Oscar Winning Documentary

Director of the documentary Saving Face, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has won another Oscar. This time it is A Girl in the River:  The Price of Forgiveness, a documentary about a 19-year old girl who fell in love and survived being shot and drowned by her father in an honor killing crime.   The Academy Award documentary premieres on March 7 on HBO Canada.  Here are the scheduled airings:

Monday Mar. 7 9:00PM ET / MT
Tuesday Mar. 8 12:15AM ET / MT
Tuesday Mar. 8 5:05AM ET / MT
Wednesday Mar. 9 7:50PM ET / MT
Thursday Mar. 10 2:00AM ET / MT

 

 

Equality Now sent out this petition to stop Honor Killings.  Click here if you are interested in signing it.

 

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Three Legendary Ladies

At the 2015 The Kennedy Center Honors on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, three great ladies–Carol King, Cicely Tyson and Rita Moreno were among the five honorees.

Cicely Tyson, at 90 looks as elegant as ever.  She is best known for her role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.  She was born in Harlem, New York City and raised by deeply religious, West Indian parents from Nevis, St. Kitts.  Her mother was a domestic and her father was a carpenter. Cicely was discovered by a fashion editor and she became a model.  She took the fashion industry by storm, quickly rising to the top.  She began acting in 1957 in off-Broadway productions before she was cast in feature films.  Her first major role was Portia in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in 1968.  She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her amazing performance in Sounder.  She has appeared in Roots, King and a Woman Called Moses.  Cicely is a seasoned and hugely talented actress who portrayed strong and positive black women.

I don’t condemn anyone for making their choices. If someone chooses those roles, fine. But not for me. When someone stops me and says, You’re the reason I became an actress, that lets me know I made the right decision – Cicely Tyson

We applaud Cicely for standing by her convictions.  Our choices can not only affect us but they can affect others.

Carol King wrote tons of songs such as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles, “Run to Him” (#1 and #2 hits for Bobby Vee in 1961), “Crying in the Rain” (The Everly Brothers, #6 in 1962), “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva, #1 in 1962), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters, #5 in 1962), “Chains” (The Cookies, #17 in 1962, The Beatles in 1963), “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons, #5 in 1963), “Hey Girl” ( Freddy Scott, #10 in 1963, also Bobby Vee and The Righteous Brothers), “I’m Into Something Good” (Herman’s Hermits, #13 in 1964), “Just Once in My Life” (written with Phil Spector for The Righteous Brothers, #9 in 1965), and “Don’t Bring Me Down” (The Animals, #12 in 1966) and You Make Me Feel which has become the song most associated with Aretha Franklin.

The songs I identify most with Carol are “You’ve Got a Friend” which became a no.1 hit when it was recorded by lifelong friend, James Taylor and “It’s Too Late”.  Carol is the most renowned song-writer in pop music.   She has the distinction of having 400 of her compositions recorded by over 1,000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles.  In 1987 she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 1990 she was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

At the age of 70 this remarkable songwriter, performer, author and environmentalist is still going strong. Beautiful–The Carole King Musical which tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom won two Tony Awards in 2014 and a Grammy in 2015 for Best Musical Theater Album.  Her music continues to thrill us.

It’s about connections. I want to connect with people; I want to make people think “Yeah, that’s how I feel”. And if I can do that, that’s an accomplishment – Carol King

We are grateful to Carol King for her music which still resonates with us.

Rita Moreno has starred in three great musicals–Singin’ In the RainThe King And I and West Side Story for which she earned an Academy Award.  She has the distinction of being one of the very few and the first performers to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy.  She was born Rosita Dolores Alverío in Humacao, Puerto Rico to seamstress Rosa María (Marcano) and farmer Francisco.  She and her mother moved to New York City where she began her career.

Unfortunately for Rita, she was typecast as a Hispanic pepper pot or another “exotic”.  In Father Knows Best, she was cast as an exchange student from India.  She considered the roles she was given degrading. It wasn’t until the ’70s that she was given better roles.  It was during that time that she won a Grammy Award for her contribution to “The Electric Company”‘s soundtrack album, a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “The Ritz” and Emmy Awards for The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files.  In 2004, she received the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.  It is said that when her star was unveiled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she fell on top of it, openly and uncontrollably weeping, later commenting, “I had been dreaming of this day since I was six!”.

