In the last "Guide to" I tackled the coolest movie star ever. Why not follow it up with the most elegant? Audrey Hepburn was more than just a movie star. Today she's almost a brand. If she were to be alive today you'd defiantly see her clothing line, perfume and all the rest of it. Audrey Hepburn passed away almost 15 years ago and had fallen out of the movie world for an approaching 40 years. Still, to this day there's no one that is more of a fashion icon. She famously had an amazing working relationship with fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy. Yet, I'm not here to discuss her legacy as a fashion icon. There's no possible way I could or would want to. This column is dedicated to Audrey Hepburn: movie star.
This was Audrey Hepburn's first major movie role. She plays Princess Ann, a young woman trapped by her royal duties. One night as she's visiting the city of Rome, she escapes for a night on the town. After getting quite drunk, Princess Ann ends up in the care of a reluctant American newspaper journalist(Gregory Peck). In the morning once the newspaper man learns of the amazing story that has fallen in his lap he stops at nothing to make the Princess' roman holiday(like that?) the best story he can. In a role that was originally intended for Cary Grant(you'll see that mentioned again), Peck tackles a genre he rarely ever did. Though he plays the role of romantic lead well, it is and will always be known as the film that introduced the world to Audrey Hepburn. Peck famously requested her name be put above the title with his own because he knew she was so good she'd easily win the Oscar for Best Actress. Wouldn't you know, she did.
Sabrina is one of several Billy Wilder movies that really needed Cary Grant in the lead role. In most cases Grant was Wilder's first choice, but he never was able the make a single movie with the quintessential leading man. In Sabrina we ended up with Humphrey Bogart. In real life Bogart was supposed to have, well, less than enjoyed working with Audrey. On film though, the two had a sweet chemistry. Hepburn plays the daughter(she played a lot daughters) of the chauffeur for a rich family with two sons. The first, played by William Holden, is her undying crush. He's flashy and a ladies man. The second, Bogart, is the head of the family business. He's alone and boring. When the daughter becomes a woman she receives the attention of the family playboy. In attempt to keep the chauffeur's's daughter away from the prized son, the boring brother tries to occupy her time. Only the more and more time she spends with him she finds him less and less boring. Who does she choose? The flashy crush or the boring business man that may have a heart of gold?
Audrey's most praised musical would come in 1964 with the Best Picture winner, My Fair Lady. Her best would actually have come seven years earlier. Funny Face is about a bookworm(Audrey) who is discovered by a fashion photographer(Fred Astaire) and is made into a model. The two sing and dance in between going to Europe and falling in love. I'm really not a fan of musicals, but Funny Face is defiantly one I can really enjoy. The musical numbers are obviously dated, but it's 1950's cinema. You don't have to be a fan of that decade of film to enjoy Funny Face, but I suppose it helps. Whether you're a fan of musicals or not, for viewing Audrey Hepburn at her best, you have to see Funny Face.
Love in the Afternoon
Remember what I said about Billy Wilder and Cary Grant? Well, you can double that for Love in the Afternoon. Instead of Bogie, Audrey ended up making love with Gary Cooper. Now, not to bash the movie. No, not by any means. Once you get past Cooper looking like Audrey's grandfather, there's actually a sweet little romantic comedy hidden below. Audrey Hepburn plays the daughter of a private detective who specializes in adulterous affairs. Overhearing one of her father's clients plans to kill his cheating wife and her lover, Audrey decides to try and stop the husband from carrying out his murderous plan by switching places at the last second with the wife. The other man(Cooper) becomes infatuated with this elusive girl who pretends to be anything but who she is. There's no greatness here, but it is a nice romantic comedy back when romantic comedies were good.
Finally, we got to see Audrey Hepburn star with Cary Grant. Despite a few attempts from Billy Wilder, Audrey and Grant finally made a movie together under helmer Stanley Donen. Donen set Hepburn and Grant as a pair trying to solve the mystery of Hepburn's late husband's stolen fortune. The two have a little competition in the form of the dead husband's cheated fellow thieves(including James Coburn). Charade plays like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but is never as refined. The plot is nothing really memorable. It's the interaction between, maybe the two greatest movie stars of their gender that makes the movie so much fun. The movie smartly put Hepburn in the role of pursuer of Grant, who was almost 25 years older than Hepburn. The age difference never becomes creepy and is always playful. Charade was remade in 2002 as The Truth About Charlie. As usual, the original is much, much better.
How to Steal a Million
The romantic comedy was nothing new for Audrey Hepburn, but in 1965 it was uncharted waters for Peter O'Toole. In How to Steal a Million Hepburn plays the daughter of an art forger. When the museum her father sold a priceless sculptor to schedules an authenticity test Audrey enlists the help of a new acquainted art thief(O'Toole) to steal her father's fake back. O'Toole may have been more famous for his dramatic work, but he pulls of the role off a romantic comedy lead with much likeability and timing. We see a new side of O'Toole, but from Audrey we see what made her a star. It was Audrey's mixture of regal and innocence that put her on a pedestal. Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor existed in world where in the end they had sex with the good guy. You never saw Audrey in that light. For about the last time, in How to Steal a Million Audrey was at her elegant best.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Well, author of the book Truman Capote may have hated it, but fans of film defiantly have not. Breakfast at Tiffany's is the story of two characters(one male, one female) that sell themselves through sex. The movie never puts it that bluntly, but that's the truth of the story. Amazingly, director Blake Edwards rarely touches on the truly sad side of the two characters horrible situation in life. The story is told through the eyes of Paul Varjak(George Peppard) as he encounters his neighbor, Holly Golightly(Audrey Hepburn). Holly is a ball of energy and life. Paul is captivated by such a whimsical person. Eventually, the two fall in love as it's to be expected, but the problem is that both are essentially prostitutes. The dark tale of human imperfection is altered to be more of a crazy 60's comedy. It's an alteration that rarely works, but it does here. Breakfast at Tiffany's gave Audrey Hepburn her most memorable role in Holly Golightly. The image of Audrey standing in front of Tiffany's department store eating in the early morning is as iconic as any image of Hepburn. There are many quintessential Audrey films, but this is THE quintessential Audrey Hepburn film.
Now, I know just about any Audrey fan will be shaking their heads at me for some of the movies I failed to list. Well, these would be my choices as to what the best movies to watch for seeing Audrey be Audrey are. There's no way I could write a column on the best Hepburn movies without mentioning The Nun's Story or Wait Until Dark. If you want to see Audrey's best display of acting, it's those two movies that probably are at the top of the list. The Nun's Story and Wait Until Dark are both very serious films. As great as she was in drama, Audrey Hepburn is best to be remembered for her work in movies with light topics. No one should ever have any other emotion when thinking of Audrey Hepburn than joy.
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Andy is a life long movie fanatic. The first movie he saw in the theater was Back to the Future, Part 2 at the age of 3 and he has loved movies ever since.|
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