“Unlike so many biographies, this one is not simply a recitation of the subject’s accomplishments. Donald Spoto digs beneath the surface, giving readers strong images of both actress and woman, and he does so in way that is, like Audrey Hepburn, quite elegant” (Booklist).
Read all of our posts about Enchantment by clicking here. We’ve previously posted reviews of the novel and a fun trivia quiz inspired by the book.
Spoto’s biography is well written and thought-provoking, and now so affordable.
Pick up your copy of Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn in paperback today!
“Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn” (Harmony, 352 pages, $25.95) enters a crowded field. Barry Paris’s encyclopedic “Audrey Hepburn” appeared in 1996, Alexander Walker’s astute “Audrey” in 1994, and Diana Maychick’s chatty “intimate portrait” in 1993 â€” just to mention Donald Spoto’s immediate predecessors. At this point, the impatient reviewer is supposed to complain, “Do we really need another biography of Audrey Hepburn?”
This is almost always the wrong question. Biography by its very nature is incomplete. It is a Rashomon-like genre, never more so than when movie sets are involved and conflicting versions of events multiply like rabbits. Mr. Spoto, author of more than a dozen biographies, is well aware of this problem of pullulation. He seems to rely judiciously on the work of previous biographers, correcting their errors, providing some original film criticism, revealing one big new story about his subject, and writing with an incisive grace that puts him near the head of his class.
To determine Mr. Spoto’s merits I compared his account of “Sabrina,” the romantic comedy in which William Holden and Humphrey Bogart compete for Audrey Hepburn’s hand, to other competing versions. As in other Hepburn biographies, Mr. Spoto’s Bogart plays the offscreen heavy. At 54, he looked 65, “weathered and dyspeptic and ill with the first symptoms of the cancer that would claim his life four years later.” Next to the handsome 35-year-old Holden, how was Bogart supposed to get the girl?
This question bothers Mr. Spoto far more than other biographers. Even though reviewers have lauded Bogart’s performance, Mr. Spoto insists he was dreadfully miscast in a role originally meant for Cary Grant, who bowed out because at 50 he felt he was too old to play opposite the 24-year-old Hepburn. Yet, as Mr. Spoto notes, the next year Grant was triumphant in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” playing opposite Grace Kelly, who was exactly Hepburn’s age.
Mr. Spoto portrays a sulking Bogart who envied Holden and Hepburn, rising stars and lovers during the film shoot. According to Bogart’s agent, Irving Lazar, Bogart also expected Billy Wilder to humble himself, but “on a Billy Wilder picture, there is no star but Billy Wilder.” The director chose to chum around with Holden and Hepburn, increasing Bogart’s animus toward everyone, including the film’s writers. In the Spoto scenario, Hepburn remains coolly professional and diplomatic when Bogart baits her. Other biographers depict a stalwart Holden protecting a terrified or wary Hepburn.
Several aspects of Mr. Spoto’s account troubled me. Why would Bogart take a Cary Grant role? Why would he compete with Holden, whom Bogart had had a rough time with on an earlier film? Was Bogart really already suffering from cancer? Why would Bogart do a Wilder film when the director was notorious for his sharp tongue and autocratic ways?
To answer these questions I had to consult not only other Hepburn biographies but also those about Grant, Bogart, Wilder, and Holden â€” and even then certain mysteries remain. Marc Eliot in “Cary Grant” (2004) makes it abundantly clear that the actor could not abide Wilder. On the other hand, several Wilder biographers note that Bogart and Wilder had been friends before “Sabrina,” and Bogart did not even trouble to read the script, telling Wilder he would just shake on it and trust that the director would take care of him. When Wilder manifestly began to snub Bogart, the actor took his nasty revenge â€” at one point even calling the Jewish Wilder (who had lost family during the Holocaust) a Nazi.
No biographer seems to have considered the possibility that Bogart felt competitive, perhaps wanting to show that he could do well at a role meant for Grant. Even if Bogart had not read the script, it is hard to believe that he did not know, in a general sense, what the film was about, especially since it was based on a successful Broadway play. Mr. Spoto notwithstanding, several biographers and critics have lauded Bogart’s performance, suggesting he gave the role a depth and color beyond Grant’s capacity.
There is no credible evidence that Bogart was already suffering from cancer, although other biographers also provide the same overreaching explanation for his conduct. He may have been peeved at being Wilder’s second choice, but then why do the film at all?
I e-mailed Jeffrey Meyers, a Bogart biographer, who responded: “Wilder, rather desperate, persuaded Bogart. And Swifty Lazar, who thought his [Bogart's] career would be enhanced if he could play high comedy, also talked him into it. Wilder later felt he did it mainly for the money.” Bogart got $300,000, more than Hepburn’s and Holden’s salaries combined.
Perhaps Mr. Spoto should have done a little more sorting through the evidence. Economy of phrasing is virtuous, but not at the expense of doing less than full justice to events.
