That face, that elegance. Aubrey Hepburn added class to the world of cinema back in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Not only was she a wonderful actress, but she was also a humanitarian, too. There was so much more to her than people saw and it’s because of this that we put together a list of lesser known facts – tidbits of information – on the classy lady herself, Mrs. Hepburn, who lived from 1929 to 1993. She was 63 when she died of cancer. But her life was full and one to be remembered.
Here’s to the woman who famously said, “Paris is always a good idea.”
Audrey Hepburn isn’t her real name. But that’s not so surprising, considering stars change their names for Hollywood all the time. Audrey’s real name was Audrey Kathleen Ruston, and she was born on May 4, 1929.
In 1940, she started to go by Edda van Heemstra, because it was at the time of WWII and having an English sounding name was dangerous. Eventually, she changed her name to Audrey Hepburn, and that was the name we all came to know.
Hepburn was born in Brussels, Belgium, but her family moved to Holland during the war. Her mother was Dutch, and she believed they would be safe in a country that stayed neutral. But, as you may know, the Germans invaded anyway. Hepburn and her family suffered the famine when all food supplies were cut off.
While people may envy her very slender figure, it was actually the result of being malnourished during her youth.
But she didn’t waste away; she actually helped the Dutch resistance…
When Hepburn was just a young teenager, she did what she could to support the Resistance. When she was doing a screen test for the film ‘Roman Holiday,’ she spoke about how she performed ballet for audiences that were too afraid to applaud because they didn’t want the Germans to catch them.
The money she earned from her recitals were donated to the Resistance. Similar to other Dutch children of the time, she was sometimes a courier, delivering papers and money from one group of resistance workers to another. This work was usually done by children because the Germans seldom checked them.
Before she starred in the movie ‘Sabrina,’ Hepburn was already named America’s Sweetheart. But the public didn’t know anything about her relationship with her costar William Holden. Their strong on-screen chemistry quickly turned into an off-screen affair.
Holden was known for being something of a ladies man, and his wife, Ardis, actually tolerated his misdeeds, writing them off as meaningless flings. Believe it or not, Holden would even introduce his wife to his mistresses. But when it came to Hepburn, Ardis realized that the glamorous young actress was a threat to their marriage.
While Holden indeed wanted to leave his wife for the young starlet; there was one major problem: Audrey desperately wanted to have children. As the story goes, she told him that she wanted to start a family with him, but he told her that had gotten a vasectomy years ago. So she did what she had to do and ended their relationship
Hepburn went almost straight into the arms of actor Mel Ferrer, who was as eager to start a family with her. Paramount Studios was worried that the tabloids might reveal Holden and Hepburn’s affair, so they forced Hepburn and Ferrer to announce their engagement. Not just to announce their engagement, but to do it at Holden’s house in front of both him and his wife. Awkward!
Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe were both major female figures in the same era, but their images were quite the opposite. Monroe was seen as the voluptuous, ditzy and sexy star while Hepburn was considered more sophisticated and elegant.
Did you know that Truman Capote, who wrote the novel ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ actually wanted Monroe to play Holly Golightly in the movie adaptation because he thought she would be more believable as a call girl? In the end, the character had to be changed to fit Hepburn. And the rest is history!
If the two starlets had ever gone out for a ladies night and drank cocktails together, they might have discovered that they had something in common, or SOMEONE to be more exact. They both had dated John F. Kennedy at some point. When JFK was still a single senator, he dated Hepburn. Their relationship wasn’t scandalous, nor was it serious.
It was Monroe that brought the scandal, as she was Kennedy’s mistress during his presidency. We all know about how she famously sang a sultry version of “Happy Birthday” to him at his birthday party. But just one year later, Hepburn was the star who was tasked with singing to the president for his birthday. But no one remembers her much more appropriate performance. She was also devastated when she heard the news of JFK’s assassination. She told the cast of ‘My Fair Lady,’ which she was filming at the time, to pray for him.
The term EGOT is used to describe the few individuals who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. To this day, only 15 celebrities have earned this title, and Hepburn is one of them. Most of us already know that she won the Oscar for Best Actress in her very first film, 1953’s ‘Roman Holiday.’
But it was the year after that when she snagged the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Drama for her performance in ‘Ondine.’ Her Emmy and Grammy were a tad more surprising. She won an Emmy for hosting PBS’s 1993 documentary series ‘Audrey Hepburn’s Gardens of the World.’ The show included Hepburn visiting some of the world’s most spectacular gardens. The series ended up premiering on January 21, 1993, the day after her death.
