The importance of Audrey Hepburn

August 07, 2009

Yesterday I was reading a post on Liebemarlene Vintage about Greta Garbo -- Rhiannon wrote:

...I think I'd rather procrastinate a bit and write a blog post about Greta Garbo. I don't think I've written a thing about her here, which is sort of strange considering that she was one of the first classic Hollywood stars I got obessed with. I mean, after Audrey Hepburn--she was the first star I loved, but I bet she's the first star most girls love, so I'm not sure if she really counts.
I know many of the girl bloggers (including me) first fell for classic films by watching an Audrey Hepburn film. Reading this on Rhiannon's blog, I couldn't help but wonder how many people out there have been sucked into the world of classic film because of Audrey.

I was only 13 years old when I saw my first Audrey Hepburn film (How to Steal a Million) -- at this point I had seen other classic films with my parents, but I wouldn't seek one out on my own. I know I've told this story a few times on my blog, but for this post it bears repeating (I can't believe I'm quoting myself, but it's easier than trying to rewrite this using different words!)

Audrey Hepburn is the one who got me started on classic films, and so her and her movies hold a very special place in my heart. I had just turned 13 when I first saw "How to Steal a Million"- it was in December and I was starting my winter break from school. I had my dad take me to Hollywood Video (a local sort of Blockbuster chain that has since been Netflixed out of existence) and I rented about six of her movies to watch over my break. I went to the library and took out her biography, and her life story inspired me to volunteer for UNICEF. Practically overnight I was a different person. I discovered Frank Sinatra music and ditched my Britney Spears CDs the following February and ever since then it has been nothing but old music and old movies for me.
Audrey Hepburn is an icon, instantly recognizable all across the world. But unlike some other iconic stars, she may also have an importance that is detached from her iconography. For every girl who sees an Audrey Hepburn film and translates their love for Audrey into a love for classic film in general, Audrey Hepburn is more than just an actress or icon. She's the catalyst for a lifelong devotion to movies from the golden age of cinema.

Did Audrey Hepburn spark your love of classic cinema? If not, who did? I'd also be interested to know who ensnares the men into loving classic movies-- John Wayne? Humphrey Bogart?


Elizabeth said...

Actually Audrey Hepburn wasn't what drew me into classic movies - it was Charlie Chaplin! I was about 11-12 years old and was in a K-Mart with my mother when I found myself hypnotized by some Charlie Chaplin movies. They were only $2 so we brought them home and I instantly fell in love and have never looked back!

Cliff Aliperti said...

For me it was Bogart and Gable, though I do prefer Cagney to either now. Maybe unexpected, but in a way quite obvious, I'd say Karloff and Lugosi would be up there too, as what kid didn't get sucked into "old" movies by the horror standards.

Thanks, Cliff

Matthew Coniam said...

For me (all more or less around the age of 8/9/10): Karloff & Lugosi, Harold Lloyd/ Chaplin/ Laurel & Hardy/ Marx Brothers, Charlie Chan, Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.
But for my good lady: yep; Audrey!

Rhiannon said...

I love that you wrote a post on this! I guess that Audrey is a pretty accessible star . . .her movies are so easy to watch and don't seem so old-fashioned--even girls who only watch modern chick flicks can find something to live in Breakfast at Tiffany's or Sabrina. I used to hate movies from the '30s--they seemed so dry and distant--but now they're my favorites. It's funny how that happens.

I think Humphrey Bogart was my favorite male star too! But probably because of Sabrina . . . I wonder why it is that '50s stars are usually the most iconic classic film stars now? People like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, too . . . I like the '30s ones so much better now!

aguass said...

I totally agree with you: I watched classic movies with my parents, but it wasn't until I saw Audrey in B@t, that I discover that these """"old"""" stars could be totally cool, a little bit kook, funny and interesting...Then I went to the library, got a book about Billy Wilder (because I wanted to read about his movies with Audrey) and it was about Joseph L. Mankiewicz too...One year later, thanks to Audrey, I've watched more movies than ever, discovered a load of outstanding directors, actors, writers(and great blogs about them), I love this marvellous old music, I have new idols,I'm just crazy about the classics, and I think I have more knowledge than before to aprecciate films :) It's incredible how your interests and perception change.

