Biographies & Memoirs


Ruling the World (1954-1957)

“A woman looks good either in clothes or out of clothes, never both.”


AUDREY HEPBURN WAS AN UNLIKELY FASHION REVOLUTIONARY. “I never thought I was pretty,” she told Ralph Lauren years later. She felt too skinny, too flat, too tall. Her insecurities kept her from seeing her beauty, but she instinctively knew the value of her looks. She said she used to be so self-conscious about the unevenness of her front teeth that she tried not to smile. Yet during Roman Holiday, she declined the studio’s offer to cap her teeth. Nor would she let them pluck her heavy eyebrows.1

William Wyler, early in Roman Holiday shooting, looked at her and said, “I think you should wear some falsies, if you don’t mind my saying so.” Audrey looked back and said, “I am!”2

The last word belonged, as always, to Billy Wilder: “If that girl had tits, she could rule the world.”

She would rule it anyway, in their absence. Photoplay called her “flat-chested, slim-hipped and altogether un-Marilyn Monroeish”—a stringbean, in Hollywood. But she would march straight into the bosom boom and pioneer a look of her own. “You have to look at yourself objectively,” she advised her fans. “Analyze yourself like an instrument. You have to be absolutely frank with yourself. Face your handicaps, don’t try to hide them. Instead, develop something else.”3

Hepburn’s vital statistics were the same from age twenty-three to the end of her life: Givenchy says she never altered more than a centimeter in forty years. Anita Loos observed that her hat size (21) was bigger than her waist—“the slimmest since the Civil War,” said Edith Head. “You could get a dog collar around it.” (A prankster friend once actually used Audrey’s belt as a collar for her St. Bernard—and it fit perfectly!)4

Head told Charles Higham that Hepburn understood fashion better than any actress except Marlene Dietrich. “Like Dietrich, Audrey’s fittings became the ten-hour not the ten-minute variety. She knew exactly how she wanted to look or what worked best for her, yet she was never arrogant or demanding. She had an adorable sweetness that made you feel like a mother getting her only daughter ready for her prom.”

She compensated for her height by making flats and ballet slippers an integral part of apparel; her daily uniform consisted of slacks or skirts with a blouse. But gradually, this “wistful child of the war era” turned into something else. Her 1952 publicity photos showed a girl largely removed from fashion, in toreador pants and men’s shirts tied at the waist—charming but not particularly chic.5 Sabrina and Givenchy brought the look that became legendary: From now on, her clothes are not only glamorous but deliberately emphasize the slender silhouette.

Her beauty secrets—such as they were—were revealed in William Fields’s press release of December 29, 1953:

Shade of powder?



“Pale shades at all times.”6

“She looks so pure,” said Audrey Wilder at the time. “She doesn’t wear jewels or hats or furs like the rest of us, and half the time her only makeup is around those huge eyes of hers. The result is that, through no fault of hers, she makes me feel fat and tacky. Also, I suddenly realize that I probably drink and smoke too much.”7

Hepburn’s reasons for not indulging in luxuries had nothing to do with their expense. “Jewelry just doesn’t suit me,” she said, “and if I wear too much makeup, my face looks like a mask instead of me.... Put me in furs and jewels, and I look like something off a barrel organ.”8

“Is Hollywood shifting its accent on sex?” asked Silver Screen after the release of Sabrina: “She’s changing Hollywood’s taste in girls. From the fullbosomed,sweater-filling type with more curves than the New York Central Railroad, to the lean, umbrella-shaped variety.” They were speaking, of course, of Audrey, and quoting her: ”I know I’m not very well built. I’m not very shapely and not very voluptuous.... It may be that the accent has gone off sex slightly and gone on to femininity.“9

Newspapers in 1954 were reporting on “a new cult” around Audrey Hepburn. “Today,” said one, “it is no secret in the magazine world that a picture of the lady on a cover is like a Benzedrine pill to sales.”10 Vogue was calling her “today’s wonder-girl.... She has so captured the public imagination and the mood of the time that she has established a new standard of beauty, and every other face now approximates to the ‘Hepburn look.’ ... This slim little person, with the winged eyebrows and Nefertiti head and throat, is the world’s darling.” 11

From now on, Vogue would record her every minute change of appearance. So would everyone, and every other publication in Europe and America, with any interest in fashion.

PRIVATELY, the little fashion plate’s situation was less grand. “I have had no time to shop for ‘Audrey’ clothes,” she lamented. “I have two dinner dresses and slacks, and horrible gaps in between.”12 It illustrated the discrepancy between an international phenomenon and a real-life young woman. The roller coaster was exhilarating, but it was moving much too fast.

Three months into the run of Ondine, she was suffering from exhaustion. She was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and was fifteen pounds underweight. Her doctors said she had to quit and get some rest, and she reluctantly followed their advice: Ondine closed on July 3, 1954, after 157 performances.

“Audrey was worn out,” says Mel Ferrer. “She had been working nonstop since before Roman Holiday, supporting her mother and herself. Dancing in musicals and cabaret. Playing an occasional bit-part in films. From Roman Holiday she had jumped into Sabrina and then decided she wanted to do Ondine, in spite of her agents’ and Paramount’s objections....

“I urged her to take a complete rest in Switzerland—most importantly [to] cure herself of a debilitating case of asthma. When we first saw each other in London she often had to stop and rest in the street as I walked her home. She had very raspy breathing and a deep-seated asthmatic condition.”13

Mel felt the good Swiss air would help her overcome it. At the end of July, she flew to an Alpine resort in Gstaad, only to be greeted by a crowd of photographers and reporters. After a week of media imprisonment there, she fled to Burgenstock—a lavish mountaintop retreat overlooking Lake of Lucerne. The drive up was almost perpendicular, rising 3,000 feet in twenty minutes. The windows of her villa looked out onto the Alps, and she found both the views and the climate a tonic—unmolested at last.

“I love to wake up in the early morning, throw open the shutters and drink in the sight of the tall mountain peaks and the lake down below,” she enthused.

Going to Bürgenstock was one of the most significant decisions of her life. There, wrote Charles Higham, she luxuriated in a private kingdom created by the great Frey hotelier family, whose current scion Fritz became her close friend. He ruled over a mountain peninsula of five hundred acres—a former wilderness transformed into three hotels with golf course, beach, funicular railway, forested park, and staff of hundreds. In that regal resort, Audrey found her first real respite since leaving England for America nearly three years before.

Forgotten, for the moment, were the complex business arrangements of her career. Paramount had once again tried to buy out her British contract—this time, for a cool million dollars, but Associated British refused. It was the highest-ever rejected Hollywood bid for a British star. Though still bound to ABC, Audrey subsequently agreed to a multiple-picture Paramount contract, with an optional year off between films for the theater.

“My bosses at Paramount realize I am very sincere about the stage,” she said. “I feel I wouldn’t last long if I were to do pictures only. I have learned the little I know about acting from my stage work.”14

There were discussions of her playing Juliet at Stratford-upon-Avon, but she was in no condition to do so. In August 1954, the New York Herald Tribune reported that she might be enticed to New York in the winter to play the title role in Maxwell Anderson’s Mary of Scotland, with Helen Hayes as Queen Elizabeth. Hayes, who had created the part of Mary in 1933, wanted to do the show again: “Suddenly, I thought of Audrey. She’d be the ideal Mary Stuart.” Perhaps recalling that Audrey had been ordered to rest, Hayes added, “It’s only for two weeks. I should think she could do it. That’s a wonderful part for a girl.”15

And a wonderful idea: Hayes and Hepburn in a great stage vehicle to showcase them both. But Audrey Hepburn would never return to the theater again.

AT THAT POINT, it was all she could do to rally from the edge of a nervous breakdown. And it was Mel Ferrer for whom she rallied. In August, for his thirty-seventh birthday, Audrey sent him a platinum Rolex watch engraved, “Mad About the Boy.” (They were both avid Noel Coward fans.) He flew to Switzerland and formally proposed, and she formally accepted—over Ella’s objection.

During Ondine, she was asked where she wanted to “settle down” permanently. “That’s hard to answer,” she replied, “because one changes all the time. What strikes me most about America is the gaiety and the speed and the vitality. If I had my choice, and if I had the money, I’d have an apartment in London, an apartment in New York, and someplace in the country—providing, of course, I could travel a lot and go to Paris and Rome a great deal! But of course, the day I marry a man I’m very much in love with, and he lives in Timbuktu, that’s where I’ll live.”16

It would be Switzerland, not Timbuktu.

On September 24, 1954, Audrey and Mel Ferrer were married in a civil ceremony at Buochs, on the shores of Lake of Lucerne, in the parlor of the local mayor’s house. The next day they repeated their vows at a religious ceremony in a thirteenth-century Protestant chapel below the mountain at Bürgenstock, presided over by Pastor Maurice Eindiguer. She wore a Pierre Balmain white organdie robe, a small crown of white roses, and white gloves. Among the twenty-five guests were Mel’s children Pepa and Mark and his sister Terry; London Paramount chief Richard Mealand; and Sir Neville Bland, a friend of Ella’s and former British ambassador to Holland. Best man Gregory Peck had to cancel due to his film schedule and was replaced by Fritz Frey. Freddie Heineken was an usher. James Hanson was invited but sent regrets.

For the rest of her life, Audrey would call Switzerland home. Bürgenstock was a town where doctors still made house calls and people took care of sick neighbors. “There is no place in the world where I feel so much at peace,” she would say. “It’s my very private stomping ground. I’ve become one of these people. We’re loyal to each other.”