Her Grammy was also given posthumously…
Hepburn’s Grammy was awarded to her posthumously. She was never admired for her singing voice, as she was considered a mediocre singer. Her voice was actually dubbed in the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ because the producers felt her voice was too weak to carry a musical.
The 1994 Grammy she was awarded was for Best Spoken Word Album for Children, which was ‘Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales.’ It featured her reading classic fairy tales. Hepburn has other awards too, including three Golden Globes and three BAFTAs.
I think it’s safe to say that Hepburn would have been a great Peter Pan. Like Mary Martin, who played Peter Pan on Broadway, she was very petite and could easily have looked “boyish” enough. And her innocence and charm would have carried over well.
And it almost happened following the success of ‘My Fair Lady,’ when Hepburn was planning to reunite with director George Cukor for a live action film of the classic. But the movie was never made because Disney Studios claimed it had exclusive cinematic rights to ‘Peter Pan.’
Rumor has it that Hepburn had to eat tulip bulbs in order to survive the famine during World War II. And then in 1990, her life came full circle when a new hybrid breed of tulip was named after her. The Netherlands Flower Information Society said how the white flower was named after Hepburn “as a tribute to the actress’s career and her longtime work on behalf of UNICEF.”
Hepburn was at the ceremony when they dedicated the flower to her, which even took place at her family’s home in Holland. She spoke in Dutch, expressing her gratitude for the honor. She then gave the first official Audrey Hepburn Tulip to her aunt, Jacqueline.
Remember when she was helping the Resistance in Holland? It was then that she started ballet at a young age, and she hoped to become a prima ballerina. She even went on to study ballet in London, but she was told that she’s too tall (she was 5’7”).
Another issue was because due to her malnourishment during the War, as she became too ill to continue her ballet training. She had to leave ballet behind. She said once, “There is probably nothing in the world as determined as a child with a dream, and I wanted to dance more than I feared the Germans.”
Did you know that Audrey Hepburn was terrified of water and drowning? She had a real fear of water. When she was filming ‘Two for the Road,’ there was a scene where she was thrown into a pool. It really frightened her.
That scene scared the heck out of her, so much so, that she requested that the crew members had to be in the pool, off camera, and ready to grab her if anything went wrong. Poor thing. Something must have happened in the water when she was a kid.
While we don’t really know where her fear of water stems from, we can, however, understand where her fear of horses came from. After an unfortunate incident during the making of the movie ‘Unforgiven,’ she developed a fear of horses.
What happened on that day was the horse threw her off, causing her to break her back. She was never able to ride again after that incident, understandably. I can totally get why she developed a fear. How could you not?
Above and beyond her extremely successful acting career, Audrey made a name for herself as a humanitarian and someone who really wanted to make a difference. She was honored by UNICEF, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in December 1992.
It was given to her because of all the work she did on their behalf. But she was too ill at the time to accept the medal in person. Hepburn once said, “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.”
Hepburn was a huge supporter of UNICEF, mostly because of how much the organization helped her and her family after the war. She said, “I can testify to what UNICEF means to children because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II. I have a long-lasting gratitude and trust for what UNICEF does.”
Hepburn then became an ambassador for the organization in 1988, donating all her earnings from her last three projects to the organization. The names of those projects were Love Among Thieves, Always and Gardens of the World.
Here’s something that can really alter your concept of time. Hepburn was born only a month before Anne Frank. And Hepburn mentioned how she felt a deep connection to the young girl who was wise before her years.
Hepburn said, “I was given [The Diary of Anne Frank] in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend. It destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it, but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life.”
Hepburn helped the Resistance during the War in more ways than one. While performing ballet was one way to help out, she also lent a helping hand in the hospitals. When she was 16, she was a volunteer nurse at a Dutch hospital during the War.
To add an interesting twist to her tale, she helped nurse a young British paratrooper by the name of Terence Young back to health. He eventually went on to become a director, and even directed Hepburn in the movie ‘Wait Until Dark.’
Hepburn always knew she was going to be a mother and longed for the days when she could start a family of her own. But her journey to become a mother was not as easy as she would have hoped. She had to suffer five miscarriages.
She was slim, and her lack of body fat along with her high-stress levels was usually blamed for the miscarriages. But luckily, was eventually able to bring children to this world. She has two sons, Luca Dotti, and Sean Hepburn Ferrer.
Her sons are actually involved in multiple disputes over the treasured items their mother left behind…
Audrey Hepburn‘s sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer, are involved in disputes over the items their late mother left behind, according to Steve E. Young, the lawyer representing the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, which was founded by the half brothers.
