If Audrey Hepburn were alive, she would be a few years shy of 90 on May 4. And she would be amused at how she became a cultural icon. The opening scene of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was a defining moment for the actress, as her elegant appearance became her signature look. Truman Capote, who wrote the novella, didn't fancy Hepburn for the role of Holly Golightly. She was too old for the part, but the producers (and director Blake Edwards) thought otherwise. The rest was history.
For Hepburn fans, here's an interesting trivia. The actress had a brief appearance in the opening scene of "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951). This comedy by Charles Crichton became an instant classic, so it won't come as a surprise if Hollywood producers noticed her right away. There was drama behind the pre-production of "Roman Holiday", where Daltron Trumbo thought of this romantic comedy. Alas, he was a member of Hollywood Ten. His name couldn't appear in the opening credits, but many in Tinseltown knew he was the best screenwriter of the studio era. ("Roman Holiday" won the Academy Award for Best Writing, but Trumbo didn't receive his Oscar. His widow did.) Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons were considered for the lead role of the crown princess, but both actresses were unavailable before production. William Wyler did a screen test on the then-unknown Hepburn, and he was impressed. And Gregory Peck did a generous act. (He was supposed to get top billing, but he suggested to Wyler to share it with Hepburn.) It wasn't hard not to be captivated by Hepburn. She was like a whiff of fresh air. She had screen presence. And she was such a lovely sight. No one would guess her harrowing experience during World War II.
Hepburn won the Academy Award (for Best Actress) for "Roman Holiday". The film was a huge hit, so it was understandable that producers (and directors) of her succeeding films wanted her not to be different from Ann, the crown princess. But the British actress could act. Let's have a look at her best works:
Funny Face (1957) by Stanley Donen. Aside from "Breakfast at Tiffany's", Hepburn was also remembered for "My Fair Lady". Those who were not knowledgeable of musicals would overlook this Stanley Donen production. Fred Astaire and Hepburn made a perfect couple. Songs like "Let's Kiss and Make Up" would make the viewers sway with glee.
The Nun's Story (1959) by Fred Zinnemann. Hepburn played Sister Luke in this adaptation of Kathyrn Hulme's novel. Zinnemann helmed it, so expect heavy drama. And Hepburn shined. The New York Film Critics Circle named her Best Actress (for the year), but Hollywood saw a snotty lot instead.
Charade (1963) by Stanley Donen. Cary Grant was supposed to be Hepburn's leading man in "Roman Holiday", but he turned it down because he thought he was too old for the role. He apparently had a change of mind, as he starred along Hepburn in this mystery film. Many would thought that Hitchcock directed this film, but they would get a pleasant surprise. No one could play better than Grant and Hepburn.
Wait Until Dark (1967) by Terence Young. Some might have reservations about Hepburn playing a blind woman, unaware of a con man and his accomplice planning the perfect crime. This was a psychological thriller, where the actors had to make the story believable. If not for Hepburn, it might have fallen below expectations.