The Cleveland Cinematheque is doing a retrospective of Audrey Hepburn films beginning with Roman Holiday and ending with Wait Until Dark that started this month and continues throughout February. And since K has seen none of her films, which is criminal, we’re seeing them all. So, it seemed only appropriate for Audrey to be my childhood icon for January.
I think that my first experience with Audrey Hepburn may have come about with My Fair Lady. It is possible that it was Breakfast at Tiffany’s but I don’t think it was. I was into musicals far before I was into old movies. I do, however, remember the first time I saw (at least part) of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was during a seventh grade presentation on a piece of music in Music class. We needed to have a visual to go with this presentation as well as a recording and report, and one of my classmates choice the musical sequence when Holly Golightly and her neighbor Paul Varjack go into a five and dime and steal something. It’s a jumpy trombone filled mod number that goes perfectly with the scene, but I had never seen the movie. I guess my interest was piked from just watching this one scene because I went home and immediately sought out the video tape. And it wasn’t much longer after that when the movie theatre on Coventry that no longer exists and went in and out of existence throughout my childhood had a screening (when it was in existence, of course) and I saw it for the first time on the big screen. I was not surprised when I loved the movie. I loved the fact that Holly is in no way a heroine and probably not even a nice person. She’s selfish and cold and willing to do things that others wouldn’t consider because she’s essentially a very damaged girl. Also, she’s sort of a prostitute and her heart is hardly made of gold. This sort of anti-heroine really appealed to me.
But while Breakfast at Tiffanys may have been Audrey’s most iconic role, it was was hardly her typical role. It was so unlike her, in fact, that writer Truman Capote couldn’t see her in the role at all, wanting Marilyn Monroe, and reportedly wasn’t very nice about the whole thing. Audrey was Sabrina and Princess Anne and Jo Stockton.
K said, recently, that she’s always looked at Audrey as typical, because girl’s love her. And it’s true. One’s hard pressed to come across a girl who’s not enamored of the little black dress clad beauty eating her danish outside a jewelry store. There’s an episode of Buffy where a group of vampires prey on college freshman. They have a collection going of Monet waterlilies and Klimt “Kiss”es because every freshman has one or the other, because they haven’t discovered their identities or something. I think that one could include this image:
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, and I admit I’m no exception considering I have this same poster up in my little room, what I mean to say is exactly what K meant to say; loving Audrey Hepburn is typical. But you can turn your head and pretend not to care, you can say you always liked Jennifer Jones better and put Audrey from your mind. But then something will occur and you’ll be faced with her smiling and laughing her sophisticated, Paris refined, ass through Sabrina and you’re immediately hooked again. She’s just so darn cute! But beyond that she’s classy, feisty, and always intelligent, which was far more than could be said about most working movie stars of her time.
What’s more she had style. Not long after she made a name for herself by winning the Academy Award for her first motion picture, Roman Holiday, and being completely winning during her acceptance speech she struck up a friendship with Hubert de Givenchy during the filming of Sabrina that spawned two careers worth of a style that has never been forgotten. Audrey’s name is almost synonymous with fashion and an elegant style that was showcased in nearly all of her pictures; simple, feminine, and exquisitely tailored. Sabrina won the Oscar for best costume design and unsurprisingly the credit went to costumer Edith Head. Upset, Audrey immediately called Givenchy in Paris to apologize. The designer went on to create the costumes not only for every one of Audrey’s subsequent films, but also for her personal wardrobe. Audrey knew what looked good on her waifishly thin body and Givenchy knew how to style her, together they created one of the most popularly well known partnerships in fashion that’s ever existed.
I suppose, in a lot of ways, it’s inaccurate to call Audrey a childhood icon because she’s a persisting icon throughout my life. Cliché, perhaps, but there’s usually a reason for clichés, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking an actress who was kind in real life, charitable, talented, and adorable. She proved there was nothing wrong with not being voluptuous and blond. She proved it was okay to be smart and just, well, nice. And I think that’s a good message for anyone.