THE AUDREY HEPBURN STORY
US, 1999, 20 minutes, Colour.
Jennifer Love Hewitt, Frances Fisher, Keir Dullea, Eric Mc Cormack.
Directed by Steven Robman.
The Audrey Hepburn Story is an entertaining glimpse of the famous star. However, the film treats of her early life, her initiation into show business, her early films. The screenplay opens with the filming of Breakfast at Tiffany's and consists of flashbacks to her early life while she was making this film. At the end, there is an indication of some of the other films she made during the 1960s and an acknowledgment of her work for UNICEF. She died of cancer in 1993.
The film traces the life of Audrey Hepburn from her Dutch and Irish parents living in Belgium, her going to England to boarding school after her father walked out on her. There was a perennial search during her life for her absent father and the disappointment that when she found him in Ireland, he could not respond to her. As war broke out, she had to return to Holland to be with her mother and experience the occupation, even volunteering to do work for the underground. At the end of the war, malnourished, she almost died but was able to get some penicillin on the black market. On her return to England, she tried to find her father, unsuccessfully. She was rejected after training as a ballerina, went into musical theatre and, with her strong stage presence, was able to get further jobs in show business and finally some parts in films. Glimpsed by Collette in Monte Carlo, the author nominated her for the role of Gigi on Broadway. After some difficulties in adapting, because she had not been trained for the stage, she gave a performance which received great acclaim. She also won the audition for the princess in Roman Holiday.
The film shows glimpses of her working in Roman Holiday, in Sabrina, in The Nun's Story (including the original Sister Luke) as well as Breakfast at Tiffany's. There are also allusions to her work in Funny Face.
The film also shows her capacity for love, but her love for her acting career dominating this. There was a possibility of marriage with William Holden but, because she wanted children, and he had had a vasectomy, there was no future in this. She then marries Mel Ferrer and appears with him on Broadway in Ondine. The film epilogue does not allude to their divorce and her subsequent marriages, although it shows in some detail her miscarriage, the birth of Sean Ferrer and mentions that she had another child, Luka Dotti.
The film is very strong in showing the influence of Audrey Hepburn's mother on her. However, her mother also kept her father's letters from his daughter, something which angered Audrey and set her determinedly to find him.
While the film works generally at the level of a popular book or article about the actress, it spends enough time on its episodes to give people a fairly strong impression of Audrey Hepburn as a person, as a performer, and as an attractive character. Jennifer Love Hewitt does a creditable job in impersonating Audrey Hepburn, even to her vocal inflections. The other characters who are know, Gregory Peck, William Holden, Mel Ferrer (played by Will and Grace's Eric Mc Cormack) do not resemble their counterparts physically.
1. An entertaining telemovie of a popular star of the 20th century? Her life, her motivations, her career?
2. Audience appreciation of Audrey Hepburn, knowledge of her life, admiration of her films, her work for UNICEF, her death at 63 from cancer?
3. The structure of the film: the opening with Breakfast at Tiffany's, the scene at Tiffany's window, the beginning of the reminiscences? Moving backwards and forwards from the film to the chronological depiction of her life to that point? The cumulative effect of seeing her life in the light of her ultimate success? The film stopping in 1960 - with Audrey Hepburn's life just under halfway through?
4. Audrey as a young girl, in Brussels, her love for her mother, her strong love for her father, his fondness for her, his alienation from his wife? The discussions about eating sweet things, Audrey under the table? His taking her out, her seeing the secretary in the park and the relationship? His actually being a Nazi propagandist? His wife's disdain? His finally walking out on them? The dangers of the war, her mother sending Audrey to boarding school in England? Audrey's arrival, making friends, fascination with ballet? Making friends with the girls? Wanting to find her father, his coming to take her to the airport because her mother wanted her back during the war? The irony of her mother thinking that Holland would not be invaded?
5. World War Two, the film using footage and newsreel, indicating the invasion of Holland? Audrey and her mother suffering deprivations during the war, the Resistance, Audrey riding her bike, giving information, being stopped by the Germans, pretending she had a boyfriend, hiding in the house, seeing the leader killed, her mother's anguish, the danger of the Nazis following her mother, her coming home? Her later illness, the liberation, the Americans and the British, the black market and her mother getting penicillin for her?
6. Going back to England, ballet school, meeting Kay Kendall and their friendship? Asking for the teacher to keep her on, her qualities, the teacher telling her directly that she would not be a ballerina? Her going to the audition for the musical comedy, Kay and Audrey being selected? Boyfriends, the musician? Her going to the job as the magician's assistant? The dinner, her talent, her being signed for film roles and the quick glimpse of The Young Wives' Tale, Laughter in Paradise, The Lavender Hill Mob?
7. The young man infatuated with her, his wealthy background, going to the country home? The loving relationship with Audrey? His wanting to marry her, her consenting? Her success on stage and screen, having to break off the marriage? The later infatuation with William Holden, the issue of children and the vasectomy, her friendship with Mel Ferrer, marrying him, the miscarriage, the birth of her son? A devoted mother?
8. Going to Monte Carlo, the encounter with Collette, her being chosen for the role? Going to Broadway, the rehearsals and her intensity, her staying out and enjoying herself, being told off by the director? Her diligence, the performance and her nervousness, the aftermath, the good reviews?
9. Her self-deprecation, not realising the strength of character and attractive power she had? Success on stage, going to Rome for Roman Holiday, with Gregory Peck, the rumours about an affair, her discovery of the press? Her press conference and her discretion?
10. Going into Sabrina, her having seen it on stage, going to Givenchy and his taking her up and making her one of his main models for his creations? The filming of Sabrina, William Holden and Bogart? The Oscar nomination, her winning, her acknowledgment of her mother?
11. The succeeding films, The Nun's Story, the visit to Africa and its effect on her and her later decisions about UNICEF? Meeting the real Sister Luke? The discussions about Breakfast at Tiffany's, Mel Ferrer encouraging her? Their having appeared together on stage in Ondine? The making of Breakfast at Tiffany's, the support of Blake Edwards, the crew, George Peppard? The clashes with Truman Capote, his ignoring of her, the verbal jousts, her performance and Truman Capote changing his mind?
12. Audrey Hepburn's mother, love for her daughter, caring for her, her following her all around, enjoying her career, the clash because of her concealing her father's letters?
13. The visit to her father in Ireland, his welcome, his inability to sustain the relationship?
14. The portrait of a film star and her origins, her motivations and ambitions, opportunities, personal charm, her being caught up in the system, keeping aloof from the system, her personal life?