Now for the one big new story that other biographers might have detected since it was right under their noses. Mr. Spoto does not gloat about his fresh material, perhaps because Robert Anderson, a playwright and screenwriter who had an affair with Audrey Hepburn and wrote about it in his novel, “After” (1973), handed it to him.
Whenever writers consort with actors, look at the writer’s work. It amazes me that no biographer before Mr. Spoto followed this cardinal rule. So dead-on is Mr. Anderson’s novel that Mr. Spoto often prefers to quote from it rather than from Anderson’s testimony about Hepburn: “The first thing you noticed was â€˜style.’ She was tall and slender and held herself beautifully, almost like a dancer. Her dark hair was worn in her own particular style, not the style of the day … I saw her large dark eyes … The entire effect of her was striking. She had style, dedication, real excitement.”
Audrey Hepburn was like no other star of her period â€” nothing like Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. She would have been the first to say she had little technique as an actress. But she had been trained as a ballet dancer, and it was a joy just to see her move. She brought intensity and elegance to every role she attempted, and the same dedication she would later display when she became UNICEF’s “ambassador-at-large.”
Anderson’s novel and his talks with Mr. Spoto make this book. When Mr. Anderson speaks to Mr. Spoto, we get a sense of both the everyday Audrey and her allure: “She was a very tidy girl” who cleaned up Mr. Anderson’s kitchen, and she was “sad â€” beautiful and sad and romantic.” Hepburn, a young girl in Nazi-occupied Holland, almost starved during the war, escaped from a truck transporting children to a Nazi camp, and endured an unhappy marriage and a spreading cancer that ultimately took her life.
This graceful, indomitable figure enraptured William Holden, who never tired of regretting her loss (she broke off their romance when she learned his vasectomy, then irreversible, meant he could not engender children), and mesmerized millions who gazed at her movies and photographs and copied her exquisite taste in fashion.
What finally sets Hepburn apart was her sense of proportion. She never gave way to star tantrums; she never valued her work more highly than it deserved. Consequently, her performances evince a degree of integrity and honesty seldom equaled on the screen. To that Audrey Hepburn, Mr. Spoto is admirably faithful.
From: The New York Sun, Article by Carl Rollyson, September 27, 2006Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off
IN THE BEGINNING, there was Katharine Hepburn, and that seemed enough Hepburn for any one planet.
That changed in the early ’50s when Audrey Hepburn hit both Broadway and filmdom with a velvet one-two.
The subject of Donald Spoto’s new book “Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn” had been born the daughter of a baroness in Belgium in 1929, grew up in Nazi-infested Holland and became a model and actress in England.
After appearing in roles, often small, in half a dozen British films, Audrey suddenly became, according to Spoto, “perhaps the first inexperienced actor in history to be contracted simultaneously for leading roles on Broadway and in film.”
In late ‘51, Hepburn began starring on Broadway in the title role of “Gigi,” a play based on Collette’s novella about a young French courtesan. (A French film version had opened in 1948.)
At the same time, Hepburn had been signed, by Paramount, for her first American film, 1953’s “Roman Holiday,” in which she plays a princess who escapes from the claustrophobia of royal life for an impromptu vacation in Rome with an American journalist, played by Gregory Peck.
For her director, Hepburn was fortunate to draw William Wyler, who could direct a turnip to an Oscar. Before Wyler’s death in 1981, 14 actors who had starred in his films had won Academy Awards, a record not likely to be broken.
Among those 14 was Audrey Hepburn, who enchanted her way to a best-actress statuette for “Roman Holiday.” Among the actresses she beat out was Leslie Caron, nominated for “Lili,” which co-starred Mel Ferrer, whom Hepburn would marry in 1954. Caron would go on to star in 1958’s “Gigi,” a musical version of the Broadway play that had starred Hepburn.
What 1989 Steven Spielberg film was Audrey Hepburn’s last feature?
“One thing’s for sure, that @!* song’s gotto go.”
As quoted in Donald Spoto’s “Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn,” that was the reaction of Paramount executive Martin Rankin upon seeing a preview of the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
The song was “Moon River,” introduced by Hepburn herself in the film, and the only place it went was into Hollywood history. Hepburn saw to that herself. After Rankin made his comment, she insisted the song stay. And it stayed. Not only stayed, but won a 1961 Oscar for composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer.
Mancini, who also composed the film’s score, had tailored “Moon River” to Hepburn’s limited range. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely, lilting song. To perform it, as her character Holly Golightly, Hepburn took voice and guitar lessons. Hundreds of versions of “Moon River” would follow, but Mancini treasured Hepburn’s simple reading above all others.
So did Tiffany’s, the famous jewelerie. Upon Hepburn’s death, the store devoted a full-page ad to the actress, calling her a “Huckleberry friend,” a reference to Mercer’s famous line from “Moon River.”
Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer won a second straight best-song Oscar for the title song of what 1962 film starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick?
Audrey Hepburn introduced “Moon River” in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” while Henry Mancini and Jerry Butler hit the Top 40 with their respective recordings. But the most famous version of the song came about with a big help from television. After being chosen to sing “Moon River” at the 1962 Oscar ceremonies (honoring 1961 films), Andy Williams adopted the song as the theme of his long-running variety series.
