Classic Video Showplace

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Audrey Hepburn (Part 2)

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

Last week here at the Showplace, we discussed legendary film actress Audrey Hepburn’s troubled early years and her determination to avoid oppression and family tragedy throughout World War II, along with highlighting her rise to becoming one of the all-time leading ladies in Hollywood.  

Today we focus on the second half of Hepburn’s film career successes and her incredible spirit to help starving children around the world.

Arguably, Hepburn’s greatest and most identified film contribution, My Fair Lady, was filled with controversy.  

Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Eliza Doolittle on Broadway, was passed over for the movie role when Producer Jack Warner thought Hepburn’s reputation would help bring in more movie-goers than the then relatively unknown Andrews.  Hepburn herself recommended that Andrews take the role but eventually relented. (Ironically, Andrews would be offered the titular role in Mary Poppins later that same year and won an Academy Award for her performance.)

While the casting caused a rift on the set, further conflicts occurred halfway through filming when Hepburn was informed that most of her singing would be overdubbed.  She walked out of the production but returned several days later to finish the project.  Despite the reported difficulty Audrey had with castmates and crew, the film won multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture and has been regarded as one of the greatest film musicals of all-time.

Hepburn continued to star in great films throughout her career, but she was publicized just as much for her humanitarian efforts over the next three decades, culminating in 1989 by being awarded UNICEF’s International Danny Kaye Award for Children.

She continued to visit foreign countries and used her considerable influence to call attention to areas around the globe that were stricken with children’s poverty and starvation…right up until her death from abdominal cancer in 1993.  Among the many high profile celebrities to attend her funeral included her first major motion picture co-star, Gregory Peck, who delivered a tear-filled eulogy to the late actress.  His speech came nearly 50 years after he helped give Heburn her first big break five decades before.

Hepburn is one of only a small handful of entertainers ever who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards. She also won a record three BAFTA Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role.   She was ranked by the American Film Institute as the third-greatest female screen legend from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and was inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

But it is also her charitable efforts that helped define her life story.  She received posthumous awards like the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarding her the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity.  Also, in 2002, at the United Nations Special Session on Children, UNICEF honoured Hepburn’s legacy of humanitarian work by unveiling a statue, “The Spirit of Audrey”, at UNICEF’s New York headquarters. Her service for children is also recognised through the United States Fund for UNICEF’s Audrey Hepburn Society.

You can see some of Hepburn’s most memorable film performances on RCN-TV, including Charade, this Friday night at 9:30. 

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