After a four-day honeymoon near Bürgenstock, she and Mel enjoyed a week together in the Italian vineyard country near Cinecittà, where he was filming La Madre. “We were pursued by five carloads of photographers when we arrived in Rome,” Mel recalled. “I had rented us a delightful farmhouse outside of Rome.... We had to establish a cordon of security around the farm, so that she could continue to rest while I went off each day to the studio. It was a beautiful and peaceful spot.”17

There, while Mel completed his picture, they billed and cooed and awaited the release of Sabrina.

SABRINA’S amorous exposition unfolds beneath a fake Long Island moon with the Rodgers and Hart theme, “Isn’t It Romantic” endlessly driven home in the background.

“That song is repeated in every Paramount picture because it was totally owned by Paramount,” Billy Wilder explains. “It was first composed for Love Me Tonight (1932), the Mamoulian picture with Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. There was no ASCAP, so they bought it from Rodgers and Hart and used it forever.”18

It even plays as Sabrina (Hepburn) is contemplating suicide over David (Holden) and writing a farewell note to her father: “Don’t have David at the funeral. He probably wouldn’t even cry.”

Sabrina is shipped off to France, where she tries to forget David while attending a Parisian academy of cuisine. The cooking school provides the film’s funniest, most “Wilderesque” sequences, thanks to Marcel Hillaire as the chief chef. His lecture-demonstrations are a comic tour de force:

Today, we will learn the correct way how to crack an egg. Voila! Egg! Now, an egg is not a stone. It is not made of wood. It is a living thing. It has a heart. So when we crack it, we must not torment it. We must be merciful and execute it quickly—it is done with one hand. Kindly watch the wrist. Voilà! One, two, three, crack! You see? It is all in the wrist. Now, everybody—one, two, three crack your egg! One, two, three, crack your egg!

They all do so in unison—Sabrina most clumsily.

Back on Long Island, Humphrey Bogart as David’s diligent elder brother, Linus, dictates a letter to his playboy sibling over a state-of-the-art 1954 car phone:

Interoffice memo, Linus Larabee to David Larabee. Dear David, this is to remind you that you are a junior partner of Larabee Industries. Our building is located at Thirty Broad Street, New York City. Your office is on the twenty-second floor. Our normal week is Monday through Friday. Our working day is nine to five. Should you find this inconvenient, you are free to retire under the Larabee Pension Plan.

Their crotchety, frothing-at-the-mouth father (Walter Hampden) sneaks cigars and martinis behind their mother’s back and fulminates about David’s prior marriages, including “that Twyman girl—her family fifty years on the social register, and she has the audacity to wear on her wedding dress, not a corsage but a Stevenson button!” It was one of the script’s many good political jokes nowadays lost on most viewers.

Sabrina returns from Paris transformed into a sophisticate—the birth of Hepburn’s partnership with Givenchy. David fails to recognize her in her chic new suit. But he invites her to a party that evening, where she wears another fabulous Givenchy creation—a white organdy strapless sheath with a sweeping, floor-length overskirt, open in front, giving the impression that she has wings from the waist down!

In the hasty twist ending, Audrey gets her man—not flashy Holden, but stuffy Bogart, who undergoes a transformation. “Look at me,” he says, “—Joe College with a touch of arthritis.” Their age difference is huge, but Hepburn’s magic eyes lure us into suspending disbelief, as they would often be called upon to do in her future films.

Opinion differed sharply over Bogart’s long-in-the-tooth character. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times thought his performance “one of the most surprising and affecting he has ever done.”19 A later critic, on the other hand, declared, “Every time Bogie pitches the woo, you feel like calling the cops.”20

Britons were offended by “the Wilder vulgarity,” as when Holden sits on a pair of wineglasses. “The subsequent scenes, where the affected region is constantly being prodded and kicked by hearty fellow characters, firmly overstep the narrow dividing line between slapstick and viciousness,” wrote reviewer (later director) Karel Reisz.21 But American audiences loved the running gag of Holden’s injured rear-end, especially the absurd plastic hammock with “trap door” in the middle, helpfully devised by the older brother for the younger’s recuperation.

In general, the critics were less effusive about Audrey’s second outing. Films in Review said she was “fey and gaminish” and “costumed to emphasize her lack of what are technically known as secondary sexual characteristics.” Time’s love affair with her in Roman Holiday seemed to be over: “Actress Hepburn’s appeal, it becomes clearer with every appearance, is largely to the imagination; the less acting she does, the more people can imagine her doing, and wisely she does very little in Sabrina.”

The meanest pan came from Clayton Cole in the British magazine Films and Filming: “Sabrina is the prick that bursts the fair bubble that was Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Surely the vogue for asexuality can go no further than this weird hybrid with butchered hair. Of course none of this would really matter if the charm and grace were sincere, but I am afraid that she is letting her calculation show.”

Cole dismissed Bogart brutally as “a frail, lisping old man.”22 But the only ballot box that counted was at the box-office, where the fans’ mandate was clear: Sabrina was the No. 3 top money-making film of


AFTER HONEYMOONING in Italy, Audrey and Mel returned to Bürgenstock, where her happiness about Sabrina’s success was soon dwarfed by a greater ecstasy: She was pregnant.

She so longed for a child and was now “infanticipating” with great excitement. Discussions of the baby occupied them in November on their way to Holland for Audrey’s first visit “home” since achieving movie fame. She had been invited by the League of Dutch Military War Invalids for a five-day fund-raising tour and to receive an award for her efforts during the war. But the sensation she created was rather too great. At a department store in Amsterdam, where Mel accompanied her to sign photographs for the benefit of war victims, thousands of teenagers stormed the place, breaking showcases and wreaking havoc in an effort to get close to her. Police had to be called in to control the mob.

The following month, just before the 1955 New Year, they rented a furnished flat in London near Marble Arch, while Mel filmed Oh Rosalinda! there. Ella had found the place, which was just a few minutes from her own flat in Mayfair. Audrey enjoyed the proximity to and reunion with her mother. Mel, less so. In any case, it marked the start of their firm policy to schedule their professional lives to be never, or rarely, apart.

Oh Rosalinda!, under Michael Powell’s direction at Elstree, was a non-musical version of Johann Strauss’s Fledermaus, and there was some tension during its making. By one account, when Audrey dropped by the set to watch Mel at work, he refused to let her appear in any publicity photos, not wanting to share the limelight. Asked about that, Ferrer says, “I never refused to allow Audrey to do anything. She always had very precise ideas about what she did and did not want to do.”23

Other allegations soon made the rounds concerning Ferrer’s dominance of her and Audrey’s insistence on only accepting films in which he would costar with her. She supposedly turned down the “perfect” role of Joan of Arc in Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan—the part that would make Jean Seberg famous—when Preminger refused to cast Ferrer as the Dauphin. But Ferrer denies it:

“Saint Joan was not a project which appealed to Audrey. Her agent, Kurt Frings, was a chum of Otto Preminger and he wanted Audrey to do it, [but she] decided otherwise. There was never any question of my playing the Dauphin—it would have been totally wrong casting.”24

Their own pet film project was Ondine, which they championed at every opportunity in England. Mel wanted Associated British to do the project as part of Audrey’s commitment to them, but ABC declined on the theory that watersprites were death at the box office. He then pushed for MGM to make Ondine in the States, with Charlton Heston in the role of the knight, but the Giraudoux estate would not approve.

“We spoke often of trying to film Ondine,” says Ferrer, “but it was such a tenuous, gossamer work that we were advised against it as a motion picture.” Perhaps it wouldn’t have worked, he admits, “although I would have loved to have seen Audrey’s mesmerizing performance preserved on film.”25

Her affairs were in some turmoil then. She was inundated with offers, but Associated British was contesting her Paramount contract. Mel helped crucially by proposing that Audrey hire the aggressive Kurt Frings as her new agent and by arranging for veteran Henry Rogers to take charge of her publicity. “We all had a difficult and complicated time steering a way through the exigencies of two long term contracts [ABC and Paramount] signed by Audrey before I met her,” says Ferrer. “Kurt became a devoted and fanatical defender of her interests.”26

Frings bore assorted grudges against the studios and was said to enjoy gouging them by turning his star clients into freelancers and getting them bigger fees plus a percentage. A former boxer, he was colorful and smart—and Audrey liked him a lot. Frings and his screenwriter-wife, Ketti, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play of Look Homeward, Angel, were now among the Ferrers’ few close friends in Hollywood, along with Gregory Peck.27

Speaking of whom ... Peck and Hepburn had just been voted the world’s most popular film stars of 1954 in the Foreign Press Association’s poll of fifty countries. Soon after, in February 1955, Audrey received her second Oscar nomination, for Sabrina. She lost to Grace Kelly for The Country Girl (who should have lost to Judy Garland for A Star Is Born).

Sabrina’s sole Oscar winner was—Edith Head for costumes. The real credit belonged to Givenchy, who was much too polite to register a protest. Audrey phoned him in Paris to apologize, but he told her “not to worry because Sabrina had brought me more new clients than I could handle. But Audrey was still upset, and she made a promise to me that in the future she would make sure that it never happened again. And she kept her promise.”28

Life for Audrey seemed glorious, until a miscarriage intruded into it that March. She and Mel grieved privately. Publicly, she was perched at the top—which was a kind of trap. In the accepted career-tracking of the day, she could never again take a supporting role and now faced the need to “top” herself with every new film. Her next role had to be something big, sweeping and serious.


WHEN DINO DE LAURENTIIS deserted the Fascists and was hiding out on the isle of Capri during World War II, he had a total of two books to while away the time: The Odyssey and War and Peace. The former inspired his later movie Ulysses—which was but a “finger exercise,” he said, for the latter.29

Tolstoy’s two-thousand-page manuscript, written between 1863 and 1869, conjured three hundred characters with a panoramic backdrop of Russia and the Napoleonic wars. It was arguably the greatest of all novels. One critic called it “a combination of everything ever written by anyone.” No film version of War and Peace had ever been made, though some of the greatest names in film history had plotted to do so over the years—D. W. Griffith, Ernst Lubitsch, Erich von Stroheim and Irving Thalberg among them.