We admire Rita who came from humble beginnings to where she is now.  She is a reminder that childhood dreams can come true.

Bigger than life is not difficult for me. I am bigger than life – Rita Moreno

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Notes to Women salute these amazing women for their well deserved honors and recognition for their work in music, film and stage.

Sources: IMDb; Brainy Quote; Carol King Website; Think Exist; IMDb;

Dame Angela Lansbury

I still watch Murder, She Wrote because I like the show and the character Jessica Fletcher played by the great Angela Lansbury.  My 7 year old son is also a fan of Jessica Fletcher’s.  Before taking on the role of a mystery writer in one of the longest running detective drama series in television history, Angela was a silver screen movie star.  My husband thought she was hot then.

Angela is a versatile actress, easily portraying an unlikable and cheeky maid in Gaslight opposite Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer to the music hall singer who, unfortunately and tragically, falls in love with the protagonist, Dorian Gray in the movie, The Picture of Dorian Gray to the frightening and domineering mother in The Manchurian Candidate.  Her performance as Mrs. John Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate is ranked #21 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains for villains.

Angela was born to an upper middle class family on October 16, 1925 in Regent’s Park, central London. Her mother, Moyna Macgill, was a Belfast born Irish actress and her father was the wealthy English timber merchant and politician Edgar Lansbury.  He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and former mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar.  Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader and anti-war activist George Lansbury.  Angela was in awe of him and to her, he was “a giant in my youth”.  Angela had an older half-sister, Isolde from her mother’s previous marriage.  When Angela was four, her mother gave birth to twin boys, Bruce and Edgar, prompting the Lansburys to move from their Poplar flat to a house in Mill Hill, North London.  In the weekends, they went to a rural farm in Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.

She was nine years old when her father died from stomach cancer.  To cope with her loss, she played characters, describing the event as “the defining moment of my life.  Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply.”  Faced with financial difficulty, her mother got engaged to a Scottish colonel and moved into his house in Hampstead.  Angela attended South Hampstead High School from 1934 to 1939.  She considered herself to be largely self-educated, learning from books, theatre and cinema.  She became a “complete movie maniac”, going regularly to the cinema and imagining herself as certain characters.

Angela’s grandfather died in 1940 and with the onset of the Blitz, her mother, Moyna took her and her brothers to the United States.  Her half-sister, Isolde remained in Britain with her new husband, actor Peter Ustinov.  Angela’s mother got a job supervising sixty British children who were evacuated to North America aboard the Duchess of Athol, arriving with them in Montreal, Canada in mid-August.  From Montreal they went by train to New York City where Moyna was sponsored financially by a Wall Street businessman and moved in with his family at their home in Mahopac, New York.  Angela got a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing which allowed her to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio.  There she appeared in performances of William Congreve’s The Way of the World and Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.  By the time she graduated, she and her family had moved to a flat in Morton Street, Greenwich Village.

Moyna got work in a Canadian touring production of Tonight at 8:30.  Angela joined her mother who got her first theatrical job as a nightclub act at the Samovar Club in Montreal.  She lied about her age to get the job and earned $60 a week.  She returned to New York city but her mother had moved to Hollywood to revive her cinematic career.  Angela and her brothers joined her.  After moving into a bungalow in Laurel Canyon, Angela and her mother got Christmas jobs at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles but unfortunately, Moyna got fired for incompetence.  The family had to live on Angela’s wages of $28 at week.

Angela met John van Druten at a party hosted by her mother.  He recently co-authored a script for Gaslight.  He suggested that Angela would be perfect for the role of Nancy Oliver, a conniving cockney maid and she accepted the part although at the time she was only 17.  A social worker had to accompany her on the set.  She got an agent and was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM, earning $500 a week.  She adopted “Angela Lansbury” as her stage name.  The movie received mixed reviews although Angela’s role was widely praised.  It received six Academy Award nominations, one of which was for Best Supporting Actress for Angela.

Following Gaslight, Angela starred in a supporting character in National Velvet which was a major commercial hit.  Angela developed a lifelong friendship with co-star Elizabeth Taylor.  I remember that the two friends appeared together in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d with Angela in the role of the endearing Miss Marple.

Angela next starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray with Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Donna Reed and Peter Lawford.  Surprisingly, at least to me, the film was not a financial success.  However, it garnered Angela her second Best Supporting Actress nomination.  She lost to her National Velvet co-star Anne Revere.

