Thursday, February 21, 2008

Audrey Hepburn - Her Life Before Fame

I've recently been trying to see some of her films (although as of right now I have not really seen any). She is a style icon and seems to have led a very interesting life even before her fame. All this information is from Wikipedia.

Audrey Hepburn (May 4, 1929–January 20, 1993) was an Academy Award- and Tony Award-winning Anglo-Dutch film and stage actress, fashion icon, and humanitarian. In 1999, she was ranked as the third greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. She also served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work.

From 1935 to 1938, Hepburn attended a boarding school for girls in Kent. In 1935, her parents divorced and her father, a Nazi sympathizer, left the family. (Both parents were supposedly members of the British Union of Fascists in the mid-1930s and a follower of Adolf Hitler.) She later called her father's abandonment the most traumatic moment of her life. Years later, she located him in Dublin through the Red Cross. Although he remained emotionally detached, she stayed in contact with him and supported him financially until his death. In 1939, her mother moved her and her two half-brothers to their grandfather's home in Arnhem in the Netherlands. Audrey’s mother believed the Netherlands would be safe from German attack. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945, where she trained in ballet along with the standard school curriculum. In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands. By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballerina. She secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance.
After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse. During the Dutch famine over the winter of 1944, the Germans confiscated the Dutch people's limited food and fuel supply for themselves. People starved and froze to death in the streets. Hepburn and many others resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits. Arnhem was devastated by Allied artillery fire that was part of Operation Market Garden. Hepburn's uncle and her mother's cousin were shot in front of Hepburn for being part of the Resistance. Hepburn's half-brother Ian van Ufford spent time in a German labour camp. Suffering from malnutrition, Hepburn developed acute anemia, respiratory problems, and oedema (swelling of an organ to put it simply).
In 1991, Hepburn said "I have memories. More than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on to the train. I was a child observing a child."
Hepburn also noted the similarities between herself and Anne Frank: "I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both ten when war broke out and fifteen when the war finished. I was given the book in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend. I read it – and it destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life. I didn't know what I was going to read. I've never been the same again, it affected me so deeply."
"We saw young men put against the wall and shot and they'd close the street and then open it and you could pass by again. If you read the diary, I've marked one place where she says 'five hostages shot today'. That was the day my uncle was shot. And in this child's words I was reading about what was inside me and is still there. This child who was locked up in four walls had written a full report of everything I'd experienced and felt." These times were not all bad and she was able to enjoy some of her childhood. One way in which Audrey Hepburn passed the time was by drawing. Some of her childhood artwork can be seen today.
When the country was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Hepburn said in an interview she ate an entire can of condensed milk and then got sick from one of her first relief meals because she put too much sugar in her oatmeal. This experience is what led her to become involved in UNICEF later in life.

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