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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Audrey Hepburn: Style icon
Audrey Hepburn
Hepburn became a muse for designer Hubert de Givenchy

Seventy five years ago on Tuesday, the late Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels, Belgium, to a wealthy English banker and a Dutch baroness.

This most aristocratic of actresses went on to become a cinematic icon whose unique style and gamine features dominated fashion in the 1960s.

Raised by her mother in England and the Netherlands, the multi-lingual Hepburn grew up far away from the bright lights of Hollywood, but showed an early interest in the stage.

She made her first film, Nederland in 7 Lessen (Dutch at the Double), at the age of 19 while living in the Netherlands.

Following the end of Nazi occupation - a period which triggered depression and malnutrition in Hepburn - she returned to England to study ballet.

Runaway princess

In 1949, she made her London stage debut as a chorus girl in High Button Shoes. After a string of walk-on film roles, Hepburn was picked to play the lead in the Broadway show Gigi.

Hollywood beckoned, and in 1953 she was thrust into the limelight with her turn as a runaway princess in Roman Holiday.

Hepburn's beguiling performance won her the best actress Oscar - which she famously misplaced in the ladies' lavatory - and secured her the pick of Hollywood's leading roles.

I probably hold the distinction of being one movie star who, by all laws of logic, should never have made it.
Audrey Hepburn

In 1954, she played the title role in Billy Wilder's romantic comedy Sabrina opposite William Holden, scooping a further Oscar nomination.

On set, she fell in love with Holden, but broke off the relationship when she discovered he could not have children. She went on to marry actor and director Mel Ferrer, with whom she had one son, Sean.

Funny Face

That year, she returned to New York to star in the stage version of Ondine - a critically acclaimed performance which won her a Tony.

In time Hepburn was to win an Emmy and a Grammy too (best spoken album for children), one of only four performers to win all four major US entertainment awards.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
One of Hepburn's best-loved films was Breakfast at Tiffany's
The actress continued to prove her versatility with her turn in the 1957 musical Funny Face, before returning to romantic comedy in Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon opposite Gary Cooper.

Her dramatic role in The Nun's Story prompted her third Oscar nomination in 1959, while also winning her first British Film Academy Award for best actress.

Hepburn's defining role remains Holly Golightly in Blake Edwards' Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1961.

"Moon River was written for her. No one else had ever understood it so completely," said composer Henry Mancini, referring to the film's poignant signature tune.

In the same year, she starred in the controversial The Children's Hour opposite Shirley MacLaine, one of Hollywood's earliest treatments on the subject of lesbianism.

I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it
Audrey Hepburn

Charitable pursuits

Charade, opposite Cary Grant, saw her win another best actress Bafta in 1963, but it was her turn as Eliza Doolittle in 1964's My Fair Lady that celebrated Hepburn at her most radiant.

Following the 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark in which the Oscar-nominated Hepburn played a blind woman, the actress largely withdrew from the public eye to pursue charitable causes.

In 1969, she married psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, with whom she had one son, Luca, in 1970.

In 1988, Hepburn was named an official spokesperson for Unicef. She continued to make brief reappearances on screen; her final role was playing an angel in Steven Spielberg's Always in 1989.

She died from colon cancer on January 20, 1993 in Tolochenaz, Switzerland, at the age of 63. Her son Sean accepted a posthumous award at the 1993 Oscars in recognition of her humanitarian efforts.

Hepburn receives stamp tribute
12 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Hepburn's sons empty tribute museum
31 Oct 02  |  Entertainment
Breakfast still fresh at Tiffany's
01 Feb 01  |  Entertainment


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