Now, all of a sudden, everybody wanted to do War and Peace at once. It was a time of epics and new widescreen techniques to make motion pictures more competitive with television. Aside from De Laurentiis, Mike Todd said he had a Robert Anderson screenplay of the Tolstoy novel to be filmed in his new Todd-AO 65 mm process in May 1955. David O. Selznick boasted a Ben Hecht script that would start shooting in June 1955. MGM was said to have a War and Peace set for August 1955.30

The book’s central figure is Natasha Rostov—“a dark-eyed girl full of life, with a wide mouth, slender bare arms ... , her shoulders thin, her bosom undefined,” wrote Tolstoy. “Such was Natasha with her wonder, her delight, her shyness.”31 He might have had Audrey Hepburn in mind. All the film producers now did, and so did the actress herself. She could powerfully identify with an adolescent whose life is turned upside down by war and who ages quickly through three terrible years of conflict.

Todd seemed to lead the pack by getting Fred Zinnemann’s agreement to direct. “Mike’s suggestion that Audrey Hepburn should play the part of Natasha made things even more exciting,” said Zinnemann. “Unfortunately, Dino De Laurentiis thought so too. [Todd] was shattered; his heart was set on that picture. He had been courting Marshal Tito, and already two Yugoslav cavalry divisions had been earmarked to work with us.”32

De Laurentiis, for reasons of practicality and national pride, thought the Italian army more photogenic—and easier to hire. Two smart moves made him the War and Peace sweepstakes winner: his teaming with producer Carlo Ponti (future husband of Sophia Loren) and his hiring of Mel Ferrer to play Prince Andrei. That cinched the signing of Audrey Hepburn for $350,000 (three and a half times Mel’s $100,000 salary) and $500 a week expenses. The prospect of being and working together in such a monumental, prestigious project thrilled them both, and the remaining details were quickly sorted out: De Laurentiis struck loan-out deals with Paramount (in exchange for U.S. distribution rights) and Associated British (for U.K. distribution).

The director of an epic such as this had to be someone of vast experience. De Laurentiis chose King Vidor, craftsman of such silent classics as The Big Parade (1925) and The Crowd (1928) and, in the sound era, of Duel in the Sun (1947)—but little since. Vidor was near the end of a distinguished career and would make only one more film. His tendency to oversimplify complex stories and to indulge in sentimentality had increased with age, yet he seemed a safe enough choice.

Vidor was hired not only to direct but to write, and he now performed the astounding feat of condensing Tolstoy’s million and a half words into a shooting script in one month. Needless to say, it took many liberties. “Tolstoy took two hundred fifty pages to tell readers that there was a feeling between [Natasha and Pierre],” said De Laurentiis. “We got it over in one scene in the horse corral at the beginning of the picture.”33 Such solutions had their drawbacks, and the screenplay repairs would end up engaging eight writers for most of a year. Among them was novelist Irwin Shaw, who later denied that he asked to be removed from the credits—but seemed relieved not to be listed.

The casting of Pierre was one of the biggest problems. Prince Andrei—whom Natasha loves wildly—is not the most important male figure in War and Peace. Its masculine soul and true hero is Pierre Bezukhov, her bastard half-brother. Audrey and Mel originally wanted Gregory Peck for the role, but he was engaged. Their next (and best) choice was Peter Ustinov, who was turned down by De Laurentiis for lacking a big enough “name.” Marlon Brando was among others under consideration, but they finally settled on Henry Fonda.

In spring of 1955, the Ferrers went to Italy and reoccupied the charming house in Albano, twenty miles outside Rome, where they had spent their honeymoon. One of their visitors was Jeremy Brett, who was playing Natasha’s younger brother.

“When I arrived at their house,” recalled Brett, shortly before his death in 1995, “Mel met me and under his right arm popped a little girl with no makeup who looked about sixteen years old—an exquisitely delicate, porcelain doll. I was spellbound. I remember swimming with them and banging my head on the side of the pool because I was so busy looking at her.”34

The Ferrers loved that pool, whose water gushed forth from an antique carved stone head in the center. But there was precious little time to swim in it, once War and Peace began shooting on July 4. Ten-hour days were the norm, and they were lucky to get home by eight p.m. for dinner. Due to the miscarriage and her frailty in general, Audrey was at pains to keep up her weight and Ferrer was the imperious liaison for all her needs.

“Mel is like a manager with her as well as a husband,” said cinematographer Jack (The African Queen) Cardiff, who was annoyed by Ferrer’s incessant solicitude: “Is the car ready for Miss Hepburn?” ... “The costume is wrong for Miss Hepburn.” ... “It is too hot (or too cold) for Miss Hepburn.”35

Audrey called Natasha the toughest role she ever did, yet she executed it with her unique toughness. “I did War and Peace in velvets and furs in August,” she recalled. “In the hunting scene where I’m in the velvet and a high hat, the family was plodding across a big field in the blazing Roman sunshine and, all of the sudden, my horse fainted out from under me. They quickly got me out of the saddle so I didn’t end up being rolled over. So when they say I’m strong as a horse, I am. I’m stronger! I didn’t faint. The horse did.”36

Her toughness included an insistence on the behind-the-scenes artists she trusted. She demanded the husband-and-wife team of Alberto and Grazia de Rossi for her makeup and hair, and kept them through her career. “She had such beautiful bone structure that her features did not need a lot of work,” said Alberto, who also served Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor. “She had a strong jawline, which in a sense I reversed by emphasizing her temples. She had thick eyebrows that always needed to be thinned out. Every picture we made together, I tried to reduce them a bit more than the time before, but without going to extremes. She had the kind of face that needed eyebrows.”37 When someone once said she had the most beautiful eyes in the world, Audrey replied: “Oh, no—the most beautiful eye makeup perhaps—but all the credit belongs to Alberto.” Indeed, some credit de Rossi as most responsible for the “Hepburn look.”

Audrey also paid tireless attention to costume details—having studied books on early nineteenth-century fashion—and she annoyed De Laurentiis’s costumers by flying in Givenchy from Paris to give his ex officio approval of everything. She could stand three hours at a time until a pleat or petticoat was adjusted to her satisfaction. In the end, she wrestled through twenty-four costume changes and ten different hairdos, supervising most of them herself down to the final hairpin.

De Laurentiis had his own staggering problems. It took fabulous bribes and cajolery finally to muster the 15,000 Italian soldiers to play French and Russian troops in the battles of Borodino and Austerlitz. Ten thousand of them—be—lieved to be an all-time record—appeared in one scene. (The buttons alone, for their uniforms, kept ninety tailors busy for months in a Swiss factory.) Some 8,000 horses and 3,000 cannons peppered the battlefields, and the many accidents required De Laurentiis to hire sixty-four doctors, dress them up as soldiers, and sprinkle them among the combatants to provide first aid.

Moscow of 1812, complete with its onion-domed churches and towers, was painstakingly reconstructed on the Tiber River, and, in the intense July heat, snow scenes were created by wind machines blowing cornflakes dipped in gypsum. Audrey spoke of standing on a hill, watching the production assistants go about with torches, setting fire to “Moscow” in De Laurentiis’s attempt to outdo Selznick’s burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind.

The gargantuan production required all forty-eight acres and nine soundstages of Rome’s massive Cinecittà studios—a fully equipped city in itself. The Ferrers drove there daily from their rented farmhouse and found it, compared to the Hollywood counterparts, a happy and stimulating place. Audrey enjoyed joining the crew for lunch and watching their consumption of large quantities of wine and pasta during breaks.

But the strain was enormous. Scenes of war and carnage by day gave her nightmares by night. Moreover, she hated having to film her scenes out of sequence. Roman Holiday and Sabrina had been shot chronologically. In War and Peace, she was a naive teenager one day and a grief-stricken adult the next. She was also distracted by the many visitors De Laurentiis allowed on the set and later complained about it in a Photoplay interview:

Can you imagine doing a play, and someone during one of the acts says, “Just a moment, please,” and you stop? A stranger wanders on the stage, you shake hands, and then you all sit down and you chat. Then after a while he leaves, and you are expected to go on with the play exactly as if nothing had happened.... I forced a smile on my face and muttered a few polite words, because I knew it was expected of me. But the scene was finished as far as I was concerned. The mood had disappeared....

There are actors, much better actors than I, who can cope with such a situation and not let it disturb them. But I just can’t.... There was a time when I even had a complex working in front of my fellow actors. But I’m getting better; I’m learning. I hadn’t much choice. I had about half the Italian Army watching me.38

She could hardly say so on the record, but the main object of her pique was all-powerful gossip columnist Louella Parsons, who turned up in Rome during War and Peace shooting, installed herself in a luxury suite at the Excelsior Hotel, demanded access to Audrey—and got it. Not surprisingly, Audrey was much relieved when the filming of War and Peace finally came to an end. Now it was in the hands of King Vidor and his editors. All that remained, for her and Mel, was the verdict.


THE VERDICT, in a nutshell, was that War and Peace was “the least Russian movie ever made.”39 And for once it couldn’t be blamed on Hollywood. The picture was quintessentially Italian, despite the odd international cast: Herbert Lom as Napoleon, Oscar Homolka as General Kutuzov, Jeremy Brett as Natasha’s brother Nikolai, Vittorio Gassman as Anatole, Anita Ekberg as Helene, May Britt as Sonya and John Mills as Platon.