In 1958 and ‘59, Williams had become popular enough as a balladeer — he’d scored a No. 1 with 1957’s “Butterfly” — to host several variety programs on ABC and CBS. Then in 1962, NBC handed him the weekly “The Andy Williams Show,” which continued, in one form or another, into 1971.
Along the way, the show featured as regulars the folky New Christy Minstrels; the toothy, chirpy Osmond Brothers; singer-songwriter Ray Stevens; comics Charlie Callas and Irwin Corey, and various orchestras and dance troupes.
Though never rated in the Nielsen year-end Top 30, the show won three Emmys as best variety series and never had any trouble attracting guests from all walks of entertainment. In 1976, Williams revived the show in syndication.
In 1971, Andy Williams scored a No. 9 hit with “Where Do I Begin?,” the theme from what 1970 film?
1. Audrey Hepburn made her last film appearance in 1989’s “Always.”
2. After winning a best-song Oscar for 1961’s “Moon River,” Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer repeated with 1962’s “Days of Wine and Roses.”
3. Andy Williams had a No. 9 hit in 1971 with “Where Do I Begin?,” the theme from “Love Story.”Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off
Bob Thomas reviews two books about Audrey Hepburn released this fall: The Audrey Hepburn Treasures by Ellen Irwin and Jessica Z. Diamond and Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Hollywood biographer Donald Spoto.
The fall book parade brings two biographical works on the late, beloved Audrey Hepburn: one a frank but sympathetic life story that tells of her extramarital affairs; the other a coffee-table book packed with memorabilia.
“Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn,” by Hollywood biographer Donald Spoto (Harmony Books), covers her life, from her childhood under Nazi rule in Holland and Belgium to her inspiring work for UNICEF and her death from cancer in 1994.
“The Audrey Hepburn Treasures,” by Ellen Irwin and Jessica Z. Diamond (Atria), is a hefty, beautifully designed volume with biographical sequences, 200 photographs and envelopes containing copies of letters, contracts, clippings, snapshots, etc.
Speaking from his home in Denmark, Donald Spoto said that four years ago he took “a hard look” at writings about Hepburn, including three or four biographies plus picture books and studies of her movies.
“They were books about St. Audrey,” he said. “I think that alienates the subject from the reader; it doesn’t bring the reader closer to the person in the stained-glass window. Readers would be much more likely to empathize with a real human being who suffered, was insecure, like other human beings.”
“Enchantment” is the most moving in accounts of Hepburn’s war years when she and her family nearly starved to death and she witnessed random shootings of civilians by German soldiers. Also dramatic are her last six years when she abandoned her career to tour the world on behalf of sick and starving children.
Spoto delves into her personal life, including a fling with William Holden, a married man, when they starred in “Sabrina” in 1954. During her own marriages, to actor Mel Ferrer and to Rome psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, Spoto writes that she had passionate affairs with playwright Robert Anderson (who wrote the screenplay of 1959’s “The Nun’s Story”) and co-stars Albert Finney and Ben Gazzara.
“She wanted desperately to be loved, and she didn’t choose her husbands wisely,” the author said. “Actresses often do not.”
When Jack Warner bought the movie rights to “My Fair Lady” and cast Rex Harrison to repeat his Broadway role as Professor Higgins, he believed that he needed a film star to play the female lead. He chose Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews, who had initiated the role of Eliza Doolittle.
“There was a huge deception by Warner,” said Spoto. “He told Audrey, `It’s going to be your voice singing the songs.’ Marni Nixon had been lined up to dub the songs from the start. Warner sabotaged Audrey’s Oscar by not letting her sing. Who would vote for best actress in a musical who didn’t sing her songs?”
Hepburn reacted to the slight from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences with “enormous grace,” appearing at the awards to present Rex Harrison’s Oscar.
“The Audrey Hepburn Treasures” resembles in size and weight a big-city telephone book. It is indeed a trove of a remarkable life, with memorabilia dating from her Brussels birth through the London, New York and Hollywood years to her work with the children of African tribes.
Hepburn’s first-born son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, was the instigator of the book, for which a portion of the profits will benefit the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. He holds the copyright, along with his half brother Luca Dotti.
The book was assembled and written by Irwin and Diamond, officials of the fund. “They know my mother’s life better than anyone,” Sean remarked from his Santa Monica office. Gathering all the material, including photographs never before printed, was a monumental task, helped by Hepburn herself.
“My mother was not very good about keeping clothes; if they were outdated, she’d give them to an aunt or cousins or museums,” said Sean. “But she always kept all of her scripts, her photos, things that were meaningful.”
Sean recalled “a strange thing” that happened six months before his mother’s death. She spent six to eight weeks with her maid in the attic of her Swiss house sifting through her collection of memorabilia. It was all orderly when her family found it after her death.
In the early stages of “Enchantment,” Sean was asked to participate. He declined.