A couple of years ago, the Fund filed a lawsuit against Sean Ferrer (her son from her first marriage to Mel Ferrer), claiming that he was interfering in the organization’s efforts to exhibit his mother’s belongings and raise funds for children’s centers in hospitals in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Luca Dotti’s father (from her second marriage) is Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, who’s the chairman of the Fund.
The irony (and the sad truth) is that while everyone adored her and envied her looks, Audrey Hepburn hated her appearance. On what would have been her 90th birthday, her son Luca Dotti revealed something about his mother that not many knew and many would be shocked to hear.
He revealed how his mother hated her nose, her feet, and even her waistline. “She knew people saw her that way, but she didn’t see herself as beautiful at all,” Luca Dotti told The Lady. “She was actually quite self-conscious about her defects – her nose, her feet, too skinny, not enough this or that.”
Luca added in his interview with The Lady: “Of course, I always saw her as my mother; you don’t see her as beautiful or ugly.” He said how she had no issues with growing old, though; that she did so with grace and elegance. He said how she linked beauty with self-respect.
He added how she was very happy about being old. “She perceived her life as seasons: I have been young, I’ve been a mother, and now I am old.” Until she passed away, he and his half-brother Sean didn’t really get a sense of the iconic image she had. She talked to them about school, girlfriends, teenage problems, and their lives.
Luca recalled how, when his mother died, it was “like a double bomb.” The sadness they felt and wanting to be private was too much to bear. The thing was that at the same time, she was on the cover of every magazine. It was a shock for them.
Luca says how he tries to keep his mother’s memory alive with his three sons, keeping her as their grandmother and not the out-of-this-world icon that she was. While her name will also connected to high fashion, Luca admitted that she also had her “chill out clothes too.”
It sure came as a shock to hear that the beauty icon didn’t consider herself as beautiful, but in addition to that, she also didn’t consider herself as a fashion and style icon either. Tons of women wanted to emulate her look – from her hairstyles to her dresses to her oversized sunglasses.
What’s beautiful about her perspective on her style was how she wanted it to be for the masses. As she said, “My appearance is accessible to everyone. With hair tied in a bun, big sunglasses, and black dress, every woman can look like me.”
If you’re anything like me, going to the dentist is a dreaded visit. No matter how clean your teeth are, that half hour of teeth cleaning is one of the most uncomfortable moments in time. Am I right? Well, what if I told you that your dental assistant was Audrey Hepburn?
Ms. Hepburn almost went into dentistry. Before becoming an actress, she trained to become a dental assistant. But then to her luck, a talent scout discovered her, giving her a big break in the Broadway play ‘Gigi.’
Another way in which Hepburn was connected to Anne Frank was that she could have played the role of the young girl in the 1959 film ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ She turned down the role because she felt that it would be too difficult a role to portray.
She also said that it would bring back too many difficult emotions and memories. The actress that did take the role of Anne Frank was Millie Perkins. Perkins also bears a strong resemblance to Audrey Hepburn.
Here’s a fun fact for the fans out there. Audrey Hepburn became good friends with the French designer Hubert de Givenchy. You know, the famous and expensive brand that you can find in the richest areas of Paris, Hollywood, and New York.
The two first met when Audrey came to him looking for dresses for her upcoming movie ‘Sabrina.’ But Givenchy mistakenly thought that Katharine Hepburn was coming in. Although he was a bit disappointed to see Audrey instead, the two ended up hitting it off and forming a real friendship.
Sure, most people have cats and dogs, and then there’s even the occasional bunny and gerbil. But Hepburn wasn’t interested in conventional pets. Rather, she opted to take in a pet fawn (baby deer) named Pippin.
The baby deer was actually a part of the movie she was in called ‘Green Mansions.’ The film’s animal trainer suggested that Audrey take the fawn home so he could get familiar to her. Hepburn fell in love with the little Bambi, choosing to adopt the baby deer once filming was done.
That diamond necklace from Breakfast at Tiffany‘s? Well, only two women have been lucky enough to wear it. And yup, you guessed it, Hepburn was one of them. She was one of the two lucky ladies to have worn the Tiffany Diamond.
She wore the fancy diamond on a necklace for the promotional shots for ‘Breakfast at Tiffany‘s.’ The necklace also had diamond ribbons surrounding the Tiffany Diamond. It was designed by Jean Schlumberger. And while you may think this was her favorite necklace, she said her favorite piece of jewelry was pearl necklace given to her by husband, Mel Ferrer.