Angela married Richard Cromwell, an artist and a decorator.  When I saw a photo of him, I recognized him as the brother of Henry Fonda’s character in the marvelous movie, Jezebel.  Angela’s marriage to Richard was a trouble one.  She would later disclose that he was gay, something she was not aware of until after their separation.  The marriage ended in less than a year and Angela filed for a divorce.  They remained friends, however, until his death.

Angela met her second husband, Peter Pullen Shaw at a party held by her former co-star Hurd Hatfield.  Hurd would later be a guest star on Murder She Wrote.  Peter was an aspiring actor also signed with MGM and had recently left a relationship with Joan Crawford.  He and Angela became a couple, living together before she proposed marriage.  They wanted to get married in Britain but the Church of England refused to marry two divorcees.  So, they wed at St. Columba’s Church which was under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland in Knightsbridge, London.  They had their honeymoon in France.  They returned to the United States and settled in Angela’s home in Rustic Canyon, Malibu, each becoming naturalised U.S. citizens with dual British citizenship.

Angela’s contract with MGM ended in 1952.  She was miscast, playing older and often villainous women.  Earlier in her career, MGM loaned her to United Artists for The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947 and then to Paramount for Samson and Delilah (1949).  Unhappy with the roles MGM was giving her, Angela instructed her manager to terminate her contract.  At the time she was pregnant with her first child, Anthony whom she gave birth to that year.  Soon after he was born, she joined the East Coast touring productions of two former Broadway plays, Remains to be Seen and Affairs of the State.  In 1953, Angela gave birth to her daughter, Deidre Angela.  Angela’s husband, Peter had a son by a previous marriage and had legal custody of him.  He brought the boy to California to live with the family.  They moved to a larger house in Santa Monica.

In the mid-fifties Angela entered the world of Broadway theatre.  In 1957 she debuted in Hotel Paradiso, a French burlesque set in Paris, at the Henry Miller Theatre.  Although the play ran for only 15 weeks, earning her good reviews, she later stated that had she not appeared in the play, her “whole would have fizzled out”.  Next she appeared in A Taste of Honey, playing Helen, a boorish and verbally abusive absentee mother of Josephine played by Joan Plowright who was only four years younger.  Angela became friends with Joan and Laurence Olivier, Joan’s lover.  It was from Angela’s rented apartment on East 97th Street that Joan and Laurence eloped to get married.

Angela didn’t feel comfortable in the Hollywood social scene.  She chalked this up to her British roots. “In Hollywood, I always felt like a stranger in a strange land.”  In 1959, the family moved to Malibu where they settled into a house on the Pacific Coast Highway where she and Peter were able to escape the Hollywood scene and send their children to state school.

In 1962, Angela starred opposite Lawrence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, playing his manipulative mother even though she was only three years older than him.  The role earned her her third Best Supporting Actress Award nomination.  It bothered her that she didn’t win.  Angela starred in several movies in the 1960s but although her performances were well received, the kind of roles she wanted evaded her and she became dissatisfied with the minor roles she was getting, feeling that none of them allowed her to explore her potential as an actress.

I was a wife and a mother, and I was completely fulfilled. But my husband recognised the signals in me which said ‘I’ve been doing enough gardening, I’ve cooked enough good dinners, I’ve sat around the house and mooned about what more interior decoration I can get my fingers into.’ It’s a curious thing with actors and actresses, but suddenly the alarm goes off. My husband is a very sensitive person to my moods and he recognised the fact that I had to get on with something. Mame came along out of the blue just at this time. Now isn’t that a miracle? – Angela Lansbury

In 1966 Angela took on the title role of Mame Dennis in the musical Mame, the musical adapted from the novel, Auntie Mame.  The director’s first choice for the role was Rosalind Russell who played Mame in the non-musical adaptation but she declined.  Theatre critics were surprised that Angela was chosen for the role, believing that the role would go to a better known actress.  Angela was forty-one at the time and this was her first starring role.  She trained extensively for the role which involved over twenty costume changes throughout the play and ten songs and dance routines.  Auntie Mame opened on Broadway in May 1996, gaining Angela rave reviews.  She received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.  Following her success as Mame, Angela appeared in Dear World, the musical adaptation of The Madwoman of Chailott, as a 75 year old Parisian eccentric.  Angela found the experience “pretty depressing” but received positive reviews for her performance and her second Tony award.   The show, however, received critical reviews and ended after 132 performances.  After Dear World, Angela played the title role of the musical Prettybelle, based on Jean Arnold’s The Rape of Prettybelle, set in the Deep South.  It was a controversial play because it dealt with issues of racism with Angela as a wealthy alcoholic who seeks sexual encounters with black men.  It opened in Boston to poor reviews and was cancelled before it even reached Broadway.  Angela would later say that the play was a “complete and utter fiasco.”  She felt that her performance was awful.

