Actress, philanthropist. Born on May 4, 1929, in Brussels, Belgium. A talented performer, Audrey Hepburn was known for her beauty, elegance, and grace. Often imitated, she remains one of Hollywood’s greatest style icons. A native of Brussels, Hepburn spent part of her youth in England at a boarding school there. During much of World War II, she studied at the Arnhem Conservatory in The Netherlands. After the Nazis invaded the country, Hepburn and her mother struggled to survive. She reportedly helped the resistance movement by delivering messages, according to an article in The New York Times.
After the war, Hepburn continued to pursue an interest in dance. She studied ballet in Amsterdam and later in London. In 1948, Hepburn made her stage debut as a chorus girl in the musical High Button Shoes in London. More small parts on the British stage followed. She was a chorus girl in Sauce Tartare (1949), but was moved to a featured player in Sauce Piquante (1950).
That same year, Hepburn made her feature film debut in 1951’s One Wild Oat in an uncredited role. She went on to parts in such films as Young Wives’ Tales (1951) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) starring Alec Guiness. Her next project on the New York stage introduced her to American audiences.
At the age of 22, Audrey Hepburn went to New York to star in the Broadway production of Gigi, based on the book by the French writer Colette. Set in Paris around 1900, the comedy focuses on the title character, a young teenage girl on the brink of adulthood. Her relatives try to teach her ways of being a courtesan, to enjoy the benefits of being with a wealthy man without having to marry. They try to get a friend of the family, Gaston, to become her patron, but the young couple has other ideas.
Only a few weeks after the play premiered, news reports indicated that Hepburn was being wooed by Hollywood. Only two years later, she took the world by storm in the film Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck. Audiences and critics alike were wowed by her portrayal of Princess Ann, the royal who escapes the constrictions of her title for a short time. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this performance.
The next year Hepburn returned to the Broadway stage to star in Ondine with Mel Ferrer. A fantasy, the play told the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a human played by Ferrer. With her lithe and lean frame, Hepburn made a convincing sprite in this sad story about love found and lost. She won the 1954 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance. While the leading characters in the play grew apart, the actors found themselves becoming closer. The two also made a dynamic pair off stage and Hepburn and Ferrer got married on September 25, 1954, in Switzerland.
Back on the big screen, Hepburn made another award worthy performance in Sabrina (1954) as the title character, the daughter of a wealthy family’s driver. Sabrina returned home after spending time in Paris as a beautiful and sophisticated woman. The family’s two sons, Linus and David, played by Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, never paid her much mind until her transformation. Pursuing her onetime crush David, Sabrina unexpectedly found happiness with his older brother Linus. Hepburn earned her an Academy Award nomination for her work on this bittersweet romantic comedy.