In theory, this column is intended to celebrate those who don’t get talked about as much. The obscure. The forgotten. The people behind the scenes without whom movies could not exist but whose names few people remember. And I’m proud of that, and I think I do that more often than not, and even when I talk about big names, I talk about aspects of them that we don’t hear about often. Elvis Presley, Serious Actor. Vincent Price, Gourmet. Mary Pickford, Mogul. And that’s just the letter “P.” One of these days, we’ll talk about Lucille Ball, television executive. So I could, I suppose, talk about Audrey Hepburn, Humanitarian. Mostly, though, it’s that it’s Mothers’ Day weekend, and I’m going to talk about someone I love and you can’t stop me because it’s my column.
Though goodness knows there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to Audrey Hepburn, Humanitarian. Her work for others started during her childhood in occupied Europe, doing ballets to earn money for the Dutch resistance—and sometimes working as a courier, carrying messages in her dolls, which the Nazis wouldn’t search because seriously, dolls. She worked for UNICEF I suspect in no small part because she hoped to create a world wherein no child would be as malnourished as she had been as a child. Which is a noble goal—she ate tulip bulbs and tried to bake bread out of grass.
I wonder, in fact, how much her extraordinary beauty—and I think she was possibly the most beautiful woman of the twentieth century—came from that. She actually thought that she was funny-looking. But she was 5’7″ and had size 10 feet, and she was determined not to weigh more than 103 pounds. Her feet indicate to me that she should’ve had the bone structure to weigh considerably more than that. Being constantly hungry through puberty would shape her body—indeed, I wonder how tall she would have been in other circumstances.
When they made Roman Holiday, they did not initially intend to put her name over the title. Costar Gregory Peck told director William Wyler told him that, if they didn’t, they’d feel awfully stupid when she won Best Actress. Which she did, of course. It was her first serious movie role; she’d done six movies, including a minor part in The Lavender Hill Mob, but Princess Ann was her breakout role. And, indeed, she won Best Actress. Her only win out of five nominations. (Though she did get a posthumous Hersholt.) It also remains my favourite movie of all time.
I don’t know; I almost feel as though talking about her as an actress isn’t something we do much. Style icon? Yes. Incredibly beautiful woman? Assuredly. But actress? If that were true, Wait Until Dark would come up as often as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Heck, Roman Holiday would come up as often as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Don’t get me wrong; I like Breakfast at Tiffany’s okay. But I sometimes wonder if the people using images of it have seen more than the opening credits.
You see, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she projects hard and shining. Damaged and fragile. Gentle and loving. It’s a better performance than people give it credit for. There’s more to it than pearls, a cigarette holder, and a little black dress. Holly Golightly may be a style icon, but she’s not exactly a personal hero. Sabrina Fairchild is better for that, and even she’s got her issues. Maybe we could consider Princess Ann or Regina Lampert or Susy Hendrix instead? In a just world, none of those would be as deep cuts as they seem to be.
Help me afford my own personal style; consider supporting my Patreon!