Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers

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She dazzled millions as Gigi. Eliza Doolittle. Holly Golightly. But to her most adoring fan, Audrey Hepburn was best known for her role as "Mummy."

In this heartfelt tribute to his mother, Sean Hepburn Ferrer offers a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of one of Hollywood's brightest stars. Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit is a stunning compilation of nearly 300 photographs, many straight from the family album and never before published; archival documents, personal ...

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She dazzled millions as Gigi. Eliza Doolittle. Holly Golightly. But to her most adoring fan, Audrey Hepburn was best known for her role as "Mummy."

In this heartfelt tribute to his mother, Sean Hepburn Ferrer offers a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of one of Hollywood's brightest stars. Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit is a stunning compilation of nearly 300 photographs, many straight from the family album and never before published; archival documents, personal correspondence, and mementos; even paintings and illustrations from the actress herself.

Sean tells Audrey Hepburn's remarkable story, from her childhood in war-torn Holland to the height of her fame to her autumn years far from the camera and the crush of the paparazzi. Sean introduces us to someone whose grace, charm, and beauty were matched only by her insecurity about her appearance and talent, and who used her hard-won recognition as a means to help children less fortunate than her own. With this unique biography, Sean celebrates his mother's history and humanity--and continues her charitable work by donating proceeds from this book to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit lives up to its title thanks to the obvious love of the author, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, for his mother. Family photos — like one of Hepburn lying on a gravel path, toes in the air and rollers in her hair, as she takes a snapshot of the family Yorkie — heighten this book's self-evident allure. —Janet Maslin
Publishers Weekly
Hepburn's son (with actor Mel Ferrer) shows his mother as a compassionate, emotional woman who searched for and offered love above all. He traces the roots of his mother's longing in her experiences with her distant father and the destruction of her native Belgium during WWII. Via photos and stories, he notes how Hepburn (1929-1993) aimed to live an everyday family life of home, school and holidays. Rendering her husbands respectfully and without off-color stories, Ferrer doesn't offer lascivious behind-the-scenes dramas or quips about directorial injustices. Instead, he lets designers and composers who worked with Hepburn talk about the actor's inimitable talents. Composer Henry Mancini believes her "quality of wistfulness" inspired the songs he wrote for her, especially Breakfast at Tiffany's "Moon River." Designer Cecil Beaton calls her an "authentic existential Galatea" with a voice containing the "quality of heartbreak." Ferrer also details Hepburn's influential friendship with clothing designer Hubert de Givenchy, including the dressmaker's generosity in Hepburn's final days. Directors William Wyler and Billy Wilder also appear, as do actors Gary Cooper and Fred Astaire (the latter was Hepburn's co-star in her favorite movie, Funny Face). Movie-related photos abound, but the most memorable images are of Hepburn's family and the children she met in her work with UNICEF. Her 1989 speech to members of the United Nations staff on the millions of dying children in developing countries concludes the book. What began as a son's remembrance and selective movie survey becomes a call to action. In this way, the work differs greatly from standard self-important star bios. 300 full-color and b&w photos. (Oct. 28) Forecast: Town & Country recently featured Hepburn on its cover and presented a handful of the photos that appear in this book. If that didn't put Hepburn back into the minds of nostalgic baby boomers, seeing the stunning cover of Ferrer's book certainly will. Ferrer will contribute proceeds from the book to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Hepburn recalled by her son, with hundreds of photos (some of which will be new to you), plus examples of Hepburn's paintings. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671024789
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.14 (w) x 10.46 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Hepburn Ferrer was born in films. His mother is Audrey Hepburn, his father Mel Ferrer. He has worked in all aspects of motion picture development, production, post-production and marketing. Sean founded the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund to continue his mother's legacy of helping children in need all over the world. Educated in Europe and fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, English and Portuguese, he lives in Santa Monica and Tuscany with his wife and his two children.
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Read an Excerpt

Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit

A Son Remembers
By Sean Hepburn Ferrer

Atria Books

Copyright © 2005 Sean Hepburn Ferrer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0671024795


The Secret

I am writing this preface almost nine years after Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston left us. She was - or should I say, is - my mother. I started writing this little book on January 21, 1993, the day after she passed away. It took me roughly four years to put the first words to paper.

The actual writing took maybe a few months. It's what happened before and in between that took some time. I am quite sure by now that everyone who loses a parent, as we all do sooner or later, could write a book. As it did for me, it might feel like the only book you'll ever write. Weeks, months, years may pass between writing sessions. You too may experience something that can no longer be called writer's block. You see, it's not about you. It is about the one person in the world who is more than you! And in my case, it is about someone who was most dear to me, the very person who brought me here and saved me time and time again, when I needed her for my survival. Yet she was someone whom I couldn't help or save in the end. So I find myself endlessly rolling these few words like pebbles in the river of my story so that the smooth stones that emerge will be worthy of your time and her spirit. I want you to know ... what truly counts, yet in a way that won't ripple her peace.