“My mother was a biographer’s dream and a nightmare,” Sean said, quoting a previous biographer. “She was a dream because she was a classic to write about and everybody loves her. She was a nightmare because there are no scandals, quasi-cruelties, no really juicy stuff. How do you write a Hollywood biography without the juicy tidbits?”
Sean said he had been aware of his mother’s extramarital affairs, so Spoto’s book would be no surprise for him.
A question Sean is often asked: What was it like growing up as Audrey Hepburn’s son?
“My answer is something people don’t expect: I have no idea,” he replied. “I grew up in the countryside of Switzerland, and she was a regular mom; she quit doing movies when I couldn’t travel anymore (because of school).”
“In those days (he was born in 1960), there was no DVD, no VHS; in Europe, we had one black-and-white channel. … It was later on that I connected that she was an actress, and later I realized that she was a pretty good actress.
“Only after she had passed away did I fully comprehend to what extent she had truly touched everyone.”
Source: San Francisco Gate, article by Bob Thomas, October 16, 2006.Entry filed under: Audrey Hepburn Treasures, Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off
There are those who still remember how Audrey Hepburn single-handedly took a rather trivial movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” to a memorable level when she simply took off her huge sunglasses to reveal huge eyes gazing into the display window of the famous jewelry store at dawn as she munched a pastry on her way home from an all-night party. It was also the film in which she sang “Moon River,” the Henry Mancini song that was retained only because Hepburn warned it would be thrown out “over my dead body” in response to the objections of a Paramount producer.
She worried that the role of Holly Golightly called for an extrovert, and she saw herself as an introvert. Yet that gentle, melancholy melody strangely captured the complicated woman who sang it. Talented, elegant and possessed of immense charm, her meteoric rise in the theater and in films apparently never made her happy, according to this biography.
She spun through a series of romantic involvements with men like William Holden, Ben Gazzara and Albert Finney as well as two bad marriages, yet she never achieved the comfort of a loving family that eluded her from childhood. With the balance and style that characterize his portrayals of the flawed and the famous, Mr. Spoto has produced a biography as restrained as his subject, whom he treats with compassion, yet without idealizing her.
As he put it, succinctly, Hepburn “inhabited gentility as if it were a role . . . She was apparently in all situations entirely herself and that self was neither inhibited nor intemperate. It amused her to know so many regarded her as without desire or passion, just as some people wrongly believed so slim a woman must have an eating disorder.”
Mr. Spoto tracks Hepburn’s ghosts to a childhood in which she was abandoned by her father and grew up with a rather distant mother, the Dutch Baroness Ella van Heemstra, in the dangerous and difficult world of Holland in World War II.
As a teenager, she volunteered to aid the Dutch resistance, once charming a suspicious German patrol with a gift of wild flowers, and almost died from starvation as food supplies diminished and she became too weak to climb the stairs to her room.
However, the trials and losses of her childhood lingered, as Hepburn seemed to spend much of her life on a quest for what she lost when the father she idolized rejected her. By the time she tracked him down, it was too late. It made it all the more poignant that her most lengthy relationship was her marriage to Mel Ferrer, who possessed little of the warmth she sought in a man.
Mr. Spoto noted her 40-year friendship with French designer Hubert Givenchy, who invented the fragrance “L’Interdit” for her and who said of her:
“She always knew what she wanted and what she was aiming for. She was a very precise person and a consummate professional. She was never late and she never threw tantrums . . . She did not behave like a spoilt star.”
Others spoke of the reserve that marked her relationships with others, of how the brilliant smile often did not reach the beautiful eyes.
Her leap to fame was stunningly swift. After a series of minor roles in London theater, in which she demonstrated her capacity to be captivating, Hepburn was lauded for her acting in “Gigi” on Broadway, a role for which she was recommended by no less than its celebrated author, Colette.
Her Hollywood career was launched with her role in “Roman Holiday” as a wandering princess, playing opposite Gregory Peck. Yet Mr. Spoto adds that she was capable of unflinching assessment of her capabilities. He relates how she turned down the role of the Japanese bride of Marlon Brando in “Sayonara” by flatly stating, “I know what I can or can’t do. And if I did do it, you’d regret it because I would be terrible.”
“Sabrina” was not one of her most successful films but it marked the beginning of a serious affair with the handsome and heavy-drinking William Holden. That was in between coping with the temperamental outbursts of her other costar, an aging and miscast Humphrey Bogart who was apparently uneasy about competing with two rising actors.
Hepburn’s professional life soared with films like “War and Peace,” “The Nun’s Story,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Children’s Hour,” “Love in the Afternoon” and “Wait Until Dark.” But her personal life never came up to the expectations of a woman who longed for a stable family life. Her affairs were passionate but fleeting, her marriages unfulfilling.
Perhaps the celebration of Hepburn’s life came in her work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF when she traveled through the Far East and Africa on a crusade for refugee children orphaned and crippled by war. Her work was ultimately halted by the onset of cancer.
