Monday, August 22, 2011

Audrey, Part 4: Comeback and Charity Work

From the seventies onward, Audrey Hepburn appeared in few films, focusing on her family, and later, UNICEF. After having her son Luca in 1970, her marriage became strained due to Andrea Dotti's unfaithfulness. However, she starred in two films in the seventies: comeback movie and period piece Robin and Marian with Sean Connery in 1976 and Bloodline in 1979 with James Mason, Ben Gazzara, and Romy Schneider. In 1980, she separated from Andrea Dotti and moved in with Dutch actor Robert Wolders, though she was still married to Dotti until '82. She called her years with Robert the happiest in her life, and was with him until her death. In 1981, she starred for the last time in They All Laughed, which was overshadowed by the murder of the director's wife. Audrey began to do humanitarian work for UNICEF, which she had supported her entire career, this time making several trips to third-world countries to help and promote awareness. 1987's Love Among Thieves with Robert Wagner, a made-for-TV movie, was panned by all but devoted fans, and Audrey made a cameo in the Steven Spielberg film Always before officially becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. She still remembered the pain of war from the 40s, and devoted much of the rest of her life to visiting and helping poorer countries. She filmed PBS's Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn before heading off on a trip to Somalia in 1992. She came back with abdominal pain, which doctors eventually discovered was a rare form of cancer that had metastasized from her abdomen to her appendix. After chemotherapy and operations, the cancer could not be fully removed. Audrey passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of style, grace, and kindheartedness.

(Photos: my scans from Audrey Hepburn.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Enchantress of the Desert

Vera Ashby (1895-1985), better known by her pseudonym, Sumurun, was a British fashion model (who worked in Paris) in the 1920s.
Vera Ashby appeared as a showgirl in The Bing Boys during the war, but gave up stage work to become a mannequin. When Edward Molyneux left Lucile to open his own couture house in 1919, he hired Vera Ashby as his head mannequin. He named her Sumurun; and her persona was "Enchantress of the Desert, the world's most famous mannequin, courted and fêted by many men, proposed to by at least a score" (as 'Vera Ashby' was too plain). She became the highest-paid model in Paris, though, as she said, "The money was very poor, 3,500 francs a month - today, the equivalent would be £50 to £100 a month." The Queen's couturier, Sir Norman Hartnell, remembers: "I went to a show at Molyneux. Sumurun was in a pink dress and coat and gave out a sort of vamp. I never thought she'd be working for me one day." She was photographed by Baron de Meyer and drawn by Drian. During the twenties, the Bal des petits lits blancs, in aid of children's charity, was held in Paris, and all the couturiers dressed their models to the hilt for the ball. Sumurun, as Molyneux's head mannequin, entered last. She describes the Molyneux creation she wore: "I wore an exotic costume, in golds and rich oriental colors, encrusted with jewels. There was another large jewel in my turban. These little jewels had little electric light bulbs in the center connected to a battery which was concealed on me. I was preceded by two little black boys who scattered rose petals for me to walk on. At a certain point the light were lowered, and I pressed the battery-light. All the jewels on my costume and my turban lit up, and there was such excitement among the aristocracy and famous, that they rushed forward to gather up the rose petals strewn before me."
After retiring, Vera became a vendeuse for Molyneux, then worked for Sir Norman Hartnell where she was appointed vendeuse to the Queen.

(Photos: my scans from Model Girl. First photo is from the Bal des petits lits blancs, and the second is a sketch of Sumurun by Drian.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Audrey, Part 3: Holly and Mod

After she had her first son, Sean, with husband Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn began filming what is perhaps the most iconic role of her career: Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Holly was a quirky callgirl, "a lopsided romantic, a dreamer of dreams," in producer Martin Jurow's words. The part (originally intended for a sexier actress like Marilyn Monroe) had to be toned down to fit Audrey's grace. The signature Holly Golightly look: Givenchy black dress, up-do, and diamonds layered with pearls have become synonymous with Audrey's image. Next up in her career was a movie with a rather shocking theme: The Children's Hour in the same year, where she played opposite Shirley MacLaine as teachers accused of lesbianism. In 1963, she worked with Cary Grant in Charade. Her next film, the rather unfortunate but gorgeous Paris When It Sizzles, is notable only for Givenchy's creation of her new signature perfume, Interdit and the fact that her costar attempted to romance her despite Mel Ferrer. The musical My Fair Lady was much more successful, despite the fact that Audrey's voice was dubbed over. She made three more films in the sixties: the comedy How To Steal A Million, the comedy/drama Two For The Road where she sported mod Mary Quant, and the drama/thriller Wait Until Dark. After 1967, Audrey decided to step away from her career and focus on her personal life, divorcing Mel Ferrer (citing his temper and control issues) and taking care of her son, Sean. She met and fell in love with Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti on a cruise in 1968, and she married him the following year (when she was forty and he was thirty). She had another son, Luca, in 1970.

(Photos: my scans from Audrey Hepburn.)