Her name is synonymous with elegance, style and grace. Over the course of her extraordinary life and career, Audrey Hepburn captured hearts around the world and created a public image that stands as one of the most recognizable and beloved in recent memory. But despite her international fame and her tireless efforts on behalf of UNICEF, Audrey was also known for her intense privacy. With unprecedented access to studio archives, friends and colleagues who knew and loved Audrey, bestselling author Donald Spoto provides an intimate and moving account of this beautiful, elusive and talented woman.
Tracing her astonishing rise to stardom, from her harrowing childhood in Nazi controlled Holland during World War II to her years as a struggling ballet dancer in London and her Tony Award winning Broadway debut in Gigi, Spoto illuminates the origins of Audrey's tenacious spirit and fiercely passionate nature.
She would go on to star in some of the most popular movies of the twentieth century, including Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady. A friend and inspiration to renowned designer Hubert de Givenchy, Audrey emerged as a fashion icon as well as a film legend, her influence on women's fashion virtually unparalleled to this day.
But behind the glamorous public persona, Audrey Hepburn was both a different and a deeper person and a woman who craved love and affection. Donald Spoto offers remarkable insights into her professional and personal relationships with her two husbands, and with celebrities such as Gregory Peck, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Robert Anderson, Cary Grant, Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney and Ben Gazzara. The turbulent romances of her youth, her profound sympathy for the plight of hungry children, and the thrills and terrors of motherhood prepared Audrey for the final chapter in her life, as she devoted herself entirely to the charity efforts of an organization that had once come to her rescue at the end of the war: UNICEF.
Donald Spoto has written a poignant, funny and deeply moving biography of an unforgettable woman. At last, Enchantment reveals the private Audrey Hepburn and invites readers to fall in love with her all over again.
Celebrity biographer Spoto (The Art of Alfred Hitchcock) offers a sparkling, fawning life of the European gamine whom America took to instantly with her 1953 debut in Roman Holiday. Hepburn (1929-1993) held the irresistible charm of a childlike star naïvely unaware of her appeal, from her first big break at age 22 when selected by Colette herself to play the Broadway version of Gigi. Born to a Dutch baroness and an English ne'er-do-well (and fascist sympathizer) who separated when she was six, Hepburn and her mother underwent horrendous deprivations during the Nazi occupation of Holland during WWII; her early ambition to become a ballet dancer was undermined by inadequate nutrition and training. Her early film successes flowed astonishingly, however, from Sabrina, Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon, Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady to attempts at roles with more gravitas, as in The Nun's Story and Wait Until Dark. Often paired with older, avuncular leads, Hepburn was viewed as unerotic, yet Spoto tracks her steamy relationships with playboys and co-stars, and marriage to American actor-director Mel Ferrer, who often acted as her Pygmalion. Her later work with UNICEF is sketched too briefly. Spoto's previous Hollywood biographies allow the author authoritative access to Hepburn. (Sept.)
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October 07, 2007
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Excerpt from Enchantment by Donald Spoto
There had been bright sunshine when they left the English shore, but midway across the Channel, dark clouds swept overhead, and the wind had shifted from breezy to almost gale force. Now, as the ship headed for the Continent, they were suddenly caught in a late-winter storm. Cold rain whipped across the deck and stung their faces as the ferry rolled and pitched. Years later, the baroness could not recall feeling any anxiety during the crossing, and therefore she had not communicated any fear to her two small boys as they steadied themselves against her.
This squall was far less threatening than the typhoon she had once endured in the South China Sea; nor was it as threatening as the violent conditions that routinely battered the ships that had taken her from Asia to South America or from the Netherlands to the East Indies. Thanks to the composure of the Dutch baroness, her eight- and four-year-old sons could face the heavy weather cheerfully. But if she did not hold their hands tightly, the wind might easily sweep the children overboard. Better to take them inside for hot chocolate.
On her way to the ferry's café, the baroness passed her husband in the small, smoky lounge bar. Warming himself with Irish whiskey, he glanced toward her but did not interrupt his conversation with a fellow passenger. Her husband was not the boys' father-they were sons from her
rst marriage. And from his dif
dence, no one in the room would have guessed that he had any connection to this handsome, patrician woman and her two docile children. She heard him tell his drinking partner that he had left England to take up a new position in Belgium with great prospects. Indeed, she hoped for the best, for him as for herself and the boys: if at last he could hold a job longer than a month or two without succumbing to indolence-well, that might help secure the marriage, too. He was her second husband, and they had been married for three years; during that entire time, she reckoned that he had not worked a total of three months.