Audrey Hepburn truly belongs in the top echelon of film stars; you don’t need a film-critic to explain the timeless quality she brought to such well-loved films as Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady. Her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the kind iconic role that defines what an iconic role is; if a man can’t put on a suit without thinking of James Bond, a little black dress can only spark memories of the kooky girl she played in Blake Edwards’ Truman Capote adaptation, a multi-layered film that coasts by on Hollywood gloss that disguises a harsh underbelly. Hepburn turned her back on stardom post 1967, and Helena Coan’s documentary aims to explain why, and present a full portrait of the star.
As you’d hope, Coan manages to pull together the remaining few who were close to the star, from family members to passing acquaintances, to co-stars like Richard Dreyfuss who worked with her on Always. Coan also has access to a trove of private photographs, plus rare film, and also an access-all-areas compilation reel of film-appearances, from Ealing comedies to War and Peace. Hepburn’s rise was mercurial, leading to an early Oscar, but some unhappy marriages and having her voice dubbed for My Fair Lady dented her confidence, and she chose to focus on her family after 1967’s Wait Until Dark.
Turning her back on cinema wasn’t the end of Hepburn as a public figure; her work with UNESCO is well-documented here, and makes up almost half of the film’s length. That’s not to suggest the documentary tails off; quite the contrary, Hepburn seems to have been re-invigorated by her new public role, and while the footage of her work in Africa might trigger white saviour distain in 2020, you can’t fault her for doing the best job she could at the time.
Hepburn has proved to be the most enduring of stars, still the model for any aspiring actress, and the footage and anecdotes compiled here attest to that elusive quality of stardom. It’s a film made with reverence and love, and likely to connect with a wide audience who remember Hepburn as one of the great film-stars of the 20th century, but also those who see a wider world than beyond the cinema screen.
Thanks to NBCUniversal for access to this title.
AUDREY IS RELEASED ON DVD & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM 30 NOVEMBER 2020