In the early 1970s Angela turned down several cinematic roles, including the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which went to Louise Fletcher who won the Oscar for Best Actress.  In 1970 Angela appeared as the middle-aged English witch in the Disney film, Beadknobs and Broomsticks, her first lead in a screen musical.  1970 was a traumatic year for the Lansbury family.  Peter underwent a hip replacement, their son Anthony suffered a heroin overdose and went into a coma and the family’s home in Malibu was destroyed in a bush fire.  They bought a farmhouse constructed in the 1820s located near the village of Conna in rural County Cork.  It was there Anthony was taken to receover from his drug addiction after he quit using cocaine and heroin.  He enrolled in the Webber-Douglas School, his mother’s alma mater and became a professional actor before becoming a television director.  Angela and her husband did not return to California, instead, they divided their time between Cork and New York City.  They lived opposite the Lincoln Centre.

Angela returned to theatre in 1972, performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatrical production of Edward Albee’s All Over in London’s West End.  Although reviews of the play were mixed, her performance was widely praised.  She did a revival of Mame which was touring the United States at the time.  She returned to the West End to play Rose in the musical Gypsy.  Initially, she turned down the role because she didn’t want to be in Ethel Merman’s shadow.  Ethel had portrayed the character in the original Broadway production.  Eventually, Angela accepted the role and she received a standing ovation and rave reviews.  Not at all in anyone’s shadow, she was in demand among the London society, having dinners in her honour.  When Gypsy went to Broadway, it was a critical success, earning Angela her third Tony Award.

Eager to move on from musicals, Angela decided to tackle a production of one of William Shakespeare’s plays and landed the role of Gertrude in The National Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet.  The play received mixed reviews.  Angela later admitted that she hated the role because it was too restrained. To make matters worse, she learned that her mother had died in California. Angela had her mother’s body cremated and her ashes scattered near to her own County Cork home.

Angela appeared in Edward Albee’s Counting the Ways and Listening.  Her performance was praised.  She followed this with another revival tour of Gypsy.  She appeared in the revival of The King and I musical at Broadway’s Uris Theatre.  After seven years, she starred in her first cinematic role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, opposite her brother-in-law Peter Ustinov and Bette Davis who became a close friend. Of Bette, she had this to say, “She is an original. There has never been anyone, before or since, who could touch her.”

In 1979 she earned her fourth Tony Award playing Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  In 1982 she played an upper middle class housewife in A Little Family Business which also starred her son, Anthony.  The movie was panned and accused of racism by the Japanese-American community.  She co-starred with friend Bette Davis in the film made for television, Little Gloria…Happy at Last.  She appeared in other television movies, one of which was BBC’s A Talent for Murder which she jumped at the chance to take in order to work with co-star Laurence Olivier.

Then in 1983, Angela was offered two television roles–one was in a sitcom and the other was in a detective series.  She was unable to do both so her agents advised her to accept the sitcom role but she decided to accept the other role.  And we are thrilled that she did!  Angela described her character Jessica Fletcher as “an American Miss Marple”.  It’s interesting that she said that because she played Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack’d.  She played the sleuth the way Agatha Christie described the her unlike Margaret Rutherford who made the role famous.  The role of Jessica Fletcher had been offered to Jean Stapleton first but she turned it down.  I must say that I am happy that she did because I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.  Angela was the perfect choice.

Angela took her role as Jessica Fletcher very seriously and had creative input over the character’s costumes, makeup and hair.  Network executives wanted to put the character in a relationship which Angela strongly rejected, believing that the character should remain a strong single female.  She changed any script which did not fit Jessica’s personality.  She saw Jessica as a role model for older female viewers and praised her “enormous, universal appeal” and admitted that, “It was an accomplishment I never expected in my entire life.”  Murder, She Wrote was described as a television landmark in the U.S. for having an older female character as the protagonist, paving the way for series like The Golden Girls, another show I enjoyed tremendously.  “I think it’s the first time a show has really been aimed at the middle aged audience,” Angela said.  It was the most popular show among senior citizens but it gradually gained a younger audience.  By 1991, a third of the viewers were under fifty.  It gained high ratings throughout most of its run.

