreed to do the film.  However, he did demand some of the “love scenes” be re-written to play up the comedic-side of the relationship and downplay the age discrepancy.  Hence, scenes like the famous “Suit in the Shower” sequences were born, and Charade became another one in a series of cinema classics starring Miss Hepburn.

Audrey was just beginning to make her mark in both films, as a female role model and as a person trying to improve the quality of life for those less fortunate.

We’ll examine more highlights in the legendary career and life of Audrey Heburn, both in Hollywood and around the world, next week here at the Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see one of Hepburn’s most memorable performances on the silver screen in the film classic, Charade, on Friday, March 19th at 9:30 p.m. on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.