Sunday, April 23, 2006

Filmmakers I adore... Audrey Hepburn.

Considered a style icon by many, with her oh-so-chic hairstyles and trend setting dress sense, Audrey Hepburn is considered a true movie star. I usually dislike talentless “actresses” who parade around on screens due to their beauty, but Hepburn is luckily not like that at all. If anyone can act, it is her.

I had seen her in a lot of films, but it really took me my first viewing of Roman Holiday to recognise her. As the young princess finding her way round the dusty streets of Rome, she gave one of my favourite performances of all time, effortlessly exuding elegance, a quiet intelligence, and grace. What’s more, her transformation from a princess into ordinary nobody was completely convincing, not overplayed at all, and all her charm was completely winning as she waltzed around Italy with an unabashed innocence. With that, the writing, and her brilliant comic timing, this won her an Oscar, and it was her first serious film role.

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What followed was a starring role as the eponymous Sabrina Fairchild in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina. Here, she played a woman, who at first was in love with William Holden’s playboy, but a few years in France later, she began to succumb to the charms of his brother, Humphrey Bogart. In Roman Holiday, she had had great chemistry with Gregory Peck, who was closer to her age. Here, Humphrey Bogart was 30 years her junior. But the chemistry was still unmistakeable, and their romance was not at all forced, over or underplayed. It was an odd romantic pairing, but it paid off surprisingly well, showing that Hepburn could shine, whoever the leading man.

Her next role was as Natasha in War and Peace. It was a long film, and it certainly tested my patience, but again, Audrey was sublime. Her transition from the purity of youth into wisdom of age was spot-on. It also helped that she looked exactly like how people had expected her character to look like.

One of her definitive genres were the light-hearted costume romps, which were fun whilst they lasted, but ultimately, didn’t linger in the mind for long. Amongst these were Funny Face, Paris When it Sizzles (where she again starred alongside the man who many considered to be the love of her life- William Holden), and How to Steal a Million. Some would argue that My Fair Lady belonged in this genre, but here I would disagree. Having worked on it for my school play this year, I have come to love this play. Professor Higgins and Eliza Dolittle are two famous play/film characters and their slowly forming romance is the key aspect of the story. In the film, Audrey and Rex Harrison are perfect together, and she, as the low class flower girl come English flower, is sublime. Extra brownie points earnt for the delivery of “Just you wait, ‘Enry Iggins, just you wait!”

Some non-comedic roles from Audrey Hepburn that I enjoyed include her turn as a blind woman, being followed by three men who want an item she holds in Wait Until Dark, as well as her work as a nun caught up in a moral dilemma in The Nun’s Story. Two characters in film that the audience truly grow to care about.

One of her most underrated performances was as a schoolteacher caught up in a web of vindictive lies in William Wyler’s then-taboo The Children’s Hour. As the one who suffers the most, she uses her large eyes to a shattering decree, and her relationship between Shirley MacLaine’s possible-lesbian is sensitively portrayed. Though her character is not given a whole lot of baity dialogue, she still manages to create a true character, and one that the audience feel for.

Two of her more light-hearted films that I greatly enjoyed were Two for the Road and Charade, though the latter sadly was Cary Grant and Walter Mattau’s show. The film of the 60s that belonged to her and nobody else was the 1961 romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Holly Golightly is a roller coaster of human emotions – at parties, she flirts and chats with her quintessential 60s chic and wit, but when alone, she can be paranoid and neurotic. Hepburn tackles this tricky role with all the right elements – class, humour, grace and that touch of vulnerability that all comes spilling out in the rainy scene with the cat. Without a doubt, one of the iconic, if not best, performances of all time. Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part, but would it have worked? Nah.

Sometime I saw an ultra-shoddy, made for TV “biopic,” The Audrey Hepburn Story, in which studio producers bastardised such a Goddess by allowing, of all people, Jennifer Love-Hewitt to portray her. Hewitt had none of Hepburn’s qualities, and I guess the only reason they cast her was because she was a petite brunette. The rest was a complete joke. Sad to think that that is what Hollywood is coming to nowadays, but meh, we’ll always have DVDs.

Best Films
01. Roman Holiday
02. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
03. Sabrina
04. Charade
05. The Children’s Hour

Best Performances
01. As Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
02. As Princess Anya in Roman Holiday
03. As Susy Hedrix in The Nun’s Story
04. As Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina
05. As Karen Wright in The Children’s Hour


Kitty said...

It's such a shame how everyone considers Audrey a style Goddess and not an actress. her performances have been the best.

MysticFist said...

Sigh. It's late. School tomorrow. Now what can one say about this goddess when you've done all the work yourself? As I revised my favourite actors list last night, I was shocked to learn that I've seen no more than four of her films... quite surprising, given how much I claim to admire her work. Films seen were Breakfast at Tiffany's which I love (favourite performance ever from an actress), Roman Holiday which is almost as charming, Funny Face which was fun if a little slight, and Robin and Marian which I remember seeing, but that's it. Good post!

Anonymous said...

Disagree with you re Charade. I thought Audrey held her own pretty well against both Cary and Walter. The best scenes in the film all put Audrey front and center. Great film though and what a glorious Henry Mancini score.

clare said...

beautiful, luminous and very talented actress

John A said...

Audrey's character in "The Nun's Story" was Sister Luke or Gabriel Van der Maal, not Susy Hedryx !!!!
Her performance won her the New York Film Critics Award and the Oscar race came down to Audrey or Simone Signoret, the eventual winner. I know, I still have several newspaper articles from that year to prove it.

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Robby Cress said...

Audrey Hepburn really was a stunning actress; so glamorous and sophisticated in an unpretentious way. Everyone should see all her films you've listed.

Best Regards,


Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. film editing classes

Justine said...

Definetely one of the most beautiful and charismatic actresses the screen has ever seen. She has a timeless appeal. My favourite film of hers is definetely Roman Holiday, so wonderful.