I know why [Murder, She Wrote was a success]. There was never any blood, never any violence. And there was always a satisfying conclusion to a whodunit. The jigsaw was complete. And I loved Jessica’s everywoman character. I think that’s what made her so acceptable to an across-the-board audience – Angela Lansbury, 2014.

As the show went on Angela assumed a larger role behind the scenes with her own company, Corymore co-producing the show with Universal.  After a while, though she began to get tired of the series, especially of the long working hours and said that the 1990-1991 would be the show’s last season.  However, she changed her mind after she was appointed executive producer for the 1992-1993 season, which made it far more interesting for her.  For the seventh season, the show’s setting moved to New York where Jessica had taken a job teaching criminology at Manhattan University in an attempt to attract younger viewers.  Angela encouraged this move.  The show aired on Sunday where its ratings improved in the early 1990s.  People had gotten used to tuning in every Sunday night to see what murder mystery Jessica Fletcher would be solving so it was unfortunate when CBS executives got the bright idea to move it to Thursdays opposite NBCs new sitcom, Friends with the hope of drawing a larger audience.  Not surprisingly, Angela was angry at this move, believing that it ignored the show’s core audience.  The show’s final episode aired in May 1996 and ended with Angela voicing a “Goodbye from Jessica” message.  The role of Jessica Fletcher would prove to be the most successful and prominent of Angela’s career.  It must have been hard saying goodbye to Jessica Fletcher for Angela and the faithful viewers.  All good things must come to an end.  Sigh.

After the end of Murder, She Wrote, Angela returned to the theatre.  Fast forward to March to June 2014 when Angela reprised her 2009 Tony winning Broadway performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, marking her first London stage appearance in nearly 40 years.  She picked up her first Olivier award, Britain’s most prestigious prize a the age of 89 for Blithe Spirit.  It’s worth mentioning that Angela received an Academy Honorary Award for her lifetime achievement at the Governors Awards on November 16, 2013 and received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre on November 16, 2015.

I read a few interesting things about Angela.  I will just mention a few.  In the late 1940s, MGM planned to cast her as the female lead in a film entitled “Angel’s Flight” with Clark Gable but the project never came through because Mr. Gable disliked the storyline, so the studio had to squash the entire project.  She was considered for the role of Miss Caswell in All About Eve (1950), but Marilyn Monroe was cast in the role instead.  Frank Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the role of Mrs. Iselin, the manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate but Angela got the part and played it convincingly.  I don’t know if Lucille Ball would have pulled it off.  Angela is a staunch Democrat and a solid supporter of Barack Obama.  She was very close friends with Bob Hope.  She gave a speech at his memorial service on August 27, 2003.  Her nephew David Lansbury was married to actress Ally Sheedy, The Breakfast Club.

Angela was self-professed homebody who preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night live.  She is a supporter of the United States Democratic Party and the British Labour Party.  Notes to Women celebrate this remarkable woman who is a staunch supporter of charities such as Abused Wives in Crisis which combated domestic abuse and those who worked toward rehabilitating drug users.  She supported charities dedicated to fighting against HIV/AIDs.  She was a chain smoker early in life but gave up the addiction cold turkey in the mid-1960s.  We congratulate her on her promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy.  Last year she was made a Dame by the Queen at Windsor Castle.  This honour couldn’t have happened to a more deserving lady.  Dame Angela, we applaud you for the work you have done in movies and in theatre and most importantly, your charitable deeds.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have missed because I was so busy entertaining that audience and so busy pursuing a career.
I just went along for the ride. It was a God-given gift. It is. So you can’t say well, you wasted your life because you spent all of it acting, but I think gosh, I’ve never been to China, I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve never been to Yellowstone Park.
I had no idea that such a thing could happen. It never occurred to me.My son told me. He called me and said, “Darling, I just wanted you to know that you have been chosen to receive an honorary Academy Award.” I was in the back of this car, and I said, “Oh,” and burst into tears, of course, because it was so unexpected and quite wonderful. I thought it’s been worth hanging around all these years.
I honestly consider that the greatest gift to me, is the reaction that I get from my work. That is a given which I never, ever take for granted. But to be given that by audiences, individuals, on the street, in the theater, is an extraordinary feeling.
My mother was one of the most beautiful women, I have to say, of her generation. She was absolutely lovely. She was a very, extremely sensitive, Irish actress. She came from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and she came to London, and she was sort of discovered by several people.
~Angela Lansbury~

