There have been several biographies written about the late Audrey Hepburn, yet none have been as intimate as that penned by her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer. Rather than focus on the politics of her film roles or marriages, his non-gratuitous firsthand account of the actress acknowledges Audrey’s talents on the screen that made her an icon, yet primarily focuses on another of her rare qualities that made her so beloved by the public: her genuinely kind and empathetic nature. Sean details his mother’s childhood in World War II during the German occupation of Holland, an experience she revisited throughout her life. This also led to her future involvement in UNICEF, as the early form of the organization, alongside the Red Cross, provided many of the survivors, including Audrey, with drastically needed food, medication, and clothes immediately following the war.
Sean profiles his mother through snippets of heartwarming memories (and favorite spaghetti al pomodoro recipe), as well as accounts from various co-workers and friends. When preparing for a leisurely night out, Audrey proclaimed to Sean, “Oh, if only I could stay home and eat in the kitchen with you.” Fred Astaire, her co-star in 1957’s Funny Face said, “…I loved Audrey. She was just about one of the most lovely people that you could ever meet or work with, my goodness.” Aside from the affection she received in relationships and by the public, the absence of her emotionally invalid father in childhood resulted in a great amount of time spent in an attempt to rid herself of that loss-whether through romantic relationships or by ensuring that her own children, and those she met through her work with UNICEF, didn’t face the hardships she had once faced.
Audrey’s later life was devoted to her work with UNICEF, where she visited third world countries and advocated strongly on behalf of those she met on her frequent trips; particularly for the rights of children. Despite the degree of attention she had brought, and continues to bring, to the cause, she wished she could have had a greater impact on what she believed in so strongly, but felt that the time spent away from film sets in order for care for her two boys happened to aid her impact. In this way, she felt “glad that she hadn’t overused her image, because when UNICEF work was offered to her, the public still had an interest in her.” This degree of humility and selflessness speaks volumes of who Audrey Hepburn was, through the many happy memories of one who knew her best.
Feature photo also includes Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, by Sam Wasson (both excellent reads :)
Photos taken with a Nikon D7000.