Hepburn was supposed to sing for her role in ‘My Fair Lady,’ but as we mentioned before, her voice wasn’t the best there was. The producers weren’t so gung-ho on keeping her voice. So what they did was replace her vocals with those of Marion Nixon.
Hepburn obviously found out, and when she did, she stormed off the set. But she returned the next day and was very apologetic for her “wicked behavior.” And to be honest, it must have been hard to stay mad at her. I mean, look at that face!
The black Givenchy dress that she wore for the 1961 romantic comedy film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ eventually came to be referred to as “the little black dress.” It was designed by Hubert de Givenchy. The dress is cited as one of the most iconic pieces of clothing in the history of the 20th century.
It’s also the most famous “little black dress” of all time. So much so, that the dress she wore was sold at an auction for an incredible $900,000 in 2006. And if any dress is worth close to a million dollars, let it be that one.
Hepburn was lucky enough to have starred in some of the greatest films of her time, and more often than not, she co-starred with leading men who were quite a bit older than her. For instance, Humphrey Bogart in ‘Sabrina’ was 29 years older than Hepburn at the time.
Then there was Fred Astaire who she starred alongside in ‘Funny Face,’ who was also 29 years older than her. And then there was the dear Cary Grant in the movie ‘Charade’ who was 25 years older. That’s quite an age gap if you ask me!
Givenchy and Audrey’s friendship created some exciting things. Like how he created a perfume specifically for Hepburn in the 1950s. And then after a couple of years, it also became available to the public.
The perfume was named L’interdit (which translates from French to “forbidden”). It has scents of rose, jasmine, and violet, as well as blends of woodsy and grassy scents. A bottle of Givenchy L’interdit for women goes for about $110 these days.
Audrey had a real love for gardening. “To grow a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” she once said. Her son Luca said how he later found out why gardening was so important to his mother. As soon as the war broke out, gardening for pleasure was out of the question, and during the Winter of Hunger (when food supply was cut off), there was nothing to eat at all.
But then on May 5th, 1945, Holland was liberated. It was one day after his mother’s birthday. So after the most terrible winter of her life, liberation came with the spring, and with spring came food. And she developed a love for growing plants and vegetation.
To prove just how influential Hepburn was, there’s something else that was named after her. Not only was a tulip named after the amazing woman, but so was a street. Hepburn was gifted with the name of a street in Holland, Audrey Hepburnlaan, in 1959.
In the photo, you can see her when she attended the unveiling of the street named after her, which is located in Doorn, Holland. As you can see, it was quite an event, and she was clearly enthusiastic about it.
It’s funny when we look back at old movies and shows and see people smoking indoors constantly. Heck, when I see ashtrays in the armrest on the airplane, I’m shocked that people were allowed to smoke on airplanes! Can you imagine now sitting in a hall of smoke? Anyways, smoking was popular in Hollywood.
And you can say that Audrey Hepburn was a smoker, to say the least. She was actually known to smoke upwards of three packs a day! Yeah, I also think that’s a little much.
When Hepburn finally got pregnant in 1967, she decided to take a hiatus from acting so that she could raise her sons. But taking a hiatus as a successful actress can really take a toll on your resume as well as your bank account.
While she was off and raising her sons, she was offered roles in a bunch of films, including ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips,’ ‘Nicholas and Alexandra,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ But she turned them all down. Being a good mom was her priority. And we love her all the more for it.
Yet another honor was given to Hepburn. This time it was in the form of a stamp. In 2003, the US Postal Service honored her work as a humanitarian and Hollywood actress with the commemorative 37 cent stamp.
Other stamps have her iconic face on them too and have even been auctioned off. A stamp with the image from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was supposed to be published in 2001, and millions of copies had already been printed. But her sons refused to give their consent because Audrey Hepburn was pictured with a cigarette holder in her mouth and. They didn’t want that image immortalized on a stamp.
It’s always interesting when celebrities claim to be introverted, preferring to be alone rather than with other people. Well, Audrey is one of those people. She was never a big fan of going out and spending time with others and considered herself to be an introvert.
“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” And you know what, I totally understand where she’s coming from!
After appearing in the movie ‘Wait Until Dark’ in 1967, Hepburn went into semiretirement. She had divorced Ferrer in 1968 and married a prominent Italian psychiatrist. She wanted to focus on her family rather than her career.
She did, however, return to acting in 1976, when she co-starred in ‘Robin and Marian.’ She appeared in a few other films, and in 1988 she began her career as a special goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.