G·R·E·A·T sketch. Congrats.
Greetings from Chile.

PS: Made some vids, it'd be great if you could watch my youtube channel (3 vids)

Rhiannon said...

Uh, I mean something to love. :)

Wendymoon said...

I like Audrey (and think your watercolor is great) but she is not my favorite and certainly was not the catalyst for my love of the classics. I'm afraid her popularity makes me not like her as well, maybe because I have an aversion to following the crowd. (I've heard so many people reference Audrey anytime they think clothes are elegant, and most of the time they look nothing like what Audrey wore.)

Also, I don't think female stars have to draw in the girls while the men draw in the guys. Personally, I like many more actors than I do actresses. And stars like Bogie, Cary Grant, and Gene Kelly hooked me into classics way more than Audrey ever did.

Mercurie said...

Audrey Hepburn didn't pull me into classic films, although she did get me into musicals after seeing My Fair Lady. As to the actor who got me into classic film, I'd say that was Humphrey Bogart. It was The Maltese Falcon that did it. I'd watched John Wayne movies before that, but that only got me into Westerns!

Juliette. said...

I'd always loved musicals, but didn't know much about them. For me, it was Audrey as well, in My Fair Lady (haha, if you can believe that). After My Fair Lady (which I saw in the fifth grade, I think)...I wrote my research paper that year on Audrey Hepburn, and researched by reading a book about her and watching a ton of movies. I fell in love with Charade, then Cary Grant, then Katharine Hepburn, and on and on.

Great post-- brought back a lot of memories. :)

DKoren said...

Wow!!! That is a truly gorgeous painting of her! I love this style you're working in right now!

This is a very interesting post! I love reading people's history with film watching, usually because it's so different from my own experience, and that's neat.

I also seem to run a bit contrary to popular opinion... I've never particularly cared for Audrey Hepburn. Granted, I've also seen very few of her movies, so perhaps that's unfair. I've seen Green Mansions (the first film I saw her in... not a good one to start with. The book is fabulous, the movie stinks.), Robin and Marian (in which I really did like her, but she was not all classy and elegant), and Sabrina, which I disliked on just about every level.

I watched classic movies originally because my parents did, and because they were good movies. The stories kept me going back first and foremost, because I wanted to watch Westerns and War movies, and there simply aren't very many being made nowadays. The actors attracted me to their other films after I fell in love with them in the Westerns and War movies.

DKoren said...

BTW, I should add that I think it is the neatest thing that Audrey Hepburn has had such a positive influence on so many people and what movies they watch!

Kate Gabrielle said...

Elizabeth- Ah, I should have known ;) I think Charlie Chaplin really appeals to kids more than people think. I go to a showing of his movies every winter and so many people bring their kids, who get such a huge kick out of it!!

Cliff- I prefer Cagney too! I actually never saw any of the old horror classics when I was a kid! I may have seen King Kong, but the only old movies I really remember seeing were the old Disney live-action films.

Matthew- Oh, how things change ;) I'd like to know where everyone was seeing Charlie Chaplin films when they were 8 or 9! Were they broadcast on tv before TCM?

Rhiannon- Thank you so much for inspiring my post!! I'm exactly the same way- I was brought into classic films through Audrey Hepburn but the 30's are my favorite era now. The 30's were so glamourous, and I think the best movies were made during that decade, it is strange that the 50's have such a stranglehold on iconography!

aguass- Exactly what happened to me! One star just spurs a sort of six-degrees-of-separation chain, one thing leads to another and before you know it you're hooked on all classic films! I'll definitely go check out your youtube channel :)