Worst by far was Henry Fonda—the lanky Yankee whose accent clashed jarringly with Hepburn’s soft, pleasant Euro-timbre. Not for a moment is he believable as sensitive Pierre. Mel Ferrer, by contrast, conveys noble dignity throughout, especially in the gorgeous ball scene. But his dramatic deathbed reunion with Natasha lacks much impact, and his dying seems to go on and on.

So does the film. The Manchester Guardian said it had “length without depth”—at three hours and twenty-eight minutes, just twelve minutes short of Gone With the Wind. It had cost a whopping $6 million, but that was less than half of its $13-million rival, The Ten Commandments, which grossed three times as much at the box office. War and Peace premiered August 21, 1956, in a year of “spectacles” that pitted it not only against Moses but also Around the World in 80 Days and Giant.

Many reviews, as that of Films in Review, praised Hepburn’s rendering of Natasha: “She dominates an epic picture by refusing to distort her character to the epic mould, letting her ... very littleness in the face of history captivate us by its humanity contrasted with the inhumanity of war. She incarnates all that is worth fighting for.”

Audrey had acted well—and looked perfect—in a part that was neither well written nor well directed. In the end, she was defeated not by Mel Ferrer but by King Vidor and Henry

THEN AND LATER, people said Ferrer dictated her career in totalitarian fashion, forcing her to reject good roles if there was no choice role for himself. Then and later, Audrey denied it. There was certainly no truth, for instance, to the claims that Audrey lost roles in The Diary of Anne Frank and the musical Gigi because Mel insisted on parts for himself. But it was quite true that they didn’t like to be apart, which had considerable influence on the film work they did accept.

Toward the end of War and Peace shooting, she and Mel experienced their first separation since getting married. His scenes had been finished before hers, and he had flown to France to star with Ingrid Bergman and Jean Marais in Jean Renoir’s Elena and Her Men [also called Paris Does Strange Things].

“We tried our best not to be separated by work,” says Mel, but the Renoir film was important. “Audrey and I both adored Ingrid.... We agreed it was something not to be missed, and she subsequently joined me in Paris.”40

In an April 1956 Photoplay story headlined “My Husband Doesn’t Run Me,” Audrey sang the same tune in an interview with Mary Worthington Jones: “Mel and I both value our careers immensely. We’d be very foolish and irresponsible if we didn’t. [But] if we ever said, ‘Oh, just this once, what does it matter if we’re separated for a few short months,’ then the once becomes twice—without realizing it, we might have let material success ruin two lives.... If I were asked to take a step which might jeopardize my marriage, I would delve deep down into my heart to discover why I must do this.”41

In particular, she was incensed by an article calling their relationship “a kind of master-to-slave one, with Mel directing her life, using her career as a stepping stone for his own.”42 In general, she was very touchy about the “Svengali” stories:

How can people say Mel makes all my decisions, that he decides what I am going to play, and with whom, and where! It so infuriates me. I know how scrupulously correct he is, and how he loathes to give an opinion unless I ask for it. This is because we want so badly to keep our careers separate. We don’t want to interfere with each other....

I’ve been fending for myself since I was thirteen and thinking very carefully about a lot of important problems, and I don’t think I’ve made many bad decisions. I’m very proud of that, about my ability to think for myself, and no one, not even my husband, whom I adore, can persuade me to do something against my own judgment.43

Before that interview was over—and in many others—she again had to debunk the charge that Mel got his War and Peace role because of her. She was “indignant,” said Jones, and sprang from her chair, pacing up and down as she answered:

“He was asked to play Prince Andrei long before I was even approached—as a matter of fact, before we were even married.... After it was decided, Mel and I were thrilled at the thought of being in the same picture together. But from that moment on, we were put on the defensive. Imagine! Two married people, in the same profession, whose interests and careers are parallel, having to give excuses for playing in the same film together!”44

The ever-candid Bernard Schwartz—better known as Tony Curtis—was not an intimate friend of the Ferrers but knew them (and Hollywood) well enough to have his own sharp take on their dynamic. “You couldn’t get near her unless he was taken care of somehow,” says Curtis. “In the early years of that marriage, she had no confidantes. There was nobody around. The only one she could rely on was Mel, who wasn’t a bad guy, but the view that came from him was certainly self serving.”45

Variations on the “Mel as villain” theme occupied many fan magazines and newspapers, even in England, where it took cartoon form in the London Evening Standard. “Mel had an enormous influence over her in the early days,” said director Fred Zinnemann.46 But that was different from “using” her. Professionally, her stardom outshined his, which privately produced strain. Despite her protestations, she often did try to suppress her own will to conform to his wishes. Mel felt he was trying to do the same. Some thought they were trying too hard.

“She was absolutely charming,” recalls actor Theodore Bikel, who met them while filming The Vintage (1957) with Mel in France, “—fun and bright and international, just a delight to be with. Mel was decent and workmanlike, but he was a bit of a stick and she was the life of the party. She was very solicitous of him. It seemed that she was taking care of him a lot.”47

Working together as much as possible was the only way they saw to combine marriage with two film careers. Baroness Ella van Heemstra was among those who harbored dark suspicions that Ferrer was subordinating her daughter’s budding career to his own. But there is no evidence that he ever did so. In the long run, the “togetherness dilemma” would impair his career more than hers.

PEOPLE IN the industry remained skeptical. In fall of 1955, Audrey received producer Hal Wallis and writer Tennessee Williams in Switzerland to discuss the film version of Summer and Smoke. There, said Wallis, servants brought in a platter containing a single enormous fish—no soup, side dishes or dessert. “Audrey, dainty as a Dresden figure in a Givenchy original, consumed a large portion of the sea beast with great relish,” said Wallis, who was not pleased with the meal or the subsequent negotiations. They broke down, he claimed, because she wanted Givenchy to design the spinster teacher’s wardrobe and because she—not Ferrer—insisted Mel be her leading man. (The roles eventually went to Geraldine Page and Laurence Harvey.)48

So what would her next film project be?

She was deluged with script offers, including two dozen from Associated British—all of which she declined. From Paramount she now received an intriguing offer to star in the William Wyler film of Edmond Rostand’s L‘Aiglon. It was an extraordinary part, created on stage by Sarah Bernhardt, as the tubercular son of Napoleon and Empress Marie Louise. Hepburn would have made a fascinating boy and wanted to play it. Premature reports that she would make L’Aiglon praised her “courage” for taking on a male role.49 But like Garbo’s longed-for transsexual roles in Hamlet and The Picture of Dorian Gray, Audrey’s did not materialize. It was too unorthodox for 1956; Paramount never made the film.

She also failed to materialize opposite James Mason in the title role of Jane Eyre, which 20th Century-Fox offered her around the same time. Mason objected to her casting from the start: “Audrey Hepburn just happened to be the most beautiful woman in movies. A head-turner. The whole point about Jane was that no one noticed her when she came into a room or left it.”

When Audrey’s participation fell through, so did the film.

Among other films she rejected were Joseph Mankiewicz’s proposed Twelfth Night and Mark Robson’s The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, whose lead was then snapped up by Ingrid Bergman. There was also talk of Billy Wilder’s Ariane.

But the winner was Funny Face.

IT WAS A fantasy come true: Audrey’s first film musical, dancing and singing with Fred Astaire in the rain, far from Spain—namely, on the Seine. That dream deal involved a lot of horse-trading and was finally achieved by two elemental things: Audrey wanted Fred, and Fred wanted Audrey.

Astaire had just made Daddy Long Legs with Leslie Caron. Once again, to retain his appeal to young moviegoers, he would have to be cast opposite a younger woman. Who better than Audrey Hepburn—youth personified?

Astaire was exactly thirty years older than Audrey—fifty—seven to her twenty-seven-almost old enough to be her granddaddy long legs. The Hepburn role was originally earmarked for Carol Haney, a recent stage hit in Pajama Game, but MGM concluded she wasn’t “big” enough for a major film and was about to shelve the picture, when screenwriter Leonard Gershe suggested Hepburn. “Kurt Frings, who had not read the script, sent it over to her in Paris because we had to have an answer right away,” Gershe recalls. “When he read it, he was furious. ‘How could you send this trivial musical to Audrey Hepburn? Are you crazy?’”

But she was in dire need of something light after War and Peace. “Audrey usually takes about three days to read and consider a script,” said Mel. “This one she finished in two hours. She burst into the room where I was working and cried, ‘This is it! I don’t sing well enough, but, oh, if I can only do this with Fred Astaire!’ ”50

She told Frings, “I’m crazy about it,” and she was cast. “Without Audrey,” says Gershe, “Fred would not have been strong enough alone to have gotten the studio to do it then. But Audrey could have anything she wanted. She was the hottest thing.”51

She was hot enough to drive a hard bargain, too: $150,000, plus generous expenses for a posh Parisian hotel suite and the right to retain most of her Givenchy wardrobe.

More important than the dancing, at this stage, was the music, on which Gershe and producer-arranger Roger Edens were collaborating. Edens had begun as a pit piano player for George Gershwin and later become a Hollywood producer by way of Easter Parade (with Astaire) and other MGM musicals. In his opinion, Gershwin’s original 1928 score for Funny Face was too theatrical. New songs would be written by Gershe and himself, though the bulk of it would still consist of the great Gershwin

In order to get the Gershwin songs and title, MGM bought the rights to Funny Face from Warner Brothers, promptly discarding its dubious libretto about a jewel heist in Atlantic City. MGM now owned the songs, but Paramount owned Audrey and Fred Astaire.

