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Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn (May 4, 1929 - January 20, 1993) was a Belgian-born American movie actress. Born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston in Antwerp, Belgium, daughter of Joseph Anthony Hepburn-Ruston, a British banker, and Baroness Ella van Heemstra, a Dutch aristocrat descended from French and English kings. She had two half-brothers, Alexander and Ian Quarles van Ufford, by her mother's first marriage to a Dutch nobleman. Hepburn attended private schools in England and the Netherlands, but after the 1935 divorce of her parents she was living with her mother in the Netherlands when the German invasion and occupation of World War II occurred.

After the landing of the Allied Forces on D-Day, things grew worse under the German occupiers. During the Dutch famine over the winter of 1944, brutality increased and the Nazis confiscated the Dutch people's limited food and fuel supply for themselves. Without heat in their homes, or food to eat, people in the Netherlands starved and froze to death in the streets. Suffering from malnutrition, Hepburn developed several health problems, and the impact of those times would shape her life and values.

The war having ended, Hepburn and her mother moved to London, England where she studied ballet, worked as a model, and in 1951 began acting in films. After being chosen to play the lead character in the Broadway play, Gigi (opened on November 24, 1951), and after a successful six-month run in New York, she was offered a starring role in the Hollywood motion picture, Roman Holiday, co-starring Gregory Peck. For her performance in this movie she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and over her illustrious career she would be nominated best actress four more times. In the film Funny Face, Hepburn's mother appeared as the patron of a sidewalk café. Having become one of Hollywood's most popular box-office attractions, Hepburn co-starred with other major actors such as Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, Peter O'Toole, and Sean Connery.

From 1967 onward, after fifteen highly successful years in film, Hepburn only acted occasionally, her last role filmed in 1988 just before she was appointed as a special ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund ("UNICEF"). Grateful of her own good fortune after being a victim of Nazi atrocities as a child, she dedicated herself for the remainder of her life to help impoverished children in the world's poorest nations. In 1992, President George Bush Sr presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with "UNICEF". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, posthumously awarded her The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity. She has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1652 Vine Street.

Hepburn was married twice, to actor Mel Ferrer and to Andrea Dotti, an Italian doctor, and had two sons. At the time of her death, she was the companion of Robert Wolders, a Dutch actor who was the widower of film star Merle Oberon. She died of colon cancer on January 20, 1993, in Tolchenaz, Vaud, Switzerland and was interred there.

Selected filmography