One of the world's most celebrated actresses is the subject of a new book, written by someone who, perhaps, knew her best. Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit, is an intimate look by her son, Sean Ferrer, into the extraordinary life of a woman whose film career delighted millions, and whose dedication to the world's children as UNICEF's International Goodwill Ambassador, inspired millions more.
The waif-like, dark-eyed actress, who died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 64, epitomized style in the 1950s and 1960s with her iconic roles as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady.
Few actresses could have brought such elegance and style to the role of a fast-living city girl as Audrey Hepburn did in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Hepburn's dazzling looks and sense of fun made women around the world want to copy her. For Sean Ferrer, Ms. Hepburn was simply, "Mummy," a woman he describes as having been "blessed with simple and good choices."
"She worked hard at her career. When she wanted to have a family life, she really put her career on hold. And so, she really was an every-day normal mom," her son said. "She'd come to get us at school, we'd go shopping, she'd cook, she'd wake up with a sleepy head in the morning to go over the homework, she was there both emotionally and physically every day. And only when we had gone on to start our own lives did she do her work for UNICEF and that was a wonderful way for her to give back for what she perceived as great luck and a tremendous career and a love for her public."
A child of war, Audrey Hepburn lived in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II, where a relief organization that would later become UNICEF kept her alive with food, medicine and clothing. Author Sean Ferrer says his mother never felt very far away from those difficult beginnings, which also inspired her to want to give something back.
"She spoke of the lack of food, but most importantly the lack of all the freedoms that we enjoy today, that we sometimes take for granted - what it feels like when you're occupied, when you're living according to someone else's rules, when people are being terrorized on a daily basis," he said.
Although acclaimed as one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Audrey Hepburn chose to live a decidedly 'non-Hollywood' life when it came to raising her family. Sean Ferrer and his younger brother were brought up in the European countryside. He says in their early years, they had very little knowledge of their mother's celebrity.
"She chose to live away from Hollywood so she could live a normal life and be treated like everyone else - which is the way she perceived herself," he said. "She never perceived herself as being unusual or special or particularly beautiful, which is one of the reasons why she was so thankful to have had a career and later on that there was still interest in her by the press that she could tell the story of these children and of their needs across the world. But it wasn't until much later that we realized how good she was, how great the films were, how great the choices were she made and not really until she passed away did we realize how deeply she had moved the public - not just because they had fallen in love with her early in life, but also through her work for UNICEF. I think that brought a wonderful confirmation that indeed, the emotion that they had before was well-founded and that indeed, she had grown. That the twig had grown into a beautiful oak tree."
Between 1988 and 1992, Audrey Hepburn made over 50 visits to developing countries around the world on behalf of the world's children. After her death in 1993, he Audrey Hepburn Memorial Fund was established to support UNICEF's educational programs for children in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Proceeds from Sean Ferrer's book, Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit will go the fund, which, to date, has raised more than $1 million.