What followed was a classic case of Hollywood wheeling and dealing: Edens, Gershe and director Stanley Donen were now sold by MGM—along with the Gershwin songs—to Paramount. “By the time we’d bought the rights of Funny Face and made all the deals,” said Donen, “it had cost a million dollars—and that was before a single foot of the film was even shot.”52

Gershe’s original story, Wedding Bells, replaced the old script, and he was amazed by how well Ira Gershwin’s lyrics suited the new characters and the casting of Audrey. Ella van Heemstra—with whom he was forming a close friendship—thought so, too. “I read the script when it was sent to Audrey in Paris,” she told Gershe, “and I could hardly believe it had been written by someone who didn’t know her. Every facet of her is there. I mean to say it is Audrey.“53

It was Cinderella again—but in the high-fashion milieux: The top photographer and editor of a trend-setting magazine are desperate to find a sensational new “discovery.” Audrey, of course, is the beatnik clerk-cum-fashion-plate they discover. The tale was loosely based on the life of photographer Richard Avedon and his search for a model embodying elegance and intelligence. Once he finds her, he trains and falls in love with her—not unlike Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.

In real life, Avedon had found, trained, and married model Evelyn Franklin in 1951. He and Gershe had become close friends when they were serving in the Merchant Marine and, even then, had spoken of applying slick magazine photo techniques to a big film musical. Soon enough, Donen and Avedon would be spending half the night working out details of the next day’s shooting.

Astaire’s role was inspired by Avedon; the other inspiration was Diana Vreeland, colorful editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. She served as the model for Maggie Prescott, manic editor of Quality magazine in the movie. That part was tailored to the larger-than-life talents of cabaret star Kay Thompson, who would be making her film debut in Funny Face.ah

Interior shooting commenced at Paramount in Hollywood in April 1956 and continued there for three months, followed by a month on location in Paris, and Audrey and Mel managed to stay together the whole time. In California, they rented director Anatole Litvak’s Malibu beach house; in Paris, where Mel was finishing up the Renoir film, they stayed at the Hotel Raphael.

“Home is wherever Mel and I create it, wherever our work takes us—Paris, California, before that Italy, and next Mexico,” she said.54 “We move our home with us, like snails.”

The press made much of the extravagance of their traveling and baggage arrangements—upwards of fifty pieces of luggage sometimes being necessary to create the Ferrers’ homes-away-from-home in various rented villas and luxury hotels.

“Like an exiled member of royalty,” said one report, “she takes with her, wherever she goes, trunks packed with her own candelabra, flat silver, books, records, pictures. She also takes many objects in her favorite color of white: table and bed linen, two hand-knit blankets, sets of china, vases, and her tiny Limoges ashtrays and cigarette boxes.“55 It was claimed that she hand-labeled every piece herself and kept a loose-leaf inventory with her at all times, so that she could find (and repack) everything in the same order. The source of that habit was allegedly her mother, who—like other Euro-aristocrats with multiple residences—had traveled that way in her heyday.

Ella, nowadays, was still based in London but often visited her daughter and made several trips to Paris during the shooting of Funny Face. (Friends felt Audrey was still emotionally dependent on her, but financially, “Her mother was completely dependent on Audrey,” says Ferrer.56 The Paris sequences involved virtually all of the city’s major landmarks—the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Paris Opera, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe. Audrey and Mel threw a memorable dinner-dance party one night for the cast and crew. Ingrid Bergman was one of their guests, and so was Audrey’s favorite Photoplay reporter, Mary Jones, at a restaurant with a fabulously romantic view of Montmarte.

Romance was Jones’s relentless theme with Hepburn that night. Could Audrey remember the moment her friendship with Mel turned into love? Audrey could not. “After a while,” she said, “we both just took it for granted that we would marry.... I was never engaged—just married.”

That didn’t sound so romantic, but she was being honest. One aspect of her attraction to Mel was of special importance now, she said: She had been ignorant of jazz and had learned its fine points from him. Their portable phonograph and records were always part of those fifty pieces of baggage.

“I like jazz best now,” she said. “It makes me want to move. But I was stiff as a poker as a jazz dancer, always off beat on the simplest syncopation. That was all gradually broken down. I’m so lucky to be married to Mel Ferrer, who is such a good dancer and adores jazz.”57

It was more than private enjoyment. She was now paired up with Fred Astaire in a major musical—one in which she was called upon to perform a lengthy jazz number and other dances, with and without him. She was determined not to be unprepared. For two months in Europe, before shooting, she put on her size 8AA (high metatarsal) slippers and went back to the barre, taking up practice with Paris Opera ballet dance master Lucien Legrand. “When I don’t dance,” she said at the time, “I always get fat in the wrong places. Most of all, I get hippy.”58

On Sabrina, she had worked with stage and film choreographer Eugene Loring and was delighted that he was choreographing Funny Face as well. “He’s familiar with all my limitations,” she said, though the only limitations Loring ever cited for her were “modesty and legs a bit too long.”59Forty years later, Leonard Gershe remembers watching Audrey rehearse:

“I never saw anyone work so hard. She was tireless in learning both the songs and the dances. It wasn’t like Cyd Charisse or Ginger Rogers, who did it all the time. Roger Edens would say, ‘Audrey, take tomorrow off. You’ve been working sixteen hours a day.’ She’d say, ‘No, I’ll be here at nine.’ And then she’d be there at eight.” It was partly her desire to meet Astaire’s standards, “but it had mostly to do with wanting to be good.”60

Funny Face’s choreography was credited to Loring and Astaire, with “song staging” by Loring devised her most important numbers, deftly incorporating her mannerisms and elfin sense of comedy. But Hepburn’s main inspiration was Astaire—once she survived their introduction. The morning they met at the studio in Hollywood, Audrey was “so shaken that I threw up my breakfast,” she wrote in her introduction to Stephen Silverman’s biography of Stanley Donen.61 “I was absolutely terrified, but Fred said, ‘Honey, just follow me, I’ll take care of everything.’ And he did.”62Before rehearsing their first number he suggested, “Come on, let’s have a little go together,” and they took a few delirious, anxiety-reducing spins.63

Astaire had had his own bouts with anxiety years earlier, related to this very vehicle. In 1928, he and sister, Adele, won raves for the stage show of Funny Face, and Paramount gave them a tryout for a proposed film version. That screen test produced an immortal, famous-last-words studio verdict on Fred: “Can’t act, can’t sing, balding, can dance a little.”

The original unmade Funny Face film was to have been shot in May 1929—the month Audrey Hepburn was born. Astaire gallantly told a reporter it was worth the twenty-seven-year wait: “This could be the last and only opportunity I’d have to work with the great and lovely Audrey, and I was not missing it.”64

The opening dance sequence in Funny Face was the famous “Think Pink” fashion number (“Banish the black, burn the blue, bury the beige! Think pink! And that includes the kitchen sink!”). Despite the bevy of top dancers and models in it, including Suzy Parker and Sunny Harnett, this razzle-dazzle routine belonged entirely to Kay Thompson, who utilizes it to start stealing the show early. (Movie audiences at the time often burst into applause at the end of it.)

Audrey’s first dance is a downbeat contrast. Astaire, Thompson and crew find Embryo Concepts, the perfect “sinister bookstore” in Greenwich Village, where Audrey as “Jo” works. Donen gives her a brilliant entrance: a ladder is shoved aside and hurtles along a row of bookshelves with the terrified Jo on top. Her passion is the esoteric philosophy of “empathicalism,” not frivolous fashions. She tries to throw them out, but they ignore her protests, tear up the place for their shoot, and then leave her alone in alphabetical disorder. In the wreckage, she sings Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On?,” filmed exquisitely from high angles in semi-darkness, and performs a dance built around a single prop: a yellow-and-orange straw hat, the sole dab of color amid all the brown and black. At its end, forlorn little Jo tosses the hat aside and climbs back up the ladder—where she started—to begin replacing a thousand books.

It is the loveliest and most intimate musical moment in any film she ever made. But it is not her most taxing. That comes after she’s transported to Paris, in a smoke-filled existential dive on the Left Bank—a send-up of Sartre’s Café de Flore.

“I feel like expressing myself,” says Jo, in defiance of Astaire. What she expresses, in a routine called “Basal Metabolism,” is a satire of avant-garde inter-pretive dance—a sort of jitterbug-jazz ballet with cardiovascular contortions. Audrey slithers wildly about, clad entirely in black and but for Donen’s brilliant touch of white socks. She is supported by two men who manage to keep smoking their cigarettes even standing on their heads. “I’d never done anything so jazzy before,” she said. “I’d never even listened to that kind of beat.”

Astaire had his own shining solo moment in “Let’s Kiss and Make Up,” a courtship dance performed in a lamplighted courtyard for the benefit of Audrey on her balcony. Midway, he turns it into a Spanish bullfighter’s display—a dazzling tour de force for a fifty-seven-year-old who has lost none of his stuff.

But the grand finale—“He Loves and She Loves,” an overly gauzy wedding number filmed outdoors near Chantilly—was more final than grand.

