And that’s not the worst of it, she’s four months younger than my mother, and she’s been dead for what will be 24 years on the 20th of this month. Audrey Hepburn is her name. Some might remember her. I don’t know how I missed her growing up or since, but I guess her heyday coincided with my first 20 years during which time, I pretty much was oblivious to anyone that wasn’t me or anything that didn’t affect me. Of course, too, we were poor, we didn’t have television most of those years and we didn’t go to movies – I was pretty much unaware of Hollywood or theater or anything that wasn’t sports, school or the coming military draft.
But I was bored Christmas Eve, not well, home alone but not in the Home Alone way, and though I tried some of the shows I’d dvr’d over the fall, they were boring too and I deleted them. So I did a voice search (X1 remote) for romantic comedies – thought maybe something light would amuse. Up came a movie called Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn. Now I knew of Katharine Hepburn, I’d seen a documentary about her life, I think I may even have read a biography about her, and I wondered if this was her daughter – so I tuned it in, it turned out to be a musical. I’m not a fan of musicals. It also turned out to star Fred Astaire with her and I’m really not a fan of his either nor any other dancing man from those days, but it didn’t start out with him, it started out a bit like an excerpt from 13 Going on 30, starring Jennifer Garner, which I really did like, so I kept going with it, even when they broke into song (that’s the thing I don’t like about musicals, people just don’t break into song at any old time during the day and it would most annoy me if they did), I stayed with it. Then SHE showed up, and I was intrigued, she looked like, sounded like even, a girl I was very enamored of for my high school years and a bit beyond.
I put the thing on pause after a half hour or so, and watched something else, don’t recall what but came back for the last 20 minutes of the movie and liked that too. I don’t like the formula of most rom coms, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, sometimes several times over. They bore me, annoy me and the sheer stupidity of it all just frazzles me. I get this is a formula and tried and true and all that, I just DON’T like it. If boy and girl are going to be good together, all that stuff in the middle is just inane and annoying, BE together, be good together, have some freaking prescience about yourself and life itself please. Don’t treat each other like idiots, don’t play hurtful games, don’t tease, don’t follow stupid rules someone else made up. Be. Or not, I don’t really care, but choose and stick with it. For my part, I’d choose not, and be on with life – in point of fact that IS how I’ve lived and plan to continue, and I fully get that is not how most want to play the game of life and am okay with that too – and I wish people would write stories like that. It isn’t like they aren’t out there, but they don’t get optioned into screen plays, not without that formula that was trite before there were talkies.
So, anyway, as I finished that movie, it was still early and so I did a search for Audrey Hepburn movies and up came Breakfast at Tiffany’s. All I knew about that was the song from the 90’s. But I sorta liked that, so I clicked on it and it turned out the girl from Funny Face was more talented than I thought, quite a bit more. I don’t like George Peppard, her costar, but all I knew about him was from a tv show he did with Mr. T, who I think is STILL Mr. T, and who I found arrogant in that show. I don’t like arrogant either. Yes, I am opinionated. Aren’t we all? Shouldn’t we be? I mean, if we can’t tell ourselves what we like and don’t like, and follow through on that, then what is the point of sentience? Yes, yes, I know what one is one moment is not what one will be in the next and I have changed my mind about things, more than once, including some vegetables I used to hate but do no longer. I mention that to show that I can grow, evolve. That’s the other point of sentience. I guess there might be more, but they’re not relevant to this story. Yet anyway. So, young Mr. Peppard was every bit as arrogant as old Mr. Peppard, but somehow that didn’t detract from the movie, it was so thoroughly dominated by Audrey. I won’t say she was every boy’s dream, because that certainly wouldn’t be true, and her character would likely drive me insane, but that had no effect on how I felt about her performance which was masterful, touching and more than a little endearing. I identified with her spirit, her wild thing persona, her wandering through life searching for what she didn’t actually know, not until the last 5 minutes anyway. That is not what I am searching for, but I identified with her search. And there was a lot more of her in me than could be coincidence – which I do not believe in anyway, if you ever look through other things here, you’ll see that and you’ll see why, so finding her was no accident.