Sources: azquotes; Wikipedia; IMDB; Hollywood Reporter; Deadline Presents

 

Maureen O’ Hara

Every star has that certain something that stands out and compels us to notice them. -As for me I have always believed my most compelling quality to be my inner strength, something I am easily able to share with an audience. I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I never thought my looks would have anything to do with becoming a star. Yet it seems that in some ways they did – Maureen O’Hara

On Saturday, October 24, 2015, Irish-American beauty Maureen O’ Hara died in her sleep at the age of 95 from natural causes.  The four films she starred in which I believe were among her best are The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Quiet Man, How Green Was My Valley and Miracle on 34th Street.  Maureen was known for playing proud, strong-willed and temperamental Irish lasses.  It was a treat to see her and longtime friend John Wayne work together.  She was tall and held her own against the Duke in their on-screen scenes.

Maureen FitzSimmons was the second oldest of six children of Charles Stewart Parnell and Marguerite (nee Lilburn) FitzSimons.  Her father was in the clothing business and her mother, a former operatic contralto, was a successful women’s clothier.  Maureen’s sister Peggy dedicated her life to a religious order by becoming a Sister of Charity.  The younger children trained at the Abbey Theatre and the Ena May Burke School of Drama and Elocution in Dublin.

From an early age, Maureen knew that she wanted to be an actress and took lessons.  She got her first screen test in London but it turned out to be unsatisfactory.  The studio dressed her in a “gold lame dress with flapping sleeves like wings” and heavy makeup.  The experience led Maureen to think, “If this is the movies, I want nothing to do with them!”  Thankfully, actor Charles Laughton saw the test sometime later and in spite of the heavy makeup and costume, was intrigued by her, particularly her large and expressive eyes.  He asked his business partner, Erich Pommer to watch the film clip and Pommer agreed with Laughton’s assessment of her and Maureen was offered an initial seven-year contract with their new company.  It was Laughton who gave her the name “O’Hara” although she insisted in keeping her name because he believed that , “nobody would ever get FitzSimmons straight.”  A name really does make a difference when it comes to show business.  He arranged to have her co-star with him in the British film, Jamaica Inn.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame was her first Hollywood film and it was released in 1939, the same year as Jamaica Inn.

After Hunchback was completed, World War II began.  When Laughton realized that his company could no longer film in London, he sold Maureen’s contract to RKO.  However, the studio cast her in low-budget films until John Ford rescued her.  He cast her in How Green is My Valley which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  She later starred as Natalie Wood’s mother in Miracle on 34th Street one of the most beloved Christmas Classics that airs every year during the holiday season.

In 1946 Maureen became a naturalized citizen of the United States, holding dual citizenship with the US and her native Ireland.  She was considered an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age and one of the world’s most beautiful women.  She was remembered for her onscreen chemistry with John Wayne.  They made five movies together between 1948 and 1972.  She was the Duke’s favorite actress and considered a real friend.  She’s the only woman he thought of in that way.  As he lay dying on his hospital bed, he watched on television as she petitioned Congress to give him a Congressional Gold Medal and they voted unanimously to do so.

Acting was not Maureen’s only talent.  She had a soprano voice.  Singing was her first love.  She was also very athletic.  She did her own stunts in movies.  I remember seeing her sword-fencing with skill and agility that was astounding.  She held her own in the swashbuckling movies like The Black Swan opposite Tyrone Power and Sinbad the Sailor with Douglas Fairbanks.  No doubt this had to do with her love for playing rough athletic games as a child.  She excelled in sports.  She had the pleasure of starring with leading men such as John Payne, Rex Harrison, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith and Sir Alec Guiness and working with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, Walter Lang, to mention a few.