She voiced her own epitaph in characteristically deprecating terms at an awards ceremony two years before her death when she said, “I think it’s quite wonderful that this skinny broad could be turned into a marketable commodity.”
The Washington Times, reviewed by Muriel Dobbin, September 17, 2006Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off
If Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn ever met, the encounter has gone unrecorded in two new biographies of the namesake stars, who probably had less in common than Joan Crawford and Broderick Crawford. Cecil Beaton, who dressed them both, found the older Hepburn to be â€œthe egomaniac of all time,â€ whereas the younger one possessed, he thought, a â€œwaifish, poignant sympathy.â€ Beaton was better equipped temperamentally to spot the first type, but readers of William J. Mannâ€™s â€œKateâ€ and Donald Spotoâ€™s â€œEnchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburnâ€ will be hard pressed to argue with the essence of the designerâ€™s appraisals.
Mannâ€™s Hepburn sustains her nearly 70-year career from a consuming ambition to become and stay famous, what she herself called a â€œwild desire to be absolutely fascinating.â€ She liked the camera even more than it liked her, and despite her projection of flinty integrity and Yankee good sense, she chased notoriety as avidly as any shopgirl who ever stepped onto a bus for Hollywood. Mann concedes Hepburn a certain genuineness of feeling toward Howard Hughes in the late 1930â€™s, but keeps us mindful that â€œrelationships between public figures are rarely spontaneous combustions.â€ The press could be counted on to flock to an aviator who had an actress in the cockpit, and so she flew.
Mann contends that Hepburn didnâ€™t really become an actress until she was past 50, when a drive â€œtoward artistic recognitionâ€ temporarily replaced the hunger for notice pure and simple. The new, nobler spur sent her off to tour Australia in stage productions of Shakespeare and made her perform searingly in the film adaptations of â€œSuddenly Last Summerâ€ and â€œLong Dayâ€™s Journey Into Night.â€ But after back-to-back Oscars for â€œGuess Whoâ€™s Coming to Dinnerâ€ and â€œThe Lion in Winter,â€ and throughout the old age that followed, her thirst for attention regained sway, making sure she was fussed over and fluffed by a series of strategically chosen interviewers.
Hepburn reached Hollywood in 1932, via Connecticut and Bryn Mawr, and once she was there, the director George Cukor made her over and the agent Leland Hayward got her big money. But her pictures and personality played better in the cities than the sticks, and after a big success with â€œLittle Womenâ€ she took a hard, fast dive. At RKO, she went from one flop to another and endured a Broadway humiliation (â€œThe Lakeâ€) for good measure. Her best film performance from the 1930â€™s may have come with â€œAlice Adams,â€ in which Hepburnâ€™s desperate, please-notice-me gestures actually fit the valiantly pretentious heroine of Booth Tarkingtonâ€™s book.
The playwright Philip Barry turned things around for her, but he got his marching orders from Hepburn herself, who shrewdly told him what to do with the character he was writing for her in â€œThe Philadelphia Storyâ€: â€œMake her like me, but make her go all soft.â€ Transferred to the movies (Hughes bought her the film rights), the property â€œdefrostedâ€ Hepburn, as Mann puts it, letting her look merely formidable instead of overweening. Having left RKO in 1938, she arrived at MGM ready to be â€œa classical movie starâ€ at last.
Mann is less interested in Hepburnâ€™s career than in the private arc she traveled alongside it, insisting, reasonably enough, that it is â€œtime to take off the blindersâ€ to the large portions of her emotional existence that were organized around relationships with women. â€œI put on pants 50 years ago and declared a sort of middle road,â€ Hepburn explained in 1981, with more candor than was typical of her. Mann does the best he can with the complicated sexual algebra: â€œShe was, in her soul, neither woman nor man, though it was men â€” straight men â€” with whom she identified. … But it was only with women that she could set Jimmy free and be herselfâ€ â€” Jimmy being the short-haired boy sheâ€™d renamed herself around the time she was 10.
Growing up, Hepburn had made the acquaintance of her motherâ€™s lesbian college friends, formidable â€œauntsâ€ who were active in politics and the arts in the Greenwich Village of World War I and the 1920â€™s. Kateâ€™s own serious female romances, including one with the heiress Laura Harding, were clearly central to her life, but they can be a source of biographical frustration. When trying to decide what happened on both sides of Hepburnâ€™s â€œmiddleâ€ road, Mann frequently falls into a hedge: â€œYet how intimate were they?â€; â€œYet thereâ€™s no evidenceâ€; â€œWas there a kiss?â€ Still, inconclusiveness in these matters is smarter than certainty, and Mann manages to be convincing when it comes to patterns if not particulars.