I was so intrigued I began my own search and learned she was born May 4, 1929, my mother January, 1929, the similarities end there if that’s where you think this is going. So I read about her, Wikipedia is quite a treasure really. I researched her a bit, I guess. I found a list of her top ten movies and I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket, well, actually my desktop but pocket sounds more dramatic, don’t you think? I don’t either. So I went to Amazon and ordered the five movies for which she’d been nominated for Oscars beginning with Roman Holiday, her first big movie and her only Oscar. I had them all in a few days and I spent New Year’s weekend with her (and by the end of it, had ordered five more including this time Funny Face and Breakfast because I wanted to see them whenever I want to see them), the first two were in black and white. Since I grew up before color television, I’m not a fan of black and white but it turns out that didn’t detract from the movies at all. I barely noticed really, I was so captivated. It turns out she is not a great actress. Great actors and actresses (yes, I KNOW they are all just actors today, but not in MY world) to me are people who can play ANY role and make you believe they ARE that person – there are no more than a few each generation, MOST artists (for the sake of not having to say actor and actresses a thousand times) are exceptionally good at playing themselves in front of a camera, so you get essentially the same performance every film from them. Entertaining but not great. The vast majority of us can’t even approach that, so it isn’t as if that isn’t a gift it is, it just isn’t greatness.
It is a rare individual who plays essentially the same character in all films that I will still consider a great artist. Audrey Hepburn is one such. She does play herself, in Breakfast, the “extras” include several 20 minute little vignettes (one of which apologizes for that ATROCIOUS character Mickey Rooney played, one of the ugliest, most racist characters I have ever seen, yes, it was a different time, but that was still, and is today, unforgivable, it does detract from the movie) one of which includes a statement from her son that she was the same off screen as on. I believe that. I’m glad of it, actually, because that means what I saw was real, was her. And there is no other way to know her than through her films. And I want to know her. She was a bit different in each film, but always essentially her, and the her she played was SO attractive, so darn cute, so precious that I can’t imagine anyone knowing her and not loving her. That kind of person is unique and rare and special. As I understand it, what I understand at this moment, is that is precisely true of her. I’m not a twosome guy, but if I were, the other half of me would have to be someone very much like her, I can’t imagine a life with another kind of person. I suppose there is a generation of men out there who felt that way about her back then. Though she was apparently as well liked by women. Transcendent personalities are rare, and she was one.
While waiting for the last batch of five, I don’t think I will order more others weren’t rated highly, I did watch her only western. The Unforgivens, silly title, stupid movie. Burt Lancaster starred. She was HER though, and that I loved, but the story was inane, the acting ham-handed and over the top, filled with logic gaps that would cause me to stop watching, or reading, anything else in a few minutes. I stayed with it though, for her. Won’t watch it again, but it wasn’t a total waste of time only because she was in it.
I watched Breakfast again last night, I watched it for three hours, and it is a two hour movie, because I kept playing scenes back that so amused me, that so endeared her to me, that she was just so wonderful in. Sometimes I just stopped the film and looked at her – I’ve a 65 inch Ultra HD 4K television, just saying the picture was big and beautiful. And so was she, that’s where I got the picture in the middle of this post. I wonder how many times I will watch that movie. I watched several of the extras, I’ll go through the photo galleries too I suppose, and I know I’ll watch it again, probably many times. Though I’ve still two I’ve not yet seen, plus I haven’t actually watched all of Funny Face, what’s left unseen is My Fair Lady (another musical, in which she did not sing!?) and Two for the Road with another man I don’t like, but only know as an old man, Albert Finney (the Jason Bourne movies) but which got good reviews. Audrey died in 1993, January 20th. Here I am 24 years later just finding her.
My mother is still living, has her mind, and will be 88 at the end of this month. When I see her, I’m going to ask, apart from the usual, what she remembers of Audrey Hepburn. Mom was into movie gossip back then, I remember movie magazines she had, not unlike the stuff you see at supermarket checkout lines today, so she may have been more aware of the outside world than I, well, I’m sure she was. Teens really don’t have an outside world, so busy constructing ourselves are we, that the outside world only exists in periphery to our internal world. Still, I feel this yearning, and it is such an unknown feeling to me that I need to explore it a bit. 67 and still learning something new every day. I say often that is the key to a happy life, or at least to keeping life interesting, and, you know what? I actually believe that. So my obsession with my new love will go on a bit. I rather like the idea. And most certainly like Audrey Hepburn quite a lot. Excuse me, please, for a bit, I’ve a date with My Fair Lady.