To read a book in three days was something I hadn’t done for a long time. But it looks like Audrey Hepburn, un fils se souvient brought me back to my good old habit.
This is the French version of Audrey Hepburn’s biography Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit written by her own son Sean Hepburn Ferrer, whose father was Audrey’s first husband and actor Mel Ferrer (they starred together in King Vidor’s War and Peace). This was the first Audrey Hepburn’s biography I ever read, and it was about time. I have, with no doubt, made a good choice, perhaps the best.
I was at Montreal’s Bibliothèque des Archives Nationales du Québec the other day to borrow some books for my Contemporary Spanish Cinema course, when I remembered the place was fulled of biographies of my favourite actors and movie directors. I would have liked to borrow all of them, but that was obviously impossible. My final choices were Kendra Bean’s Vivien Leigh: an Intimate Portrait (that I had just started) and Sean Hepburn Ferrer’s Audrey Hepburn: un fils se souvient. I remembered then that one of my Facebook friends (another Audrey Hepburn’s fan) had once praised this book and recommended me to read it. And could I go wrong with a book written by her son, someone who was very close to her?
Be reassured, Sean book about his mother is not a “Mommy Dearest” book. You see, Sean loved his mother more than anything. As he says in his book, she was his best friend, and she perhaps was his closest confidant.
This Audrey Hepburn’s biography is one that was written with the heart. What Sean writes about his mother is said in an absolutely beautiful and touching way. He is honest too, by telling us not to look for scandals concerning his mother. As a matter of fact, Audrey didn’t really have any reasons to be criticized. She was a wonderful human being and her flaws, if she had some, are not what we remember from this book after our reading.
Sean Hepburn Ferrer’s book only confirms how a wonderful person his mother was. She was a person with no pretensions, she was always thinking of the others before thinking of herself. Love was for her a way to live and she was a pacifist.
I was agreeably surprised to read some stuff I didn’t know about Audrey Hepburn and other actors of her time. For example, she was friend with James Stewart, who is my favourite actor. Too bad they never starred in a movie together! I also enjoyed reading this little anecdote about her meeting with Marlon Brando in a dinner with people of the industry. They were sat next to each others and Audrey humbly saluted him. He didn’t answer back and simply ignored her during all the dinner. Audrey thought she had been snubbed, but we later learn from Brando that he was too shy and intimidated by this immensely talented actress and couldn’t dare talk to her. When legends are impressed by legends! 😉
Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit has its happy moments, but many sad things are revealed to us, which cannot leave us neutral. I can think of her miserable childhood during the war, her long illness before her death or her humanitarian work with the UNICEF in developing countries. Of course, this was a wonderful thing she did, but to read her testimonies about the horrors she saw in Somalia and the other developing countries she visited is simply heartbreaking
The book works more by themes than by a standard portrait of Audrey Hepburn’s detailed life in chronological order like a common biographer would do. Yes, the themes are mostly presented to us in a certain chronological order, starting with her childhood and ending with her death. But Sean will talk about her humanitarian work both at the beginning and the end of the book, same with the cancer that caused her death. And when do you talk about Audrey Hepburn the fashion icon? She was one all her life.
This doesn’t mix-up us and the book is made in a way that we are not confused and we can follow Audrey’s story in an absolute facility. A mostly entertaining read.
Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit doesn’t only have great written content, but also great visual one with pictures that I had not seen before.
In conclusion, Sean Ferrer Hepburn’s book is something every Audrey Hepburn’s fans should read. You simply won’t be disappointed by her. It mostly is a celebration of her role as a loving mother and enchanting woman.
I was mostly satisfied with my reading, but would like to know more about her life as an actress, her life on the set, her relations with the other actors and actresses she worked with. This is why it probably won’t be the only book about Audrey I’ll read even if, this one is the most true, the most inspiring of them all.