“It had been raining for weeks and weeks,” Donen told Warren Harris, “but finally we went out to shoot on this little island, which was not much more than a strip of grass between two streams. The grass was ankle deep in bog. Audrey had on white satin dancing shoes made in Paris, very expensive. She had about nine pairs standing by because they kept getting black in the mud. Fred got very crotchety and said to me, ‘I can’t dance in that. Fix it.’ ... How? ... He said, ‘I don’t care! Put down a wood floor and paint it green.’ Everyone was tense until Audrey suddenly quipped, ‘Here I’ve been waiting twenty years to dance with Fred Astaire, and what do I get? Mud in my eye!”’65

Though always humble about her own dancing (“I had a very slender kind of technique”), she had held her own, however worried she may have been about comparisons with Astaire’s great partners of the past. Leslie Caron, when asked for her opinion of Hepburn as a dancer, replies with the graceful sidestep equivalent of a jeté: “You’re asking me a tough one there. I thought uppermost she was a delightful romantic comedienne. I will be a little more silent on her dancing. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever she did was so delightful that one was happy to watch her.”66

The appeal of Hepburn’s dancing varies greatly, according to taste. “Where Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron have energy,” wrote Sheridan Morley, “Astaire and Hepburn have class and subtlety.... If only she had managed to make Gigi for the screen a couple of years later, but by then she was otherwise engaged, and her role went by default to Caron.”67aj The most sharp-eyed assessment comes from dance writer Caroline Latham:

“Hepburn’s long legs and slim body make her a good match for Astaire’s own elongation. Watching them, one is struck by their shared quality of benign remoteness. Each seems enclosed by some personal bubble of space and air, a visible separateness. Rather than lovers, they seem when they dance to be brother and sister, twin halves of a whole from some classic myth.”68

Much like Fred and Adele.

ALMOST LOST in the dance shuffle of Funny Face was the fact that Audrey was under equal pressure to sing—and to sing well enough for a recording. Donen would refer to her “thin little voice,” which she went to great pains to improve. An intense round of vocal coaching was in store for her at the Paramount soundstages in Hollywood before her taping sessions: daily rehearsals for nearly four weeks. “I was quite nervous about it, never having recorded before,” she said.

Even Kay Thompson was called in to help. She had coached Judy Garland, among other MGM singer-actress stars, and now coached Audrey, urging her to employ a parlando style of speech-song and to concentrate on the lyrics. Astaire helped, too, during the vocal-track recording of their “’S’Wonderful” duet. The third time through, Donen recalled, “she made a mistake and Fred jumped in and did something wrong on purpose. He said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve ruined it. Can we do it again?’” Audrey gratefully believed it was his fault instead of hers.69

In the end, her “childlike yet trained voice contributes a great deal to the film’s sentiment,” said Donen. “Here is someone who is actually paying attention to the words.” Critics agreed on the “intimate, lyrical and genuinely af fecting” qualities of her singing.70

Hepburn, Donen and Avedon—jointly and separately—were praised for the picture’s great photographic success, from the stylish dazzle of its opening credits through the magnificent Technicolor vistas of Paris, captured with high-contrast clarity by Paramount’s new Vista-Vision process. Funny Face was a glorification (and spoof) of fashion photography, and its most striking visuals were the freeze-frame montages, frozen first in a negative or color-separated image, then in a positive one.

The process was the talk of both dance and photography circles: When a shot is “frozen” on the screen, the same frame is printed over and over for the desired length, but with a drastic loss in clarity. To get around that, Donen put a two-way mirror over the lens. The movie camera shot throughthe mirror while Avedon focused on the mirror, and the lab later matched the still photo with the film frame.71 Avedon’s fashion photos were a kind of “frozen dance,” and Donen wanted the fashion sequences of Funny Face to have the same choreographic quality.72

Singled out above all was the scene in which Hepburn—in Givenchy gown, with “Winged Victory” behind her—runs briskly down an enormous staircase in the Louvre, snapped all the way by Astaire in a series of freeze frames. How she managed it was semi-miraculous, she recalled:

“I think that was just good luck. I did it once and didn’t break my leg. Lynn Fontanne once said to me, ‘My dear, whenever you walk downstairs, never look down and don’t hold your skirt.’ So everything you try to do to save your life, you’re not allowed to do. You just hope to God you don’t trip.”73

In Funny Face, said Janet Maslin, Audrey became what she would forever be best: “a perfectly balanced mixture of intelligence and froth.”74

Less complimentary things were said about Fred Astaire. The Harvard Lampoon named Funny Face one of the Ten Worst Films of 1957 and gave Astaire the award for “Most Appalling Example of the Inadequacy of Our Present Social Security Program.” Among others who disliked the film, albeit more tactfully, is composer-conductor André Previn:

“It rubbed me the wrong way. I loved Audrey, but I thought the Kay Thompson business was hard to take, and the beatnik thing is so dated. Audrey and Fred by the edge of the river—you can’t get any better than that. But it was just too chic. I didn’t think it had any muscle in it. It made me a little edgy. It was all so precious.”75

Funny Face, at $3 million, wasn’t horribly expensive to make. But it was the first of Hepburn’s American films not to be among the top ten moneymakers of its year. Its retro-raves, however, are legion. American Film put it “among the most lushly gorgeous Technicolor films ever produced.”76Douglas McVay in The Musical Film called it “arguably the most pictorially ravishing of all American pictures.” Rex Reed hailed it as “the best fashion show ever recorded on film,” and Stanley Donen drew a final, further conclusion: “Audrey was always more about fashion than movies or acting.”77

IN THE FASHION REALM, Givenchy was her indisputable guide. As Avedon was to give Funny Face the photographic look of Vogue, it was preordained that Givenchy would provide the actual high-fashion wardrobe, and that he and Audrey would spend countless hours together in the fittings.

From now on, her contracts contained a standard clause stipulating that Givenchy would design her film clothes, while his designs for her private use propelled her onto every best-dressed list in the world. “His are the only clothes in which I am myself,” she said in 1956, full devoted by then to his spare, simple lines and dominant blacks and whites. Like his mentor Balenciaga, Givenchy heralded the minimalist designs of the sixties. Women who admired “The Hepburn Look” now flocked to his salon, and his sales soared, while the personal bond between him and Audrey became ever more intense.

“I depend on Givenchy in the same way that American women depend on their psychiatrists,” she said. “There are few people I love more. He is the single person I know with the greatest integrity.”

Long after, Givenchy recalls, “She told me something so touching that I will always remember it. She said, ‘When I wear a white blouse or little suit that you create for me, I have the feeling of being protected by that blouse or suit—and this protection is very important to me.”’78

Givenchy was humble. “All the responsibility for the way Audrey looked is hers,” he says. “She made the selections. I [just] helped her.”79 Clothes made the woman, but even her most beloved designers said she made herself—and perhaps them, too. Ralph Lauren, whose designs she often wore in later years, says, “She did more for the designer than the designer did for her.”80

Leslie Caron believes Hepburn was the first great fashion example of “less is more”:

“Simplicity was her trademark. She had the originality never to wear any jewelry, and this at the time of double rows of pearls, little earrings, lots of ‘little’ everything.... And then suddenly she would appear at a premiere wearing earrings that reached all the way down to her shoulders. Really daring!”81

In the anything-goes era of makeup and beauty today, it is hard to grasp how revolutionary Hepburn’s look in the fifties really was. It represented “the feminine edge of androgyny,” says designer Isaac Mizrahi—“the wonderful things about women that are not just tits or ass ... the other side of Marilyn Monroe. [Her] sexiness enters through your heart not through your groin.” Mizrahi says her erotic fashion appeal was epitomized by the hooded parka, black turtleneck and tight black pants she wore in Funny Face—“the perfect American look.”82

Yet she wasn’t American, and both she and her films had a different impact abroad. “For me,” said Elizabeth Wilson in Britain’s Sight and Sound, “her charm lay not in the androgyny of simple hair and a boyish figure, but in a style that seemed the embodiment of sophisticated, existential Europe as opposed to the overripe artificiality of Hollywood.”83 On both sides of the Atlantic, her look in Funny Face was a kind of quantum leap.

“Audrey was the first actress to play a fashion model on screen who really could have been one off screen,” says Lenny Gershe. “It was always a joke when someone like Lana Turner in A Life of Her Own [1950] or Ava Gardner played a model—women who would never have made the cover of Vogue because they were too voluptuous. Today it’s different. Now they’re all bizarre—not Harper’s Bazaar, just bizarre. For high fashion in the fifties, you had to be skinny. You had to look like Audrey Hepburn or Dovima or Suzy Parker. But Audrey was the first one to do it on screen. The audience bought that she could be this creature.”84

Some thought Funny Face had changed her personality as well as her image, making her more confident and solid. Others attributed that not to the movie but to marriage—as if she had finally made the passage from girl to woman. “Two years ago,” said a friend, “she was a pixie. ”You didn’t know but what she’d suddenly climb a tree or hurdle a hedge or just vanish in a spiral of smoke. Now you’re reasonably sure she’ll eat a ham sandwich and go to a ball game, or whatever.“85

Her husband could certainly be sure of her devotion. One illustration concerned those fifty pieces of luggage with which they traveled: She almost always supervised the packing herself, but once when someone else did it for them, Mel was unable to locate his cuff links upon their arrival. Audrey ransacked six trunks before finding them and, in servile fashion, laid the blame on herself: “I didn’t think this was fair to Mel. I considered it my responsibility not to let it happen again.”86

Despite all dire predictions, her marriage had confounded the critics. She and Mel appeared to enjoy working together as well as being together. Prior to their wedding, her happiness seemed exclusively centered on her work. “I don’t think now that I was a whole woman then,” she said. “No woman is, without love.... I’m not alone anymore. Don’t make that sound pathetic. I never minded being alone. But I’d mind it now.”87

The Ferrers’ union had no greater admirer than Sophia Loren, who rented a neighboring chalet in Burgenstock and knew them there from 1957 during her own “convulsive marriage situation” with Carlo Ponti. “When the law in Italy was persecuting Carlo and me as criminals guilty of bigamy,” recalls Loren today, “the marriage of Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer seemed to me like a dream—far away and unreachable.... In those days, she was so happy, she inspired my dream [of the same].”88

Audrey’s view of marriage was traditional to the point of subservience, as paradigmatic of the “good” fifties woman as her look and fashion statements were not.