Wendy- Sorry if my post offended you in any way.. I didn't actually mean that women had to start off liking actresses, and males liking actors. And I actually agree that Audrey Hepburn wasn't the best star, or best actress. My point was merely that because she is so accessible (like Rhiannon said) she has probably gotten more girls hooked into classic film than any other actress has. That doesn't make her a better actress, or more deserving of fame than someone like my personal favorite Barbara Stanwyck. I'm just trying to say that the fact that she opened up a world of classic films to so many people (men too, I'm sure) makes her important. I'll be the first to admit that it's annoying to see Marilyn, James Dean and Audrey get all of the attention. I think a hundred other stars are more deserving (which I've lamented about a million times on my blog) -- but because she has been pushed into legendary status, it's easier for people to watch her films without being scared off by the "old movie" connotation. And then one thing leads to another. My personal favorite decade is the 1930's, not the 1950's. In fact, except for How to Steal a Million I wouldn't count any of her films in my top 20 anymore. But because she initially inspired me to get into classic films, and seems to have done the same for many other people, I thought it warranted a little tip of the hat. And I can't stand the Audrey comparisons (if you look on my twitter page you'll see how I was actually complaining about this earlier when I was looking for a reference shot of Audrey. A quick search on flickr for "Audrey Hepburn" yields about 10000 results-- maybe 100 are actually Audrey and the rest are people who think they look like her.)

Kate Gabrielle said...

Mercurie- Wow, I was kind of spot on with my guesses about which actors pulled in the men, eh? Bogie, Bogie, Bogie! I've actually never been a big fan of westerns, except for political ones like The Ox Bow Incident. I need some convincing! :D

Juliette- I actually saw My Fair Lady with my dad when I was little (before I started liking classic films) and I didn't like the songs at all -- It's a joke in my family now, because I really had to go to the bathroom while I was watching it, but I was waiting to go until a song came on so I wouldn't miss anything good ;) Now I love the songs though! Wow, you wrote a paper about her in 5th grade?! Impressive!! I love Charade, it's definitely one of my favorites of her films. It's hard to believe it wasn't directed by Hitchcock, it's so good!

DKoren- Thank you :) Oh, you've watched all the wrong films!! Green Mansions was one of the worst movies I've ever seen!! I actually haven't seen Robin and Marian yet (it's a lot later, right?) and Sabrina is really overrated. As a William Holden fan, I'm sure it bothered you (like me!) that she ended up with Bogie, yes? What a mismatch. The whole film is just a bit off for me.. I think you'd like How to Steal a Million and Charade! They're both really good, quick-paced films, and I really think you'd enjoy them! (ps. I think we all have our one "I just don't understand their appeal" person-- for me it's Marlon Brando. Just. Don't Get. it. :)

Sarah said...

Audrey was the one that got me into classic movies. Seriously, if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be here! I don't know what prompted me to get Breakfast at Tiffany's at Blockbuster, but I watched it about 50 times and then got a bio on her.

DKoren said...

Kate - I knew it! It had to be all the wrong films. Yeah, Green Mansions ranks on my 10 worst list. Robin and Marian was made mid-'70s. And no, it actually didn't bother me that she ended up with William Holden cuz he was soooooo mis-cast in that movie. And what's up with his blond hair?? Yuck!

I will give the two films you mention a try! Off to add them to Netflix queue.

And you are not alone in the Marlon Brando thing... Don't get that either. Although, I was completely surprised I liked him in... in... er... "Sayonara." I watched it purely by accident one day way back twenty years ago when I used to get TV and was shocked to find I liked him in it. Of course, that was 20 years ago and I may have a totally different opinion nowadays, but it stuck in my memory as the only Marlon Brando movie I'd ever liked.

Wendymoon said...

Sorry if I came off as offended, really I'm not! I did find funny the assumption about men liking actors and women, actresses, maybe just because I'm the opposite (which could be the exception to the rule).

About Audrey: I do think it's great that she has gotten people into classic movies. I just hope they all branch out into other actors and actresses, too. :-)

I saw your tweet about the look-alikes, that's exactly what bothers me. I guess Audrey's an icon that everyone loves, and I can see her appeal. I just have a personal problem about not liking things once they get too popular.

And amen on us all having our "I don't understand their appeal" people. I got really slammed once for saying I just don't get Myrna Loy. But I don't. So there. Would be interested in hearing who other put into this category.

Meredith said...

my gateway drug was absolutely judy garland. one viewing of easter parade and i was hooked!

Millie said...

Audrey rocks my world, but she was not the first.

I really couldn't tell you who was the first. Because I have been watching classic movies since the day I was born. But, some of my earliest classic movie memories (about almost 4) were It Happened One Night and My Man Godfrey. Also, The Parent Trap...and really classic TV! I was a die-hard Bonanza fan at the age of 5!

Andi B. Goode said...

