I believe that Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe may be the two most iconic figures who have represented female beauty in the movies. But, while Marilyn was blonde, voluptuous and an image of pure sexuality, Audrey was the more fragile, doe-eyed waif who really captured our hearts. Certainly Audrey Hepburn has always been my favourite actress, and much of her appeal is in that pixieish figure with the big dark eyes. Tragically, Audrey left us in 1993 at the relatively early age of 64, after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. She'd largely retired from films after Robin and Marian in 1976, devoting her last few years to helping the children of the world through her association with UNICEF. Audrey was truly a beautiful woman, through and through - a genuine class act.
Interestingly, Audrey only made about 30 films, and probably not more than 20 of those would be well known to her fans, starting with her Oscar winning role in Roman Holiday in 1953. I've seen all of her major films but two: War and Peace and The Unforgiven, although I do own them on DVD just waiting to be watched. I'd be hard pressed to name my absolute favourite, but My Fair Lady, Funny Face and Charade would be right up there. But then there's so many others that I love too!
One of my earliest movie memories is of seeing My Fair Lady at the drive-in with my parents, though I'm guessing it may have been in a reissue several years after it first debuted in 1964. I've seen it dozens of times since, as I consider it the perfect musical film, despite the fact that poor Audrey didn't get to do her own singing as the cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. She was able to show off all of her talents in Funny Face a few years earlier, though, singing and dancing alongside Fred Astaire. The sequence in the Parisian café, where Audrey, in a black leotard and hair up in a ponytail, does a modern jazz number is just a stunner. She'd had training as a ballerina in her youth and it's really a shame that she wasn't given more opportunities on film to display her incredible dancing ability. As for her singing, though not as notable as her dancing, I still find her voice to be warm and lovely when she sings the wistful and poignant "Moon River" in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Composer Henry Mancini figured out what a comfortable vocal range was for Audrey, and wrote "Moon River" tailored specifically to her admittedly limited range. Frankly, I find it hard not to get misty-eyed when I hear her singing it as she strums her guitar in her Manhattan apartment window. It's a very beautiful sequence.
For my caricature of Audrey Hepburn, I had first started doing some sketches of her (including the one above) from Paris When It Sizzles, in which she costars with William Holden. Though I love her 1960's stylish looks in that film, I must admit that I find the film itself to be one of her weakest. Therefore, I decided to switch my attention to her role in Charade, where she costarred for the only time with the wonderful Cary Grant. This was a team-up on screen that was just meant to be, with the two stars obviously enjoying working with each other immensely. For me, that was Hollywood royalty at its best, and the film itself just sparkles with wit and sophistication.
Interestingly, just recently I heard a couple of my Sheridan animation students discussing Charade before class started, as it turns out they're both big Audrey Hepburn fans themselves. And so I would like to dedicate this post to students, Justin Hartley (a fellow classic film buff, pictured in my recent Sheridan caricatures post) and Nicole Kozak, who coincidentally resembles Audrey Hepburn with her big dark eyes, as you can see in this caricature of her at right!
So, now let's end off this tribute to lovely Audrey with the aforementioned scene of her singing "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Enjoy!