Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Audrey Hepburn!

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!


Anonymous said...

I loved the caricature, it's really good! Congratulations! =)

Unknown said...

Great post, Pete!
I love reading about Audrey and this is a nice little tribute. I would have to say my favorite films of hers are Charade and Roman Holiday. Though I do enjoy My fair lady, Wait Until Dark, and of course Tiffany's.

Actually, I was recently exchanging links to some of Audrey's quotes with Hartley - she always seems so selfless and endearing.

Some of my favorites:

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”

“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!"

"There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don't need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain."

"Since the world has existed, there has been injustice. But it is one world, the more so as it becomes smaller, more accessible. There is just no question that there is more obligation that those who have should give to those who have nothing."

" The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years"

Enjoy :)

Thad said...

Oh NICE. I saw the top colored one on Facebook thumbnail size and immediately knew who it was. I tried to watch Charade recently but couldn't finish it - because the DVD was scratched beyond repair.

Any chance of some Marilyn caricatures, Pete? She's my favorite - you have to give the edge to one of the few actresses who can make a room full of even the surliest men bust their guts laughing.

Bill Field said...

Pete! Yet another perfect drawing that really encapsulates the beauty of Audrey Hepburn.

David R said...

I first saw Hepburn in her last role in "Always." A Spielberg film, but alas not a very good one.

Tony DiStefano said...

Thats a beauty Pete.Love the color style.And thank you for posting a drawing.You have a wonderful combo of strengh and flow to your lines.
Always enjoy your blog!

allen mez said...

Fantastic portrait Pete. I'd love to see you render her dancing in the Parisian café. What an incredible scene that is on every level. Thanks.

Caroline Hung said...

I'd been waiting for the day you'd post an Audrey Hepburn caricature! Gorgeous!

I was brought up on all these lovely classics and oh gosh, some of my FAVOURITES starred Ms. Hepburn. Roman Holiday, War and Peace, My Fair Lady, The Children's Hour (which no one seems to know enough about sadly)...
She was a real inspiration in a lot of ways.
Your post was a lovely little tribute.

Pete Emslie said...

Hi Caroline,

I'm glad to know you're also a fan of Audrey Hepburn and classic movies. I've certainly seen "The Children's Hour" and I agree it is one of her lesser known films, likely because it is a completely dramatic role (and such a heartbreaking story!) Interestingly, that film stars not only my favourite actress, but my favourite actor as well - James Garner, whom I've written about previously on several occasions. (Must confess, I'm not a big Shirley Maclaine fan, however.)

Justin Hartley said...

Awesome stuff Pete! So glad we were able to nerd it up haha! I've actually been in a bit of a gangster phase the past week, just watched "Little Caesar", "Scarface: The Shame of a Nation" and I'm in the middle of "The Asphalt Jungle" right now! I really wish I'd have seen that original Scarface before I'd seen the new one (no offense to Pacino, but he just ain't no Muni ;P). I'll definitely be catching up on all the Audrey films I haven't seen yet this summer as well! :D

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Pete, watch a Hepburn film called "Wait Until Dark". A terrific, terrific, film in which Audrey H plays a blind women conned by three dangerous men in her apartment.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Justin: Watch a film called The Roaring Twenties. A very underrated gangster flick with the two god's of that genre: James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.

Justin Hartley said...

"The Roaring Twenties" is next on my list of Cagney films to watch! :D I've heard lots of good things about it, can't wait!

Martin Juneau said...

Audrey Hepburn is a true woman like we don't see so much. It makes me envies to study classic films if they have a true business on it where i live. Great work and nice tribute to her. She deserve it!

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