I'm not entirely sure. Audrey Hepburn has been my favourite actress for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching films like My Fair Lady and Charade (which I watched over and over and over and over) - I guess it must've been Audrey! I watched a lot of Cary Grant films growing up, too, as he's my mum's favourite and North by Northwest has always been a favourite film but I'd say I appreciated Audrey far longer before I ever fully appreciated Cary. So, yes, Audrey it is.
-Andi x

Matthew Coniam said...

"Oh, how things change ;) I'd like to know where everyone was seeing Charlie Chaplin films when they were 8 or 9!"

Answer: BBC-2, late seventies, early eighties. How things change indeed.

British television, RIP.

Vanessa said...

What a beautiful painting!

Lolita said...

Jeez, Kate! That painting is wonderful! So goddamn beautiful! (My boyfriend thinks so too, by the way.)

Ah, so Audrey Hepburn made you into a woman? I think it was Marilyn Monroe who did it for me, or at least started it. Then it was Lauren Bacall who was my main inspiration for my first classic-film-devotion-years, so I guess it was Mrs. Bogart who turned me from a pathetic teenager into a full grown woman!

Rachel said...

It was Judy Garland for me. I loved her musicals, especially "Meet Me in St. Louis", but now I prefer any movie from the 30's, with an emphasis on pre-codes! And now I've been watching "Twentieth Century" every day for the past week, I'm crushing on John Barrymore!

ClassicMovie Bug said...

Casablanca drew me in so deeply... as well as anything with James Stewart. My first Audrey film was Roman Holiday, which also started my huge and never ending love for Gregory Peck.

Anyway... she was such a classy woman. My favorite film of her's, besides Roman Holiday, is Two For The Road.

I_Might_Be_Wrong said...

Audrey Hepburn is gorgeous
and your drawing is exceptionally
beautiful and captivating <3

I thought you may enjoy
my new blog post which
is about my love for cinema
and poetry in cinema:

thisisanger said...

audrey hepburn was part of it all. another person was james stewart. i remember growing up watching his movies with my father. and, every christmas eve, my family and i watch it's a wonderful life.

I_Might_Be_Wrong said...

I thought i'd let you know
how much I love your blog and your drawings and I hope you don't mind
me featuring you on my blog:
and I wish you a lovely weekend
and lots of inspiration <3

fashionblogger said...

I totally agree; I first started with 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and then came other Audrey's films, and eventually, other classic movies. I wonder what's your favourite Audrey film; mine is 'Two for the Road'.

Anyway please have a look at my post from 26/08; I've uploaded a picture that might be of interest to you and other Audrey fans:

All the best

L7macleod said...

I like your sketches! I can't really say who got me into older movies except for the fact that my mom made me watch some when I was younger, but Audrey definitely has inspired me to watch more older films.

I recently posted a blog about Audrey after viewing your blog, if you have time would you please check it out?

Marjorie said...

I found this post when I google Audrey Hepburn, but I feel compelled to respond.
I have always loved John Wayne. My Dad and I would watch his classic western movies all the time growing up, but that was the extent of my interest in the classics.
Later in college a noticed Audrey Hepburn all over girls dorm walls, and heard her referenced in TV shows. So I had a Audrey marathon watching her most famous movies. I'm only at the beginning of my journey into the classics but I am loving them more and more.

KMG said...

Hey hey!

I started when I first saw Clark Gable in Gone with the wind. Then it went deeper with Vincent Price (too rarely mentioned in my opinion) in "the house of the seven gables", and I think it got to a peak with Bogart in Casablanca.
I can't really tell a favourite actress of mine, because the women portrayed were mostly childish and I couldn't see myself in them. But for some reason, ava gardener in "knights of the round table got me! and robert taylor too, of course, hehe.
Long story short, mostly the men drew me in, not the women.


KMG said...

Hey hey!

I started when I first saw Clark Gable in Gone with the wind. Then it went deeper with Vincent Price (too rarely mentioned in my opinion) in "the house of the seven gables", and I think it got to a peak with Bogart in Casablanca.
I can't really tell a favourite actress of mine, because the women portrayed were mostly childish and I couldn't see myself in them. But for some reason, ava gardener in "knights of the round table got me! and robert taylor too, of course, hehe.
Long story short, mostly the men drew me in, not the women.