Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Incomparable Audrey Hepburn

In a bout of insomnia last night, I was able to finish off The Audrey Hepburn Treasures book that I began a few weeks ago.

When I picked it up off of the shelves, it immediately reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books, The Baby-sitters Club Chain Mail, where every other page contained an actual envelope with a removable letter inside. Similarly, Treasures contains replicas of personal keepsakes from Audrey's career, allowing the reader an intimate, almost voyeuristic peek at her life. Simply put, Treasures is a gorgeous biography, full of color and dimension, much like its subject.

Written with the assistance of Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, the book details Audrey's entire life - from her terrifying days holed up in the basement of her home in Holland during World War II, to her rise from the stage to film, and finally, her dedication to UNICEF in her final years. It is by far the most complete record I've ever read about Audrey. As a fan, I'm embarrassed to admit that my knowledge of her career is limited to the films I've seen (Sabrina, Funny Face, and My Fair Lady are among my favorites) and a photo chronicle given to me for my birthday a number of years ago. Although I acknowledge that the perspective presented may be rosier and less journalistically-inclined than objective reporters, the book still contains a mass of information new to me. For example, I had no idea that she had a second marriage, let alone a second son, nor was I aware that a starring role as "Gigi" in the theatre was essentially her big break.

Secondly, I found that it became easy to overlook the behind the scenes pictures and family portraits, because the artifacts are so engrossing. What was most revealing to me was a letter to her first husband, Mel Ferrer, describing her days at a convent researching her upcoming role in The Nun's Story. This may be a case of me trying to force a connection, but the letter seemed to be devoid of emotion, a mere narrative of her day to day activities as opposed to how she was feeling about the experience. This matches up well with a comment Ferrer made about their marriage after the divorce, stating that "'Audrey never spoke about private, personal things and neither did I. It was kind of an agreement that we had.'" Also of note - a handwritten correspondence from Truman Capote, congratulating Audrey in being chosen to play Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of his novella, despite his well-known belief that Marilyn Monroe was better suited for the part.

Coincidentally, this month's Harper's Bazaar features a spread on Natalie Portman modeling the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany's dress. Its famous designer, Givenchy, is auctioning off the garment for charity on December 5th. It is estimated to fetch between fifty to seventy thousand pounds on the block (On an aside: the article uses the curious adjective "gamine" to describe Portman's beauty, a rather odd word choice).

For fans of Audrey Hepburn, Treasuresis a unique keepsake and provides unparalleled insight into the life of a legend. At regular price, it isn't cheap, but the book can be seen as an investment. Children of all ages would adore going through the pages, and I can see myself using the book as an example to prompt creative projects in English class, where mementos can speak volumes, sometimes even more effectively than plain text. Overall, this is a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy biographies and alternative publishing formats.


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