Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lovely Ladies of the Past: Audrey Hepburn, and how I owe her BIG TIME.

My love for Audrey Hepburn goes beyond just admiration for her beauty, grace, and wonderful personality. It is also mingled with gratitude. Yes, gratitude.

I can credit her with lighting a spark that has been very significant in forming who I am today.

You see, Roman Holiday was the first old movie that I ever saw.... I was in 10th grade. Sixteen years old, and I had never, as far as I can recall, seen anything older than Back to the Future! This was due to a complete and utter lack of exposure. My parents are not old-movie people at all (they don't really like anything pre-1960s), well evidenced by the fact that my fondest childhood movie-watching experiences center around me and my dad's bonding-time over countless viewings of Kill Bill and Sleepless in Seattle (I know, kind of a strange combination). And I was just not raised in an environment that brought me any media or culture that wasn't completely modern (music excepted - in that respect I was pretty much raised on the Beatles). History of any nature, to me, was only something academic. History and it's wide range of aesthetics and culture, now so dear to me, were nowhere in my schematic.

One day, age sixteen, I wandered into the T.V. room to find my dad flipping channels and he asked me if I wanted to watch this movie with him, Roman Holiday, because he hadn't seen it since he was a kid and it was known as a "classic", so he would give it a shot as a re-watch. I didn't really want to watch it, but I reluctantly agreed because I figured I could walk out if I got bored/didn't like it, which I expected, since it looked so ancient to me.

I chuckle internally when I reflect on the fact that I thought Roman Holiday was so ancient, since nowadays the 1950s are considered a bit too recent to me, the absolute border as far as my aesthetic interests go (if you read this regularly you know Gee and I are both firm 1930's and early 1940's devotees).

Anyway - I watched the movie. And, to my surprise, I was completely rapt from the beginning. Audrey's unusual and gamine beauty, the clothing that was so beautiful and different from anything that I had ever seen (I think my only exposure to 1950s fashion were DVD covers for seasons of "I Love Lucy" at Target), the style of interaction and dialogue that was utterly charming and genuinely amusing. Not to mention Gregory Peck! When the movie was over, my dad gave his complements to Audrey, then shrugged and walked out of the room. Now, I can almost guarantee that I am exaggerating it in my memory, but I think I just sat there, alone, for a minute feeling a.) sad (because the movie has a sad ending), but more importantly, b.) all shook up. It was like a crack into this hidden universe had opened up, and I knew that I was missing out on something. Something. I didn't know just what, just something, because something had clicked.

It didn't grow into what it is today - this endless passion for vintage/historical aesthetics, films, music, fashion, and culture - for a long time, but as I said, it lit a spark that slowly turned into a fire as I saw more and more older films, learned more about early 20th century culture, and finally discovered, to my relief, that I did love music (pre-1950s was also the click here). In the middle of senior year is when it began to get, ahem, a bit unmanageable (meaning, annoying to my parents and non-history interested friends when I kept talking about these things). I am so thankful I had Gracie as a best friend to grow into this with, as these things also seemed to have this almost genetically predisposed "click" with her.

So, Audrey Hepburn. The beginning of this personal path for me also happened to be the film from the beginning of her star career, but my infatuation with her grew much more after seeing more of her films, reading some of her biographies, and spending much time Googling the hell outta her. I watched all of her big ones, like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Sabrina, but to be honest, the one that sealed the deal on my eternal star-worship of her was Funny Face. This movie is seriously underrated, and it is so heartwarming. Plus, there's Fred Astaire.

Nowadays, besides Funny Face and a select few others of her films, I'm no longer enraptured with Audrey, The Actress. I do, however, remain bewitched with Audrey, The Person. Audrey was known for her kind-heartedness, lack of ego, and consideration for others. She was modest, almost to a fault (she apparently suffered from some self-image problems, which is so difficult to imagine since she seems so perfect!), and those who knew her and worked with her had only good things to say about her. Peter Bogdanovich said of her, "In her life and work she was born to show the world that true grace and innocence, human kindness and hope, can still exist on earth". Gregory Peck said that while other people  thought of her as regal, he thought of her as "spunky". Also, in her older age she did humanitarian work for UNICEF, before celebrity charity work was the cool thing.

Two Audrey quotes that I like: "For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." and "As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others." 

Her famous dance scene from Funny Face:

Her singing voice may not be technically great, but I think it's beautiful:

So here are some pictures of Audrey - mostly from earlier in her life (she was a teen during the 1940s), since that's when she was closer to the aesthetic I like most.

Teenage Audrey!

I think that this was during some of her earlier work with UNICEF...
Teenage Audrey's passport photo.

When she was young her dream was to be a ballerina. Thank goodness for history and cinema that that didn't quite work out... she did get to do some dancing in her films, at least! 

A very young, pre-teen/teen Audrey.

Goofing off on the set of Funny Face. 

- Emily


  1. What a wonderful post!! I think the divine Ms. Hepburn was the impetus for many a vintage girl's transformations; I know she was a huge inspiration to me when I started dressing vintage in 10th grade. And she seemed like such a beautiful person inside and out. I must confess, one of my guilty pleasure shows is "Gardens of the World". Audrey's so elegant and charming that she makes walking around a flower bed seem fascinating!

  2. I know it's a bit past your "time," but I love Audrey's wardrobes in Charade and Two for the Road. Paul and I have been re-watching the early James Bond movies while they're still up on Netflix and I always get charmed by the early-'60s aesthetic!

    You've found some lovely photos I haven't seen before. I just adore Audrey Hepburn's casual clothes, but we don't have the same body type, so it doesn't always work for me! :-(