“He is a protective husband, and I like it,” she said. “Most women do.... It’s so nice being a wife and having your husband take over your worries for you. American women have a tendency to take over too much, and in that way they miss out on a lot of fun that their European sisters have.”89

That seemed to contradict her professed love of independent decision-making—and perhaps to suggest she was still trying get a firm handle on her lingering anxieties:

I have often thought of myself as quite ugly. In fact, I used to have quite a complex about it. To be frank, I’ve often been depressed and deeply disappointed in myself. You can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or just plain too ugly. I couldn’t seem to handle any of my problems or cope with people I met. If you want to get psychological, you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found the only way to get the better of them was ... by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.90

“Getting psychological” about her might begin with two quotations, the first from Audrey:

“My greatest asset is my discontent.”

The second from an anonymous friend of hers:

“Discontent is her greatest personal liability.”91

In career terms, she said, “Sometimes I think the more successful you become the less secure you feel. [Originally,] I didn’t have the drive because I had the luxury of not needing it. After Roman Holiday, the offers came in. It was not in my nature to be terribly ambitious or driven because I didn’t have the confidence. My confidence came and went with each movie; once I’d finished one, I didn’t know if I’d ever work again.”92

Chief among her weapons for combatting that insecurity was her intense power of concentration. “In talking about herself—or any subject from artichokes to zebras—she takes up one point at a time, never skips or flashes back,” said a Cosmopolitan reporter. “When she reads, she reads; when she fits, she fits; when she talks clothes, she talks clothes; when she sits under a drier, she simply sits and dries. ‘She is the only actress I’ve ever had who doesn’t gab, read, knit, wriggle, pick her teeth, or eat a lettuce and tomato sandwich,’ says her hairdresser.” 93

Equally remarked upon were her gentility and courtesy. She was both the delight and the despair of her publicists—“our nicest and most difficult client,” said one of them. “She has politely turned down more than ninety percent of the publicity ideas we’ve dreamed up for her.”

The normally bland Good Housekeeping, for one, was a little suspicious: “Can anybody really be so noble, so thoughtful, so perennially ‘good’”?94 She seemed a little too cool and aloof.

“Today I’m having lunch in my dressing room alone,” she told a reporter around this time. “I usually do. Being alone, I recharge my batteries. Anyway, I thought I was being a good girl, giving my all to the picture this way. But then one of the columnists—one I thought I got along with—wrote, ‘What goes with snooty Audrey Hepburn, not eating in the commissary.’ So now do I have to begin eating in the commissary just to pacify this columnist? I’m afraid it would be cowardly of me. He’s committed me to a course of action.”95

Her comments to and about the press were getting sharper, and she was letting some of her hostilities out. She was asked, “If Mel wished it, would you forsake your career?”

“If you’ll forgive me,” she replied coldly, “it’s not a fair question.”96

She had an outburst now and then, but few doubted her tenderness and warmth. One day during Funny Face, the cast and crew were having a press luncheon on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower when a little French girl, one of the extras, burst into tears from fear of the popping flashbulbs and klieg lights that were blinding her. The empathetic young woman who got up to dry her tears and comfort her was Audrey.

She had become a grown-up version of that little girl:

“Now and then it staggers you. So many people pointing cameras, especially in Europe. Now and then, you find yourself out of your depth. The questions—all the way from what do I think of love or how does it feel to be a star, to enormous ones, even political, with as many prongs as a pitchfork. Here I am, an innocent little actress trying to do a job, and it seems that my opinion on policy in the Middle East is worth something. I don’t say I don’t have an opinion, but I doubt its worth.”97

For now. One day, her opinions on such matters would be worth a lot.

AFTER FUNNY FACE, Audrey returned to Bürgenstock for four weeks’ rest before her happy reunion and second film with Billy Wilder, whose much-delayed Ariane finally began shooting in August 1956. Based on a popular novel by Claude Anet set in pre-Bolshevik Russia, the story had the ring of Gigi and Sabrina: sophisticated Don Juan falls for innocent young beauty.

It was reworked by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond—the first of their legendary script collaborations—to make the playboy even more cynical and the girl even more naive: Ariane became the cellist-daughter of a private detective and would fall in love with the rich libertine being investigated by her father for marital infidelity. The mise-en-scène was shifted from Russia to Paris, and the title spiced up to Love in the Afternoon. But when the male lead was announced, wags said a better name might be Beauty and the Beast.ak

Cary Grant had been Wilder’s first choice. He was almost always Wilder’s first choice, and always unavailable. This time, Grant demurred on the grounds that, at fifty-two, he was too old to romance twenty-seven-year-old Audrey Hepburn on screen. So the part went instead to an even older man—Gary Cooper, fifty-five.

The old cowboy’s career had been in decline since High Noon (1952) but was recently revived by William Wyler’s Friendly Persuasion (1956), which was still filling movie houses as Love in the Afternoon was getting under way. He would have to shed several decades to avoid looking like a child molester.

“I don’t know why Coop was cast,” says Audrey Wilder. “Billy wanted the all-American kind of guy. But if you read the book, you see that Audrey shouldn’t have played her part, either. She was supposed to be a virgin whose father ran an army post, and all the men were crazy about her and lied about her, so when she goes off with this guy, he’s horrified to find out she’s never had any experience. But Audrey by nature and her innocent persona made him seem like a dirty old man. When she says she’s been with twenty-five guys—you don’t believe her for a minute. Brigitte Bardot could say it and you’d believe it.“98

Many were disturbed by that, but Hepburn and Cooper were not among them. Shooting took place at the Studios de Boulogne and on location around Paris, and—by comparison with the tension on Wilder’s Sabrina set—the atmosphere on this one was blissful. Audrey loved Cooper and the week it took to shoot a romantic picnic scene with him in the woods of Landru. She liked mastering the finger movements for the cello part in Haydn’s Symphony No. 88, which she had to “perform” in one scene.99

She also enjoyed the man who played her father—and who almost stole the picture from her—Maurice Chevalier. That old charmer won her heart with a telegram on the first day of shooting: “How proud I would be, and full of love I would be, if I really had a daughter like you.” Later, when he learned that her mother was a fan and an autograph collector, he sent Ella a photo inscribed, “To Audrey’s real mother from her reel father.”

Not everyone was so bowled over by Chevalier: Audrey Wilder said his only topic of conversation was himself and that “if the conversation veered away from him, his eyes turned to glass.”

The other Audrey and her mobile domestic gear were back at the Hotel Raphael. (The Wilders had been there, too, but checked out after a few days in protest against the bartender’s inability to make a proper martini.) Mel was filming The Vintage with Pier Angeli in the south of France, and on the weekends Audrey joined him in Nice or St. Tropez. On one of those visits, Ferrer gave her a Yorkshire terrier puppy, soon named “Famous,” who turned out to be the most beloved gift of her life.

In Paris, the Ferrers and the Wilders, along with Cooper, Diamond, et al., often met after work for drinks or dinner, where Mel kept a close eye on his girl—to the point of being a drag. At one such soiree, Audrey Wilder told Charles Higham, Ferrer reminded Audrey that she had to leave early the next day for the London premiere of War and Peace and that they had to arrange tickets for some mutual friends. Fortified by a few more cocktails than usual, she replied loudly, “What a crock of shit about the tickets!” Everyone was astonished. Mel was furious. “You’re leaving here now,” he said, and they did.100

Another negative report surfaced from unit publicist Herb Sterne concerning her insistence on seeing and approving all publicity photos. The photographers had been forbidden to shoot her at too low an angle because that would accentuate her nostrils, which she felt were too large. Sterne was amazed by “her obsession with her own face.”101 Her fussiness in general seems to have left the Love in the Afternoon crew less fond of her than their Funny Face counterparts.

In addition, there were problems with Gary Cooper. It took him a full day—and many flubs—to complete the five-minute scene in which Ariane is ready to storm out of his life but can’t find her shoe. “Somebody wake up Coop!” ordered Wilder before the umpteenth take. He had the further difficulty of teaching Cooper some routine ballroom steps for one scene. No mean dancer himself, Wilder took personal charge of the lessons—and ended up shaking his head over “Old Hopalong Nijinsky.”102

Cooper, unlike Humphrey Bogart, was a good sport about such cracks, and by and large, Love in the Afternoon was a happy picture. Wilder enjoyed trying to get a rise out of prim Audrey by telling her that the film’s theme song, “Fascination,” had been the musical accompaniment to his own loss of virginity.

Wilder’s humor was best employed, of course, in the film itself—which occasionally crossed the line between romantic comedy and bedroom farce. Wilder’s best black-comedic touches belong to Lise Bourdin as a lady who keeps beating and chastising her dog for offenses it never commits.

Hepburn was filmed to perfection by William Mellor (A Place in the Sun). The final “farewell” scene, with Cooper scooping her up into a moving train in fine cowboy fashion, is a classic. But audiences and critics alike had trouble accepting The Age Gap. Despite the aid of gauzy filters, Cooper still looked old enough to be her father, which made the plot look more like a tawdry affair than a romance. It was “among the bleakest, most melancholy of comedies,” said American Film. “Cooper’s face is often in silhouette, making it appear that Hepburn has fallen in love with a shadow. Which, in essence, she has.”103

To thwart charges of bad taste and bad morals, a voice-over was added at the end, assuring viewers that they were headed for the altar. Even so, in Spain several scenes were censored, and in France its name reverted to Ariane because the American title was considered too suggestive. 104

Audrey at the time made a spirited defense against the claim that her leading men were too old: “The charge is particularly unfair to Coop,” she told a New York World Telegram reporter. “In Love in the Afternoon he’s not trying to fool anyone. He’s supposed to be a man of fifty. That’s the whole point of the story. As for Fred Astaire, who cares how old he is? He’s Fred Astaire! If anyone doesn’t like it, he can go jump in the lake.”105al

Later, however, she gave up the fight and said—not so facetiously—that Love in the Afternoon might have been more credible if Cooper and Chevalier had switched roles.


