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Audrey Hepburn.

AUDREY HEPBURN, by Diana Maychick (Birch Lane Press, 247 p.) proves that, while it's comparatively easy to rhapsodize about Hepburn's elegance, good looks and generous spirit, it's ultimately not quite so easy to come to grips with her real personality. Maychick was a columnist for The New York Post, and she writes very well, but her image of Audrey Hepburn isn't complete, and perhaps that's inevitable for someone who hadn't ever worked with her.

What Maychick does extremely well is to chart Audrey's slow development from awkward young dancer to glamorous film star, not only in her looks and her behavior but also within herself, particularly once she had met Robert Wolders (the widower of Merle Oberon) who was her fulfilling companion to the end.

Audrey Hepburn was an extraordinary person, with an extraordinary background, and that certainly emerges clearly from the book, which of course details her many pictures (suprisingly without either an index or a filmography). From Gigi on Broadway to Roman Holiday, Ondine, Love in the Afternoon, Breakfast at Tiffany's The Nun's Story, Two for the Road, Sabrina, Funny Face Charade and My Fair Lady, the enchanting Audrey dances across the pages, a waif-like creature, thin, tall, with those seductive dark eyes that captivated and charmed on first sight and her very precise voice, an unlikely star in some ways with a background that explained her understanding for suffering, and her love for children.

Audrey came from an aristocratic Dutch family in Arnhem and she went through hard times as a child under the Nazi occupation. She was a dancer (though not a very good one) and she was assigned the Gigi role by a reluctant Gilbert Miller who soon changed his mind and adjusted the marquee to read "Audrey Hepburn in Gigi" from "Gigi with Audrey Hepburn."

Audrey had a winning way to make her work seem easy, as if it all came natural to her and, in the doing, she also charmed her co-stars.

As the years went by, she learned to keep her private life private (though the media knew all about her hot affair with the alcoholic William Holden), and she also learned that, as a star, she could get her way in many ways, big and small. This is where the book falls down because, Audrey -- while always polite -- wasn't always sweetness and light, as this reviewer can attest, and she certainly had likes and personal dislikes which governed her actions.

Still, Maychick does inject a good deal of valid conjecture about the things that went on in Hepburn's head, not to speak in her emotions, as she met and married Mel Ferrer and, later, the Italian psychiatrist Andrea Mario Dotti. She is also sensitive in describing her unresolved relationship with ardent suitor James Hanson. The book is particularly effective when it comes to Audrey's later years, and specifically her connection with UNICEF for which she roamed the world.

There are many very perceptive observations in the book, including the recurring theme of Audrey falling in love with men who couldn't, or wouldn't, return her affection with the same intensity.

And Maychick is certainly generous with her selection of quotes and anecdotes which go a long way to explain the Audrey whom few knew well and even fewer got really close to Audrey was unconsciously charming, and often very kind, but within her there was a hard core that grew even harder as her fame and popularity rose.

Audrey Hepburn was quite remarkable both in her professional life as an actress, her role as a mother (she had two sons) and her generous devotion to suffering children around the world. Her relationship with her mother, a Baroness, is perhaps less well defined.

But, on the whole, Maychick does an excellent job describing the life of that extraordinary person who was Audrey Hepburn, a woman capable of both love and great friendship, a Hollywood star with a difference and a performer of outstanding charm and grace, who set new standards for screen appeal.
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Author:Hift, Fred
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1994
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