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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Audrey Hepburn Unretouched

Some actresses need all the re-touching they can get. One look at a random issue of today’s Star or Enquirer will shock the senses of those hitherto impressed by the glamour of Hollywood luminaries. Does anyone beyond the age of (extreme) adolescence look upon movie stars as role models anymore? Sometimes the girlfriend brings these tabs home from the supermarket. I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy looking at them, if for no other reason than to say, "There, but for the grace of God …" etc. Talk about a morning after! You can watch an actress' latest pic tonight, and she might look great, but when you encounter her tomorrow in the market checkout, chances are she’ll look like Rondo Hatton! Well, that’s just one more reason to be thankful we’re not dealing with today’s movie landscape here at the Greenbriar. Instead, we’ve got an actress who scarcely needed any corrective touches, even well into her career, which is when these portraits appear to have been made. Now I’m guessing, mind, because these proofs are uncaptioned and undated, but I’d say they were done around the time of Charade, and that would be 1963, when Audrey Hepburn was 34. If any of you Audrey-philes have a better fix on the date, I hope you’ll tip us off, as I for one would love to know exactly when these were taken. If you click and enlarge, you’ll see tiny marks on the face and neck, presumably to guide the retouching process later on. Of course, these proofs were happily spirited away before that procedure could take place, allowing us a glimpse of Audrey "unplugged", so to speak. Now, I think she looks great here, no doubt about that, but close inspection does reveal the encroachments of age, subtle it’s true, but apparent enough to require delicate handling for the remainder of her career. Assuming this is 1963, it’s a little startling to consider that Audrey’s best years were already behind her --- after Charade, there was My Fair Lady, Two For The Road, and Wait Until Dark. Any other big ones? Can’t think of them if there are, and I’ll not besmirch the lady’s memory by dwelling upon Bloodline or They All Laughed.

Just in case anyone’s wondering who the favorite actress is among college girls today, I’d like to submit Audrey Hepburn’s name as the hands-down winner. I’ve had many occasions to run old movies for University audiences in the last five or six years and I can tell you, she is the Number One. No one else comes close. Do they like her gamine quality? For that matter, what is a gamine quality? I’ve never quite understood that. Maybe girls do. Could it be the weight, or lack of it? There’s nobody skinnier (or should I say more waifish) than Audrey. I don’t think she ever ate a Butterfinger in her life, and girls dig that. They can admire Audrey’s boyish figure and be reasonably assured that she’d never have retreated into the lady’s room after a meal with Fred Astaire or Cary Grant in order to purge the dinner she’d just finished. They just didn’t do things like that back then. Audrey came by her weightlessness honestly. Perhaps it’s the clothes. The woman was nothing if not stylish, and the outfits she wore in all those glamour pics don’t look half-bad today. In fact, there have been recent books celebrating "The Audrey Style" (one of them
HERE). Whatever this actress had, the gals today want. The only other name that evokes anything like that much enthusiasm is Marilyn Monroe. At least, that’s been my experience on the college campus.

Lastly, we have a Paramount trade ad for an Alfred Hitchcock/Audrey Hepburn collaboration that very nearly happened in 1959. No Bail For The Judge was all set to go, with a completed script, $200,000 of the studio’s money invested, and heady announcements of another big Hitchcock romantic thriller in the works. Then it all went belly-up. Reasons vary according to who you read, but I’d recommend a recent telling by Alfie’s longtime producer, Herbert Coleman, whose fantastic memoirs have recently been published by Scarecrow Press (order it
HERE). Seems Audrey got the vapors after she read that notorious scene in the script where she’s either raped, nearly raped, or submits (!) to a pimp (!!) during a violent encounter (she hated violence in movies) among the bushes in Hyde Park. And to think, she’d just completed The Nun’s Story! Well, needless to say, she gave it the big nix, and the Master Of Suspense wasn’t about to let some actress dictate to him, so the whole project went south, never to rise again. There are those who maintain that it fell apart for a more prosaic reason, that being that Audrey got pregnant and just couldn’t do it. I'm guessing she got one look at the script, then summoned Mel to get busy fulfilling his connubial obligations so she could "conceive" a good reason to get out of this thing! Ah well, maybe thing worked out for the best. After all, Hitchcock wound up doing Psycho instead. Think Audrey would have enjoyed doing the shower scene in that?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman myself, I have to weigh in (HA! Pun not intended) and say that I never "got" Audrey. I think her skinniness is very unappealing, and I thought her understated clothes were boring. I also hold her partially responsible for the demise of curves in our media.

Give me Rita or Ava any day!

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is worth noting, though, that much retouching was done just to make photo resolution better for newspaper and magazine reproduction, and to fix lighting. I think quite a few of these marks would come under that heading.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Audrey's skinniness is a result of malnutrition she sufferred as a child during the war.
BBC recently aired an old interview with Audrey in which she talked about eating the whole can of condensed milk in one go, from the rations they used to recieve.
She said something along the lines..."...I was very grateful for it and never forgot it. My work with the UN is a way of showing my gratitude..."

Audrey had incredible sense of style. Her look was ahead of the times and looks incredibly contemporary in the present day. That is why college girls idolise her; her style is not dated, the modern woman can relate to it.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Oscar Grillo said...

...Who of us didn't fall in love with her in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"(1961) and repeated the experience in "Robin and Marian" (1976)?

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not much of a Audrey Hepburn fan, but I found the pictures quite fascinating. It's a amazing that for all of the pen marks made to indicate corrections, no one bothered to mark the few stray hairs under her eyebrows.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I've noticed the rise of Audrey Hepburn too. I can think of several factors:

1) Classiness. She wears clothes well, she looks perfect (but again, not like she's tarted up to make men drool)-- she seems to belong to a higher species.

2) Relative sexlessness. In a trashy, oversexed era, she seems not only demure, she doesn't seem like she's for sale. She's the one star of the Marilyn-Jayne Mansfield era whose message isn't "be a sex toy."

3) She didn't get old on screen and embarass herself in the 70s and 80s. She almost did a Garbo, mostly vanishing from the screen, even though there are those few credits like the ones you mention. It's easier to think of her only in terms of Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany's because she wasn't in some 70s disaster movie with bad hair, on Hollywood Squares or Falcon Crest, in commercials peddling some perfume, etc.

By the way, I saw The Nun's Story not that long ago and my first thought was-- Full Metal Jacket. I'd just bet that that was the main movie on Kubrick's mind when he decided to make a movie about joining a large organization that shaves your head and puts you through elaborate dehumanizing rituals....

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt Kubrick was silly enough to make that kind of mistake. Yes, he was an atheist, but not of the village variety. The whole power of FULL METAL JACKET rests in the fact that its hapless GIs are all draftees -- it was either bootcamp or Leavenworth. Nuns, on the other hand, join voluntarily...and their vows don't become permanent for at least a year, during which time they are perfectly free to walk out the door. But to get back on topic; yes, Audrey is wonderful in practically everything (including THE NUN'S STORY) and still looked great in Spielberg's ALWAYS, her last, when she was 60 and dying of cancer.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I'm not sure what you think is Kubrick's "mistake." It's no more a mistake than, say, the Coen Brothers having The Shining's use of the Steadicam in mind when they shot Raising Arizona (which they acknowledged in an interview). Every artist picks up influences, every good artist makes something new out of them. I suspect that deep down, The Nun's Story was one of Kubrick's, even though you might not think of the two films being at all similar at first glance.

Now for a real stealth influence... watch the ending of 2001, then watch the ending of Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir right after!

10:47 AM  

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