Hepburn tended to follow any serious breakup with a male (the poet H. Phelps Putnam, Howard Hughes and even, for a period, Spencer Tracy) â€œby retreating to the comforting embrace of a community of women.â€ Her physical appetites seem to have been decidedly low; in terms of emotion, she was homosexually a taker but heterosexually a giver. If she was attracted to a male type, it was someone in bad need of enabling and cleaning up after. This symbol of female independence generally went for men who were alcoholic, womanizing, married or bisexual. (Mann has Hughes, John Ford and even Tracy weaving all over that sexual road.) The son of the producer David O. Selznick once explained why Hepburnâ€™s relationship with Hayward never got very far: â€œLeland just wasnâ€™t tortured enough for her.â€
Tracy, her great on-screen collaborator, had personal misery to spare: his drinking; the deafness of his son; a guilty separation from his wife; a pessimism so complete he believed himself headed, literally, to hell. Hepburn never asked him to stop drinking, worried perhaps that his sobriety might parch the dependency in which they swam. Their private world seems to have contained little of the sexually energized sparring of their films, and probably no more kissing than they did on-screen, which wasnâ€™t much. Despite a general assumption about the length and steadiness of their companionship, Hepburn did leave Tracy for a large part of the 1950â€™s, but returned to devote herself to him with extraordinary vigor during the years leading up to his death in 1967. During her peculiar sort of widowhood, which lasted more than 30 years, she began publicly to romanticize a relationship whose limitations had derived less from the pressures of circumstance than the deliberate wariness of its participants.
Mann didnâ€™t wait for Hepburnâ€™s papers to become available before writing his book, but he seems to have been unusually enterprising in obtaining materials and interviews from some of the starâ€™s less-famous surviving intimates. Reconstructing Hepburn as a kind of fragile monster, he explains things in a voice that can be stern and fussy (he relishes correcting past biographersâ€™ mistakes) and on occasion so solemn as to seem comical: â€œThat the sophisticated circle surrounding Cukor was largely gay cannot be denied.â€
Itâ€™s interesting to note that Hepburn never became a blazing gay reference point in the manner of other full-throttle female stars of the 30â€™s and 40â€™s like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. What may have kept generations of homosexual men from taking her into their hearts was their sense that Hepburn, even â€œdefrosted,â€ could always so manifestly do without the man on-screen. They never sensed this while watching Davis and Crawford, not even when those stars were at their most ferocious, and they never felt it about themselves.
It was also something they never felt when watching the other, later Hepburn, Audrey. Preternaturally pretty instead of striking, and usually more delicate than dramatic on film, she nonetheless nearly ached with the need for male love. Style, too, had something to do with her own still growing gay-iconic status, though in her case the style seems to have been less an ambitious self-creation than something she gratefully allowed to be draped over her, like one of Givenchyâ€™s costumes.
Donald Spotoâ€™s new biography isnâ€™t nearly so ambitious or stimulating as Mannâ€™s â€” itâ€™s mostly a competent clip job â€” but the real contrast between â€œEnchantmentâ€ and â€œKateâ€ lies in the emotional mainsprings of their subjects. If Katharine Hepburn tended to mythologize her parents and her childhood, Audrey Hepburn generally veiled the hurt of her own early life. Misunderstood by her Dutch mother and abandoned by her English father, she nearly starved to death during the Nazi occupation of Holland. She would always remain avid for the chocolate and tobacco that accompanied her rescue by English soldiers in 1945. Milk and medicine arrived with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, whose later incarnation, Unicef, she would repay with years of hard work.
Directors constantly paired her with much older leading men â€” Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire â€” and in films she always seems to be searching less for romance than paternal protection. She would no doubt have lived her life anywhere with conspicuously good manners; that she lived it so in the movie business makes her even more appealing. â€œEnchantmentâ€ is devoid of feuds and fits of temperament. Hepburn always displayed modesty about her acting abilities, which in fact grew to be considerable. She may have been risibly ill cast in â€œBreakfast at Tiffanyâ€™sâ€ (Truman Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe), but who can deny that her screen Holly Golightly is more memorable than the bookâ€™s? Despite her general cooperativeness, Hepburn always refused to pad her flat chest, a decision that seems even wiser when one considers the soulless result of allowing her lovely, plaintive voice to be dubbed by Marni Nixonâ€™s in â€œMy Fair Lady.â€
Compared with Katharine Hepburnâ€™s epic film career, her own â€” if one doesnâ€™t count the few, mostly bad movies she made during fitful re-emergences from a premature retirement â€” was quite brief, just about 15 years. But its ratio of hits to misses, of films worth doing (â€œThe Nunâ€™s Story,â€ â€œTwo for the Roadâ€) to projects better left unmade (â€œHow to Steal a Millionâ€) was probably higher than the other Hepburnâ€™s. She wanted far less from the movies and something far simpler from life; certainly she had no â€œwild desire to be absolutely fascinating.â€ She married unwisely, twice, the first time to the actor Mel Ferrer, who thought they could become the Lunts, but who, more typically, wound up being cast as Prince Andrei since thatâ€™s how they could get his wife for Natasha, in â€œWar and Peace.â€ Audrey Hepburnâ€™s sexual drive seems to have been far heartier than Katharine Hepburnâ€™s â€” more like her exact contemporary Grace Kellyâ€™s â€” but love affairs with William Holden and Ben Gazzara only accentuated the sadness beneath her charm.
