Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. She was a blue-blood and a cosmopolitan from birth. Her mother, Ella van Heemstra, was a Dutch baroness; Audrey’s father, Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston, was born in Úzice, Bohemia, of English and Austrian descent, and worked in business.
After her parents divorced, Audrey went to London with her mother where she went to a private girls school. Later, when her mother moved back to the Netherlands, she attended private schools as well. While she vacationed with her mother in Arnhem, Netherlands, Hitler’s army took over the town. It was here that she fell on hard times during the Nazi occupation. Audrey suffered from depression and malnutrition.
After the liberation, she went to a ballet school in London on a scholarship and later began a modeling career. As a model, she was graceful and, it seemed, she had found her niche in life–until the film producers came calling. In 1948, after being spotted modeling by a producer, she was signed to a bit part in the European film Dutch in Seven Lessons (1948).
Later, she had a speaking role in the 1951 film, Young Wives’ Tale (1951) as Eve Lester. The part still wasn’t much, so she headed to America to try her luck there. Audrey gained immediate prominence in the US with her role in Roman Holiday (1953) in 1953. This film turned out to be a smashing success, and she won an Oscar as Best Actress. This gained her enormous popularity and more plum roles.
In contrast to the “sex goddesses” of the silver screen, Audrey Hepburn had a more wholesome beauty and an aura of innocence and class about her which gained her many devoted fans.
Roman Holiday (1953) was followed by another similarly wonderful performance in the 1957 classic Funny Face (1957). Sabrina (1954), in 1954, for which she received another Academy nomination, and Love in the Afternoon (1957), in 1957, also garnered rave reviews. In 1959, she received yet another nomination for her role in The Nun’s Story (1959).
Audrey reached the pinnacle of her career when she played Holly Golightly in the delightful film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)in 1961. For this she received another Oscar nomination. She scored commercial success again in the espionage caper Charade (1963). One of Audrey’s most radiant roles was in the fine production of My Fair Lady (1964) in 1964. Her co-star, Rex Harrison, once was asked to identify his favorite leading lady. Without hesitation, he replied, “Audrey Hepburn in ‘My Fair Lady.'” After a couple of other movies, most notably Two for the Road (1967), she hit pay dirt and another nomination in 1967’s Wait Until Dark (1967).
By the end of the sixties, after her divorce from actor Mel Ferrer, Audrey decided to retire while she was on top. Later she married Dr. Andrea Dotti. From time to time, she would appear on the silver screen. One film of note was Robin and Marian (1976), with Sean Connery in 1976.
In 1988, Audrey became a special ambassador to the United Nations UNICEF fund helping children in Latin America and Africa, a position she retained until 1993. She was named to People’s magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. Her last film was Always (1989) in 1989.
Audrey Hepburn died on January 20, 1993 in Tolochnaz, Switzerland, from appendicular cancer. She had made a total of 31 high quality movies. Her elegance and style will always be remembered in film history as evidenced by her being named in Empire magazine’s “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time.”