As one theory has it, our organs have varying life expectancies. For example, our lungs, the meekest and the most useful, have the shortest life span: roughly 60 years. Our brain, of which we use less than 10 percent and therefore the least useful of our organs, as well as our greatest liability, has an expected life span of somewhere over 150 years. In writing this book, I have discovered something new and exciting:

My memory will outlive all of them.

Long after I'm dead, and long after my brain dies - much later, of course (which is why I'm planning on being either cremated or buried with a chessboard), I will remember all this ... and the scents. I close my eyes and remember, through the noise, her scent: powdery, elegant, safe, strong, the scent of unconditional love. I look down and see her delicate hands, their skin so thin I can faintly see their veins, her nails round, soft, and clear. Yet these are the hands that have held me, carried me, talked to me. They caressed me, they walked me to school, and I held on to them when I was scared. Oh, how I miss them! What I would give to feel them running through my hair ... in my sleep, once more.

What happened? My head is still spinning. Wouldn't yours be if your mother was Audrey Hepburn? My mother died in 1993, and still ... she's everywhere: on television all the time, at the video store, in magazines, in bookstores, on huge billboards in airports and on freeways, downtown on a bus stop shelter, in every conversation I have sooner or later with everyone, in my work and in my thoughts, especially since I started writing this book, and in my dreams ... sometimes.

Talk about larger than life. She weighed 110 pounds and measured five feet seven.

How fortunate that our memories of her are good. They leave a gentle wake, like a sunny empty room that feels good. It's there, at times stronger, at times gentler - the perfect combination of sweet and sad. The sweetness of her, the sadness of her.

I have thought much about this book - endlessly agonized as to whether this should be revealed. After nine years I have come to terms with it. I am telling it to you because there is little to be ashamed of, and because it may be helpful to others.

My mother had a secret.

I don't think she would mind my saying it. We see things much more clearly ... after. So here it is, the great secret.

She was sad.

Not that life treated her badly, and therefore she was sad. Life was tough but good. My mother was sad because of what she saw happening to the children of this world. I think we all made her a little bit sad. Yes, you did as well as I. Not because we were bad, but because we couldn't help. If she hadn't done the work for UNICEF at the end of her life, I wouldn't be so sure. I've now done some work for the children, and I'm sad too. So this book will have to be about this as well: sadness and children. Not a great combination, but there you have it. I think if you got the full picture, you would be sad too. So I'm not going to do that. I'll spare you the whole picture about sadness and children. But I'll give you a little bit of it, just enough.

Don't worry, you'll smile as well. A smile is the perfection of laughter. And you may cry a little too. But crying is good for your eyes and for your soul. It beautifies.


Excerpted from Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer Copyright © 2005 by Sean Hepburn Ferrer.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface: The Secret IX
Introduction: Kissed on the Cheek XIII
Chapter 1. Emotional Hunger 1
Chapter 2. "I Can Recall ..." 29
Chapter 3. Unforgettable 81
Chapter 4. One of Them 143
Chapter 5. The Silence of the Soul 177
Chapter 6. Together There is Nothing We Cannot Do 188
Chapter 7. The Price of Forever 205
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2004

    Elegance and Beauty of the 'real' kind!

    Want an insight on what makes someone beautiful,then this is a must read! You won't find the answer on tv these days, so much 'reality' that it often proves uninspiring. With the televison littered with makeover shows, this book reveals what few others are able to distill what makes someone truly beautiful. It is quite inspiring to want to be a better human being by Audrey's example. Pick up this book and spend an afternoon gaining insight on this fabulous individual. Audrey Hepburn was a star on the screen with unequaled beauty due to living her truth as she saw it and as she felt it. She had the courage to show both. Her son was generous enough to write this book to share his intimate memories of his mother with us. Well worth investing in a hardcover copy and putting this book in your personal library at home when you need a shot of humanity and inspiration just turn to this book and you will believe again in the beauty of being human. Audrey whereever you, I thank you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2004

    A book not to be missed, one for your library...

    I read this book in one day. It both captivated me and moved me. The author, Audrey Hepburn's older son Sean, pays such a loving tribute to a truely amazing human being, who was so very beautiful on the inside and out: by her words and her actions. Her life and motivations are simply inspiring for us all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2004

    Lovely & Amazing!

    Lovely & amazing retrospective on the inimitable Audrey Hepburn told with keenly felt sentiment. Though the general format of the book tends to be glossy and stylized, a treasure trove of family pics gives readers a glimpse of family history as well as the mundane. Written with an attitude of respectful candor, the author's reminiscence of his amazing mum will make reader's appreciate and long for her as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2004

    It was ok...

    There were lots of wonderful pictures from her family collection that otherwise would not have been seen by the public. Mr. Ferrer collaborated with his mother on this work, so it is more accurate than any other. For someone who likes juicy dirt on celebrities, this is not the book you would want to read. It mainly speaks of Audrey Hepburn's later life, working with UNICEF, rather than about her two marriages and two sons. Mr. Ferrer mainly speaks about his childhood and hardly mentions his half brother at all. It does not mention much about her films or plays except in a brief passing. It was a very informative book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2009

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