Spoto does a far less successful job of inhabiting his Hepburn than Mann manages with his, but â€œEnchantmentâ€ makes palpable the degree to which Audrey Hepburn was possessed by an urgent and unsettling need to give love â€” stronger even than the urge to receive it. Perhaps this was the ultimate form of her good manners. Whatever the case, the condition drove her in a more elemental way than Katharine Hepburnâ€™s need to ride to the rescue of all those damaged men. Toward the close of her life, she found a happy companionship with Robert Wolders, a Dutch former actor who accompanied her on her trips for Unicef; she spent more effort promoting the agencyâ€™s projects than sheâ€™d spent publicizing her films. Of the two Hepburns, she was the one who remained undevoured by her own persona, the one marked out for a sadder life but a better last reel.
Learn more about Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn.
From: New York Times, Article by Thomas Mallon, October 8, 2006Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off
”YOU cannot duplicate her or take her out of her era,” the filmmaker Billy Wilder said of Audrey Hepburn, whom he directed in 1953 in ”Sabrina,” when she was a 24-year-old ingÃ©nue. Oh can’t you? Turn on the television today, and you’ll see her in Gap ads, clad in a black turtleneck and pants, her body as slender as a parenthesis, rocking out to the AC/DC metal ballad ”Back in Black.”
She is not only duplicated, she’s quadruplicated — cloned and pasted in digital homage to the eternal sublime. On YouTube.com, where copies of the commercial have been posted, one awed viewer wrote: ”Not many of the younger people know who she is. Now everyone will know her.”
It may be tempting to think that Ms. Hepburn never boogied down in quite that way. But watch her 1957 movie ”Funny Face,” and you’ll see her make those very moves, dancing in a smoky Parisian cafe to a jazz-hot Gershwin score. Then, as now, she embodied a fragile but proud feminine fierceness; then, she used her influence to advance the career of her beloved couturier, Hubert de Givenchy. Now her Ã©lan is being used to hawk Gap’s ‘’skinny black pant.”
Ms. Hepburn’s newest biographer, Donald Spoto, the author of a dozen celebrity biographies, doesn’t see the current commercial homage as a comedown. Her ”vulnerability and vivacity” endure, he told ”Good Morning America” last weekend. In ”Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn,” an intimate, respectful and nuanced portrait of this avatar of glamour, he reveals her human frailties and remarkable strength of character.
Ms. Hepburn was never the girl next door. The daughter of a chilly Dutch baroness and a Bohemian-born absent father, she grew up in Belgium, England and the Netherlands. During World War II, she danced to earn money for the Dutch resistance, until near-starvation made such exertion impossible. At war’s end, she was 16 years old and 5-foot-7, and weighed 90 pounds. Two years later and 20 pounds heavier, she was performing on the London stage, and in 1951, she was chosen to star in ”Gigi” on Broadway and in the movie ”Roman Holiday,” for which she won the Academy Award for best actress.
Ms. Hepburn played unattainable women in her movies: a princess on the run (”Roman Holiday”), a party girl with a hidden heart (”Breakfast at Tiffany’s”), a nun tormented by doubt (”The Nun’s Story”). But in person she was ”considerate and unpretentious” and ”could also be a clown,” Mr. Spoto writes.
She did not consider herself beautiful, nor did she think she was much of an actress. In the words of one of her sons, Sean Ferrer, she was ”a very insecure person whose very insecurity made everyone fall in love with her.” She was, he said, ”a star who couldn’t see her own light.”
LIKE Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart had a personality and a manner of speech that couldn’t be separated from the characters he played, and like her, he doubted his ability and his looks, and feared that his parents didn’t respect his work. Unlike Ms. Hepburn, Mr. Stewart lacked any whiff of European mystery, and his manner of speech was an earnest middle-American drawl. He was a man of the people — the American people.
And yet, as Marc Eliot shows in his gossipy, somewhat excessively thorough overview, ”Jimmy Stewart: A Biography,” although the shy star acted in 80 movies over seven decades, directed by Frank Capra, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and others, his confidence in his career and his personal life was often shaky.
A late bloomer, he had to be coaxed by his friend and roommate Henry Fonda in the 1930’s to tangle the sheets with Ginger Rogers. Mr. Stewart was coursed like a hare by strong-willed screen sirens who found his gentle demeanor inflaming: Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn. He found their aggression alarming.
It took a Croix de Guerre, which he received in 1945 for flying combat missions over Germany, to make his father think he was a man; it took marriage, in 1949 at age 41, to end his romantic trials; and it took the small-screen resurrection of a 1946 box office disappointment called ”It’s a Wonderful Life” to shore up his confidence about his legacy as a performer. Broadcast on a New York station in 1969, it quickly became a holiday staple across the nation. Christmas after Christmas, the struggles of the embattled family man George Bailey secured his legend.
