I am a huge fan of old movies, I love seeing the timeless stories of the past find relevance today, and one of my favourite things to do is introducing these movies to my friends, and watching the magic unfold. My journey into this world began with Audrey Hepburn, so this Friday I thought I’d write about five of my all-time favourite Audrey Hepburn movies.
Paris When It Sizzles
When I first started watching Audrey movies I bought a box set that included Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Funny Face and this movie. Paris When It Sizzles has Ms Hepburn joined once again by William Holden, in what I think is a cheeky take on the Hollywood writing world; writing for popularity versus writing for art or the love of it. Audrey plays Gabrielle, secretary and typist to Holden’s screenwriter who is charged with producing a Hollywood blockbuster smash for Alexander Meyerheim over the Bastille Day holiday weekend in Paris.
I love movies about movies, and writing about writing too, and anything in Paris draws me in. When I first watched this movie I loved the zaniness and chemistry between Holden and Hepburn, more so than watching the pair in Sabrina (controversial opinion, I know). Reading up in my countless Hepburn books about this particular film, I discovered Holden’s alcoholism that apparently caused production problems during filming. I’m somebody that perhaps naively prefers to take the value of something or someone from their work, instead of their personal lives. So for me, I will always love William Holden for Sabrina, Sunset Boulevard and Paris When It Sizzles.
The colours and clothing in this film are so vibrant, and in my opinion (though this may be because I saw it first) on par with Funny Face. Audrey in the green suit with matching white shoes and felt hat is an image that is forever etched in my memory, and the clothing throughout the film throughout Paris paint a picture that made me fall in love with everything about it. Paris is also a notable Audrey film in that it is the first and only to have a credit for the perfume worn by Ms Hepburn; Givenchy (what else). This movie remains one of my most watched, because when I’m watching it the dreariness of my own life melts away as I watch William and Audrey prance around Paris. Not exactly popular choice for Audrey favourites, but it’s weirdly one of mine.
Funny Face is Audrey’s first and only collaboration with the incomparable Fred Astaire, and similarly it is (so far) my first and only encounter with Astaire (If anyone has any Astaire recommendations feel free to make them!). In terms of iconic Audrey roles, Jo Stockton is right up there, and similarly (and also superior to) Paris When It Sizzles it combines a dynamic cast with the lights of Paris and an amazing, AMAZING wardrobe. The clothes alone in this movie make it one of my all-time favourites, but I’m also drawn by the music and the amazing dancing. Watching Audrey dance in the Parisian club is simply mesmerising, and makes me question the intelligence of those who told her she would never be a dancer.
Of course being a bit of a girly girl, Kay Thompson telling me to “Think Pink” as the first musical number always grabs me. It is still one of the most impressive magazine based musical numbers I have ever seen (sorry Glee) and the colour is just so vivid. To me, pink is not simply a colour, it is a state of mind. Maggie Prescott is looking for the next big fashion trend that is both intelligent and beautiful, and to me thinking pink is just that; being beautiful and insightful, smart and stylish, things that shouldn’t be so contradictory in society’s eyes but that even now sometimes is.
This movie is also special to me in that it is the first where we hear Audrey’s delightfully beautiful singing voice. While it’s not a powerhouse of the Julie Andrews/Judy Garland kind, I think Audrey’s voice matches up quite accurately with her persona and her understated elegance. It’s the kind of voice where you can imagine Audrey singing quietly to herself while playing the piano for her sons on a Sunday afternoon. The musical part of this film adds to the appeal and seamlessly fit in with the fashion and romance of France. Despite the 30 year gap between Astaire and Audrey, the atmosphere of the film makes it seem entirely natural, and as a 15 year old watching for the first time, I also fell in love with Fred Astaire as he dances on the raft to “S’Wonderful” with Audrey in a wedding dress.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my favourite movie of all time. I watch it when I’m happy. I watch it when I’m sad. I watch it when I’m feeling lost and I want to feel some inspiration. Tiffany’s is one of the rare book adaptations that I love just as much as I love the book itself (The Hobbit is another) and as my entire blog is inspired by the story, I don’t think I need to elucidate why and how much I love it. Instead I will leave you with these:
And these that I found that I LOVE LOVE LOVE:
Two for the Road
Stanley Donen was the director of two of my all-time favourite old Hollywood movies (Singin’ In The Rain and Funny Face) and in Two For The Road he has produced another stellar outing for Audrey. Behind the scenes, it was rumoured that Albert Finney and Audrey were involved while in marriages themselves; whether or not they were onscreen they have a really intriguing chemistry that to me makes the movie absolutely fascinating.
Again this movie takes place in European locales, and while that is part of the appeal, on first viewing I loved this movie because it showed a different, more grown up side of Audrey. Audrey in an unhappy marriage (art imitating life perhaps), Audrey disillusioned with love and Audrey being a little bit selfish. This movie helped humanise Audrey to me (and yes, I know that Joanna was merely a character) and more so than her other movies seems real. Real characters and real life problems that are more relatable than being a newly discovered Parisian model.
My Fair Lady
I don’t know that I could imagine Julie Andrews in the role of Eliza Dolittle, but admittedly I have only seen Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music once each. I love Rex Harrison in the role of Professor Higgins and I am a little interested to see how his chemistry with Julie Andrews would have compared to that between him and Audrey’s Eliza. The songs are phenomenal, and one of my only pet peeves with this movie is that it is Marni Nixon (also the voice of Maria in West Side Story) not Audrey Hepburn singing as Eliza. It gives a little bit of a disconnect to the character for me, but the supporting cast do an exceptional job of picking up the slack for me. Jeremy Brett, who played Freddy, also had his vocals dubbed but I don’t think it is as easily noticed or known.
The only other thing I can say against this movie is that it may be a tad too long. But then trying to think of what part you’d cut out to make it shorter? Impossible. The songs that I always find myself humming are “Just You Wait,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Wouldn’t It be Loverly” though I am in love with Freddy and dream of the day that a man walks the streets to find the house where I live (okay, it’s a farfetched dream. But shush!).
The costumes in this movie are magnificent, and at times (especially at Ascot) it seems less of a movie and more of a fashion show. Like Funny Face the combination of visuals and music make the movie an unforgettable and iconic one, with the soundtrack alone one of my most frequently played things ever.
Of course there are other more notable Audrey films (Sabrina, Roman Holiday, Charade, A Nun’s Story, Love in the Afternoon, How To Steal a Million) that are more closely linked to her and her career, and that I love just as much. But these five are the ones I find myself watching the most, and that I think show a wide range of her appeal. Something about her is just so mesmerising, inspiring and warm that you can’t help but want to be her and be around her. Ultimate life dream.