Hepburn, Audrey

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Hepburn, Audrey

Audrey Hepburn, 1929–93, film actress, b. Brussels as Audrey Kathleen Ruston. The daughter of an English banker and a Dutch baroness, she and her mother lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation. Moving to London, she studied ballet and acting, modeled, danced, and played bit parts before being cast in the title role in the Broadway production of Gigi (1951). Thereafter, except for one other stage role (Ondine, 1954, Tony Award), she worked exclusively in films. Hepburn's luminous beauty, elfin slimness, unplaceably patrician accent, and blend of wistful simplicity and worldly chic are particularly evident in such roles as the young princess in Roman Holiday (1953; Academy Award), her first star turn; the chauffeur's daughter in Sabrina (1954); clerk turned model in Funny Face (1957), and the fabulous Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). She was a major star of the 1950s and 60s, playing opposite many of the era's leading men. Her other films include War and Peace (1956), The Nun's Story (1959), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964), and Wait until Dark (1967). She retired in the late 1960s and devoted much of her life to humanitarian causes, becoming (1988) goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Occasionally she returned to the screen, gracing such unremarkable films as Robin and Marian (1976) and Always (1989).

See memoir by her son S. H. Ferrer (2003); biographies by A. Walker (1994), B. Paris (1996), and D. Spoto (2006); J. Vermilye, The Complete Films of Audrey Hepburn (1995).

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