Dustin Hoffman, one of the tardy viewers of the film, said to Mr. Stewart, ”You made me laugh, you made me cry, and you made me wish for a country which perhaps we haven’t seen for a while.” Mr. Capra, who directed Mr. Stewart in that movie (and in ”Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and ”You Can’t Take It With You”), explained that he ”grabbed you as a human being.”
”You were looking at the man, not an actor,” Mr. Capra said.
As George Bailey’s guardian angel put it: ”It’s a good face. I like it.”
From: New York Times, Article by Liesl Schillinger, October 1, 2006Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off
Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn is back in vogue as a style icon more than 13 years after her death — but a biographer fears the revival will feed a misconceived image of the actress, who never cared much about fashion.
Hepburn, who is often named as one of the most beautiful women of all time, is inspiring the new season’s fashion line-up with her classic but simple style of skinny black pants, flat pumps and little, black dresses.
Retailer Gap is leading the drive, using pictures of the actress in skinny black pants on billboards and in a television and Web ad, dancing in the 1957 movie “Funny Face” set to rock band AC/DC’s song “Back in Black.”
Another U.S. retailer J. Crew has set up a Little Black Dress Shop in its stores.
Author Donald Spoto, who this week released a new biography on the Oscar-winning actress called “Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn,” said he is not surprised by the renewed focus on Hepburn.
“Audrey Hepburn represents a kind of elegance that may be especially appreciated in an era of torn jeans. Her combination of modesty and simplicity are a wonderful corrective in these times of vulgar and empty celebrity,” he told Reuters.
But he said he felt this emphasis on fashion and style minimized Hepburn’s significant achievements as an actress. Later in life Hepburn was very active in humanitarian work.
“(It) also directly contradicts her own sense of values, which did not place clothes very highly on a list of important things,” he said.
Hepburn, who died of colon cancer in 1993 aged 63, always played down her own beauty, saying her look was attainable.
“Women can look like Audrey Hepburn by flipping out their hair, buying the large sunglasses, and the little sleeveless dresses,” she once said.
But her classic style has endured and remained in demand. The black Givenchy dress she wore in the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is expected to sell at an auction in December for around $100,000.
Spoto said he wrote about Hepburn because he was disappointed in previous works on her, with the actress treated as a “stained glass window figure” rather than a human being who struggled.
His book reveals Hepburn desperately wanted children but had bad luck with famous boyfriends who were sterile.
She did finally have a son, Sean, with American actor Mel Ferrer in 1960. Sean Ferrer allowed Gap to use his mother in their campaign with a significant donation to be made to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. She had another son in 1970 with second husband, Italian psychologist Andrea Doretti.
“The most surprising thing was the constant thread of heartache and disappointment in her life, which she bore with magnificent grace and courage,” said Spoto.
Learn more about Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn.
From: Reuters, Article by Belinda Goldsmith, Tuesday, September 26, 2006Entry filed under: Advertisements, Books, Enchantment, Interviews, Press Mentions | Comments Off
Fifty years ago, she was the toast of Hollywood and a style icon. And more than 10 years after her death, Audrey Hepburn is still setting trends.
From big sunglasses to her ubiquitous skinny black pants, Hepburn’s look is back.
Donald Spoto talks about the so-called “Audrey effect” in his new biography, “Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn.”
Spoto says the starlet’s combination of vulnerability and vivacity makes her so enduring. New audiences have been exposed to Hepburn’s glamour thanks to Gap ads featuring her dance from the movie “Funny Face” â€” reset to the AC/DC song “Back in Black.”
According to Spoto, “Funny Face” was a turning point in Hepburn’s career.
“She realized in that film what had been her ambition as a child and teenager, which was to be a ballet dancer,” Spoto said.
Sadly, because of malnutrition and illness she suffered during World War II, she wasn’t able to realize her dream.
As fans of Hepburn know, she nevertheless went on to have a fulfilling career, all the while turning heads with her signature looks. In an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, Hepburn said her style was attainable to everyone.
“They can look like Audrey Hepburn if they want to by cutting off their hair, by buying the large glasses, by having the little sleeveless dresses,” she said.
Spoto said Hepburn created a name and look for herself by standing out in the crowd of 1950s starlets.
“In the ’50s, of course â€¦ it was the era of kind of opulent sexuality,” he said. “It was Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. Along came Audrey Hepburn, who was just enough different to appeal to both men and women.”
Humanitarian and Style Icon
Late in life, Hepburn devoted herself to humanitarian work â€” long before stars like Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie made it popular.
“We have to give Audrey Hepburn high marks for spending the last six years of her life going into dangerous situations worldwide to try to help starving children in war-torn countries with no thought of her own safety,” Spoto said.
“She went and did something for the world. She made a difference. She made the world a better place.”
Indeed, decades later, the world is still feeling the “Audrey effect.”
To view a clip of this interview, visit the ABC News webpage.
Learn more about Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn.
From ABC News, September 24, 2006Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Interviews, Multimedia, Press Mentions, Television | Comments Off
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 naÃ¯vely 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.
Learn more about Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn.
From: Publishers Weekly, September 2006.Entry filed under: Books, Enchantment, Press Mentions | Comments Off