Audrey Hepburn, the star of my heart, gets a month long tribute in June on TCM! As a perfect antidote to Monday doldrums, TCM will be airing her films on every Monday throughout the month. Thanks to Keisha, who first announced the news on twitter, I also have a schedule of what films will be shown. This post is a primer. There are a handful I haven’t seen, but I’m more than happy to recommend the others.
This may surprise some people, but Audrey’s filmography was actually diverse. People tend to box her into the ingenue category, but she portrayed various characters and honestly deserves a lot more recognition for her acting work. The only films missing in the lineup are Sabrina (1954), Charade (1963) and Two for the Road (1967). I highly recommend checking them out if you haven’t already!
Roman Holiday (1953): Kicking things off with the 8pm primetime slot is not only my favorite of all time, but also the most important film in the history of cinema. This was Audrey’s Hollywood debut, and it earned her an Oscar win. She plays Princess Ann, who after growing weary with her royal duties, escapes the coliseum one night in Rome to finally have some fun and excitement. Along the way she meets Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), a reporter who disguises himself in order to get a big scoop on the runaway princess.
Love in the Afternoon (1957): Audrey plays Ariane, a cello student and the daughter of a private detective (Maurice Chevalier) who investigates sordid cases involving adultery. One of his clients plans to shoot notorious playboy Frank Flanagan (Gary Cooper), who’s been seeing his wife. Ariane takes it upon herself to warn Frank, and assumes the identity of a worldly woman as experienced and promiscuous as he. She manages to fool him. And he, for the first time, falls in love!
Green Mansions (1959): Not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re a completist like me, you’ll sit through it anyway. Audrey plays Rima, an ethereal forest girl who falls in love with an outsider (Anthony Perkins). Audrey does try her best with this dull material which suffers under her then husband Mel Ferrer’s direction. But it’s worth it to see just how well suited she was to a role like this. An ethereal nature child? Yup, sounds about right. This was also the film where she had her pet deer Pippin, or Ip for a time.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): I have mixed feelings about this film and the cultural implications of it, but I thoroughly enjoy Audrey’s performance. Marilyn Monroe may have been author Truman Capote’s first choice, but Audrey infuses Holly Golightly with a vulnerability that makes her tender and likable. She’s not as soft in the novella. And you tell me, who else could wear a towel and make it look like runway fashion?
My Fair Lady (1964): I have to be honest, I’m not as enamored with this musical as her other films, but it’s still enjoyable. Although her singing voice was dubbed, done without her knowledge and after Jack Warner promised her she could sing, the songs are also very good. Her cockney accent as Eliza Doolittle is delightful and she has wonderful rapport with Rex Harrison.
The Nun’s Story (1959): One of Audrey’s strongest performances where she plays a nun tested by the spiritual rigors of religious life. Sister Luke ardently desires to serve God by working as a nurse in the Congo. She suffers numerous trials and tribulations, while trying to hold onto her faith amidst so many disappointments.
The Children’s Hour (1961): Audrey shares the screen with Shirley MacLaine in this later adaptation of the Lillian Hellman play. It examines the effects wrought by a malicious lie when a child accuses her two teachers of being lesbians. Although the charge is false, romantic feelings long suppressed are revealed. This is one of Audrey’s most mature films. James Garner plays her fiancee.
The Unforgiven (1960): Troubled production history which included Audrey’s miscarriage overshadows the film itself, which is rather odd. Audrey plays a Native American for one. Much as I love Burt Lancaster, pairing the two of them just wasn’t a good idea. [Spoilers] As siblings their dynamic makes sense, but not so much as romantic partners.
How to Steal a Million (1966): Audrey worked with director William Wyler for the third time on this unbelievably charming film. Speaking of unbelievably charming, Peter O’Toole is her costar. Audrey plays the daughter of an art forger who teams up with a burglar (O’Toole) in order to steal her father’s replica of a Cellini sculpture. Glamorous, elegant and lots of fun! Also features one of her most underrated Givenchy wardrobes.
Wait Until Dark (1967): My second favorite after Roman Holiday. This is a superb thriller, which builds up tension and terror in the most heart stopping way possible. Audrey plays Suzy, a blind woman who is vulnerable but with a lot of grit. Suzy is one of her best characters. She’s never helpless even as she’s being terrorized by a group of thugs, which includes a murderously unhinged Alan Arkin. It’s one of her greatest performances.
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): Granted I haven’t watched the whole film, but I did see Audrey’s cameo at the beginning as the cigarette girl, Chiquita. It’s an Alec Guiness movie and according to the late Robert Osborne, a highly entertaining one. I’m sure we’ll all like it!
Paris, When It Sizzles (1964): This movie has a bad reputation but I genuinely love it. I actually wrote a poem about Audrey’s character Gabrielle Simpson because she’s so enchanting in it. She is trying to help screenwriter Richard Benson (William Holden) with his latest screenplay which he’s been putting off. Richard fantasizes about the various films which star he and Gabrielle. It’s best not to take this movie too seriously and just enjoy the silliness.
Funny Face (1957): Jo Stockton is the character closest to Audrey. She’s a bookish girl with no illusions about her looks. “I think my face is funny.” But to Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), her face is absolutely marvelous, and he whisks her away to Paris where she transforms into a high fashion model. Audrey sings her own songs in this movie and she’s got a sweet voice.
Always (1989): Her final film for Steven Spielberg, and a remake of Van Johnson’s star making film, A Guy Named Joe. Audrey fittingly plays an angel named Hap who guides recently deceased pilot Pete (Richard Dreyfuss). This is one of Spielberg’s most overlooked films. It’s quiet and gentle.
Robin and Marian (1976): An intimate character study of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Not as adventurous as other films about the merry bandit, because now he and his love are older. But Audrey delivers one of her most measured performances and I absolutely love her in this film. This was released after her decade long hiatus from Hollywood. She was 47 years old and her beauty was just so luminous. Marian in this film is also the toughest Mother Superior who brooks no nonsense. Sublime.
I’m looking forward to War and Peace (1956), which I’ll be covering for the Blind Spot series. It’s the only major Audrey film I haven’t seen. And I’m very happy to watch her early films as well.
Hope you all love the films this June, hereby known as Audrey Hepburn month!