WHEN SHE finished shooting the Wilder film in late fall 1956, Audrey left Europe to spend the Christmas holiday at La Quinta, a desert resort near Palm Springs, with Mel and his children, Pepa and Mark. There—and subsequently—she reverted again to wifely mode: “If a room isn’t gay it can be awfully depressing and a male begins to sulk,” she said. “I try to keep our trunks tabulated so I will never have to ask myself again, ‘Now where did I pack Mel’s patent leather pumps?’”106

Meanwhile, she was turning down such film offers as Jean Negulesco’s A Certain Smile and George Stevens’s The Diary of Anne Frank. She had read Het Achterhuis [The Secret Annex, retitled The Diary of Anne Frank] in 1947 in its Dutch galley form, and “it destroyed me,” she said. “There were floods of tears. I became hysterical.” Audrey was one of the first pilgrims to the Amsterdam building on Prinsengracht where the Franks had hidden. But Anne’s story was too much Audrey’s own, and the memories—having survived the occupation in which Anne perished—made it impossible for her, despite great pressure that was brought to bear on her. At the request of George Stevens, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, traveled to Biirgenstock from his home in Zurich to try to persuade Audrey to take the role.

“He came to lunch and stayed to dinner,” she recalled. “We had the most wonderful day.... He came with his new wife, who had lost her husband and her children [in the Holocaust]. They both had the numbers on their arms. He was a beautiful-looking man, very fine, a sort of transparent face, very sensitive. Incapable of talking about Anne without extreme feeling. I had to ask him nothing because he had a need to talk about it. He struck me [as] somebody who’d been purged by fire. There was something so spiritual about his face. He had been there and back.”107

Audrey kept a snapshot of the occasion for good luck in her own little Everyman Library edition of The Diary. “I read it again when George sent it to me—and had to go to bed for the day,” she said. Later, she added other reasons for declining: “I didn’t want to exploit her life and her death to my advantage—to get another salary, to be perhaps praised in a movie.”108 A practical problem was cited by her friend Doris Brynner: “She was too old. She knew she couldn’t play a fifteen-year-old.”109

Young Millie Perkins played it instead, quite well, in what turned out to be an excellent picture. Years later, Larry King asked Hepburn if, upon reflection, she thought she might have been the perfect Anne. “No,” she replied, “but then I’m not much of an actress.... I could not have suffered through that again without destroying myself.”110

Perhaps for similar reasons, she also declined Paramount’s offer to star in a non-musical biography of Maria von Trapp, whose life story would soon become The Sound of Music on Broadway. But there would be other nuns in Audrey’s future, and for the moment, everything else was swept away in favor of the chance to costar with her husband.

In November 1957, the Ferrers attended the twenty-second annual New York Film Critics Awards at Sardi’s, where the agenda was film but the talk was of television—and how to compete with it. The winners that night seemed to confirm the success of the new big-screen devices: Around the World in 80 Days (shot in Todd-AO) was chosen best film. The best actor and actress awards went to Kirk Douglas for Lust for Life and Ingrid Bergman for Anastasia—both lush CinemaScope productions.

During NBC radio’s live broadcast of that event, commentator Ben Grauer provided the play-by-play: “... There’s a little kiss from Ingrid Bergman to Audrey Hepburn...and a man who’s close by Audrey’s side. Come here, Mrs. Ferrer! Mel, hello. Mel Ferrer—formerly of NBC.”

“Still with NBC,” Mel corrected. “We’re working for them right now.”

Film stars who made television movies were rare in those days, and viewed as slightly traitorous by Hollywood. Some were even subject to reprisals by the studios, but Audrey Hepburn was “too big” for anything like that to occur. Thus, she and Mel had agreed to do Mayerling for NBC-TV-the most lavish made-for-television spectacular up to that time.

It would be a ninety-minute Producers’ Showcase color extravaganza—a kind of counterattack to the recent spate of movie epics—with a $620,000 budget, a cast of 107, fabulous costumes and sets. For Audrey, the financial arrangements were as appealing as the choice of her costar: She would get $150,000 for three weeks’ work, one of rehearsal and two of indoor taping at the NBC studios on Sixth Avenue in New York City—where the Ferrers arrived on New Year’s Day of 1957.

The author of the project at hand was the same Claude Anet who had written Ariane. But Mayerling was no light comedy. It was the true story of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, who in 1889 fell in love with a seventeen-year-old commoner named Maria Vetsera and, rather than give her up, made a mutual suicide pact. Its director was Anatole Litvak, who knew the territory well: He had made the successful 1936 French version starring Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux. But this time, he had an unusual problem with his leads:

“When Audrey plays Maria, speaking to the prince, she is also Audrey speaking to her husband,” Litvak told Life magazine in mid-production. “It is very dif ficult to get Mel to treat her roughly. I had to work with him to get him to do it.”111

Ferrer himself confirms the accuracy of that—if not of a second Litvak statement: “I had a lot of trouble getting them to turn on the heat. Audrey seemed to have a better rapport with that Yorkshire terrier of hers.”112

It always took months between the filming and the release of a movie, but—in good television fashion—Mayerling was aired on February 4, 1957, just two weeks after the conclusion of production. Reportedly, it garnered the largest audience of any Producers’ Showcase program since Peter Pan two years earlier. But a big audience was not necessarily a happy audience—and the word “flop” was heard more than a little.

“A more pallid or elementary version of Mayerling would be difficult to imagine,” opined The New York Times.113 “The lovers seem more fated to bore each other to death than to end their illicit alliance in a murder-suicide pact,” said TV critic John Crosby.114 As usual, Hepburn was praised for her beauty, delicacy and poignant vulnerability. Most of the brickbats were reserved for Ferrer as insufficiently dashing or romantic. Even in Europe, where the production was released theatrically, there was no critical or box-office excitement.

Mayerling was Mel and Audrey’s last joint appearance, and on the basis of its failure, Paramount would reject several other proposed Hepburn-Ferrer team productions, including Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel and Jean Anouilh’s The Lark.

It was finally dawning on Audrey—and more grudgingly on Mel—“that they were not destined to be the next Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh,” says Sheridan Morley. The public would accept them separately as a leading lady and a downbeat character actor, but not collectively. “From now on, Ferrer began to think of himself as the producer/director rather than costar of the partnership.” 115

So what could, or would, the leading lady take on next? The month of Mayerling’s release, she had been voted “Girl of the Year” by Britain’s Picturegoer Film Annual. New York’s Cholly Knickerbocker named her one of the ten most fascinating women in the world, and the New York Dress Institute put her on its best-dressed list. As the accolades poured in, it was increasingly clear that they had more to do with her “look” than with her acting. However beloved by fashion photographers and designers, Audrey was still unusually difficult to cast in films.

She and Mel pondered that dilemma, after Mayerling, on a skiing trip to St. Moritz and then in Spain and Mexico, where she accompanied Mel for the making of The Sun Also Rises, costarring Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn. The Mexican location shoot was charged with electricity. By one account, Ava Gardner had just ended her affair with screenwriter Peter Viertel, losing him to Joan Fontaine, who in turn soon lost him to Deborah Kerr, on top of which there was great tension between Flynn and Power due to their alleged prior affair—all of which Audrey and Ava ignored by shopping and sightseeing together constantly.

“Total bullshit,” says Peter Viertel. “Joan Fontaine was in the future, and my affair with Gardner—which wasn’t really an affair—was playing nurse to her when she was pissed DURING the Sun Also Rises shooting. Audrey and Mel kept very much to themselves, and so did Ava. I never knew of any ‘affair’ between Errol and Ty—and I very much doubt it.”

The truth is more interesting than the fiction. “My first draft of the [Sun] script was a hundred percent better than the final one,” says Viertel. “Fred Zinnemann said he’d do it. He wanted Audrey for Lady Brett and he sent her the script, but she said she didn’t want to play ‘a nymphomaniac.’ In fact, even though she sleeps with everybody, the character is not a nymphomaniac, but Audrey felt she had an image to keep up. She wouldn’t have been right for Lady Brett—but she would have been interesting.” 116

When shooting of the Hemingway film was completed (under Henry King‘s, not Fred Zinnemann’s, direction), the Ferrers went to California for some studio story conferences and a visit with Mel’s children in Santa Barbara before returning to Switzerland. Audrey was hugely relieved to be back home: She was expecting a baby. But it was those story conferences in Hollywood that would soon give birth—to twins.

“I’M TERRIBLY SORRY that I won’t be able to do The Diary of Anne Frank,” she told a reporter—disingenuously—around this time. “It will come at the same time as The Nun’s Story, so it will be impossible.” 117

Robert (Tea and Sympathy) Anderson had long been working on a script for The Nun’s Story, which was the subject of one of those story conferences Mel and Audrey attended in California. The second dealt with another book-to-film project, but of a highly allegorical nature. Both would come to fruition. The question was which to make first. Having played mostly ingenues and Cinderellas to date, Hepburn decided it was time to prove herself as a serious dramatic actress in a part that submerged her own sunny personality beneath a much deeper set of emotions. The role of Sister Luke, which she signed to play in December 1957, would offer the greatest screen challenge of her life.

Toward the end of the fifties, Audrey Hepburn was a “glorious anachronism,” a member of a cinematic aristocracy whose appeal was on the wane. Her leading men had mostly been over fifty, and their ages had been considered no detriment to her. “She was courted on screen by nearly every hunky Hollywood relic,” said Richard Corliss, “until, in The Nun’s Story, only God could be her best beau.”118

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