Audrey's Story Page One

Audrey Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston was born in Brussels, Belgium on May 4, 1929, the daughter of Dutch Baroness Ella van Heemstra (born 1900) and John Hepburn-Ruston (born 1889), a wealthy English banker.

Hepburn's parents had a turbulent marriage, and in 1938, when Audrey was 9 years old, they were formally divorced (with Ella maintaining primary custody of Audrey), after Hepburn Ruston had abandoned his wife and six year old daughter 3 years earlier.

After Ruston left Audrey attended a boarding school in England. Ella had first sent Audrey to boarding school to rid her of the constant fighting between herself and Joseph, who heavily under the influence of the drink at the time.

"I was terrified about being away from home," Audrey said.

She was often teased for being shy, her less than perfect English and the slight weight problem she had at the time, which has been related back to the depression she experienced when her parents fought.

Audrey made the honor role at school and also began making friends, and it is at this point, that Audrey first fell in love -- With the ballet. Audrey practicing her form The famous instructor Miss Rigden was helping her learn the art form. In 1939, Audrey was disappointed to find that her mother was taking her out of school. One dance instructor even offered to take her to London with her to further her talent, but Ella was against it.

Then England had declared war on Germany, following the Nazi invasion of Poland, in September of 1939. Travel was scarce at the time, and Ella feared she might not see her daughter for years, so she returned to England panicked, and obtained court approval to remove Audrey back to Holland, where she thought it would be safe.

Ella was under the impression that London would be bombed and that she and Audrey would be safer in Arnhem. Holland was neutral and Ella assumed that Hitler would most likely respect his the neutrality.

From this point on, Audrey's childhood was spent in Nazi-occupied Holland. The young Audrey endured the murder of relatives, survived by eating tulip bulbs, and carried secret messages for the resistance in her ballet shoes.

Due to malnutrition, Audrey's metabolism changed, and this resulted in her "skinniness"; a mere 110 pounds, which she managed to, maintain for the rest of her life.

Audrey donating to Red Cross. She also gained a love for many things after the liberation of Holland -chocolate, cigarettes and something that would give her a lot of meaning later in life -The Red Cross. When the war ended, The Hepburn moved back to England where and in 1948, Audrey was accepted to the famed Marie Lambert ballet school on scholarship. However, she was unable to attend right away due to the lack of funds.

Later, Audrey's dreams were crushed when she left the Marie Lambert ballet school due to her limitations, (her height and lack training due to the war). Audrey later spent most of her time working as a chorus girl and occasionally snagging photo shoots and bit part roles in movies.

Audrey with Sir Alec Guiness in The Lavander Hill Mob. By 1952, Audrey had appeared in several films as a minor character, including "One Wild Oat" (1951), "Laughter in Paradise" (1951) and "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951) with Alec Guiness. In 1952, after completing "The Secret People", in which she had a rather large role, Audrey traveled to the French Riviera to shoot "Monte Carlo Baby".

While filming in a hotel lobby, the famed French writer Collette spots Audrey. Collette's play "Gigi" was currently in the middle of casting and the main character, Gigi, had yet to be cast. Collette, 78 at the time, was being wheeled around the lobby in her wheelchair when she accidentally became entangled in technical wires and such that were being used during filming. While waiting to be untangled, Collette spots Audrey frolicking off to the side with two musicians while on a break. She was dancing around playfully with them. Collette's was mesmerized. "Voilá! There is my Gigi."

However, Audrey politely declined stating: "I'm sorry Madame, but it is impossible. I wouldn't be able to, because I can't act."

Collette managed to change her mind, and Audrey read for the part.

Audrey as Princess Anne. Shortly after, Audrey met with Hollywood director, William Wyler and read for the role of "Princess Anne" in his upcoming picture, "Roman Holiday." Wyler determines that Hepburn is irresistible after he played the old Hollywood trick of letting the tape roll after the scene has been finished and casts her as his upcoming leading lady in Roman Holiday. Being signed on for her first Broadway play and Hollywood film, Audrey leaves for New York alone for the first time in her life.

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