On a personal note, in 1939, when she was 19 years old, Maureen secretly married Englishman George H. Brown whom she met on the set of Jamaica Inn.  Brown was a film producer, production assistant and occasional scriptwriter.  The marriage was annulled in 1941.  She married American film director William Houston Price but the marriage ended in 1953 because of his abuse of alcohol.  They had one child–a daughter, Bronwyn Bridget Price.  From 1953-1967 Maureen had a relationship with Enrique Parra, a Mexican politician and banker.  In her biography, she wrote that Enrique “saved me from the darkness of an abusive marriage and brought me back into the warm light of life again. Leaving him was one of the most painful things I have ever had to do.”  Parra died in June 2015–four months before her death.

In 1968 Maureen married her third husband, Charles F. Blair, a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former brigadier general of the US Air Force, a former chief pilot of Pan Am and founder and head of the U.S. Virgin Islands Antilles Air Boats.  A few years after they married, Maureen retired from acting. Blair died in 1978 while flying from St. Croix to St. Thomas due to engine failure.  Maureen was elected CEO and president of the airline, earning her the distinction of becoming the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the U.S.  Her marriage to Blair were ten of the happiest years of her life.  It devastated her that she had lost him and her friend John Wayne within months of each other.

Maureen came out of retirement in 1991 when she starred as John Candy’s domineering mother in Only the Lonely.  After that she starred in several made for TV movies.  Her last film, The Last Dance, was released in 2000.  On November 4, 2014 she received the honorary award from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the annual Governor’s Awards.  She is the second actress to receive an Honorary Oscar without having been nominated for an Oscar in a competitive category. Myrna Loy was the first.

Notes to Women celebrates Maureen O’Hara, the actress who lit up the screen with her luminous red hair, big, expressive eyes.  She was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  She leaves behind a legacy of films in which she portrayed strong, brave and intelligent women.

I was tough.  I was tall.  I was strong.  I didn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  He was tough, he was tall, he was strong and he didn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  As a man and a human being, I adored him.

Speaking as an actress, I wish all actors would be more like Duke (John Wayne)–and speaking as a person, it would be nice if all people could be honest and as genuine as he is.  This is a real man.

To the people throughout the world, John Wayne is not just an actor, and a very fine actor – John Wayne is the United States of America.

Above all else, deep in my soul, I’m a tough Irishwoman.

I have never lost my faith in God.

maureen-ohara (1)

Sources:  Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes

Ingrid Bergman

I just read in the Stabroek News that the 68th Cannes Film Festival unveiled its official poster featuring legendary actress Ingrid Bergman in a tribute to what would have been her 100th birthday this year.  I think that’s wonderful.  She was an actress I truly admired and appreciated.  She had gentle beauty and an air of quiet refinement.  She was very classy.  I remember her in films like Casablanca, Gaslight, Anastasia and For Whom the Bells Toll.  She acted with some of Hollywood’s A list male stars–Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.  It would have been interesting to see her star opposite Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Burt Lancaster.

Acting was something Ingrid always knew she wanted to become.  Her father, a Swedish artist and photographer wanted her to become an opera star and had her take voice lessons for three years.  She wore her mother’s clothes and staged plays in her father’s empty studio.  He documented all of her birthdays with a borrowed camera.  He died when she was thirteen.  Her German mother had died when she was two years old.

After her father’s death, Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt who died just six months later from a heart disease.  She moved in with another aunt and uncle who had five children.  Her aunt Elsa was the first one who told Ingrid when she was 11 years old that her mother may have “some Jewish blood”, and that her father was aware of this long before they got married.  Her aunt cautioned her about telling others about her possible ancestry as “there might be some difficult times coming.”  This reminds me of Queen Esther who was intially cautioned by her uncle not to let anyone know that she was a Jew.

In 1932 when she was 17, Ingrid had only one opportunity to become an actress by entering an acting competition with the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.  For Ingrid it was a terrible moment.  She recalled:  As I walked off the stage, I was in mourning.  I was at a funeral.  My own.  It was the death of my creative self.  My heart had truly broken…they didn’t think I was even worth listening to, or watching.”

This couldn’t have be further from the truth as she soon learned after meeting one of the judges who told her, “We loved your security and your impertinance.  We loved you and told each other that there was no reason to waste time as there were dozens of other entrants still to come.  We didn’t need to waste any time with you.  We knew you were a natural and great.  Your future as an actress was settled.”  What a thrill and relief that must have been for the aspiring actress.  She received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School where Greta Garbo had earned a similar scholarship just years earlier.

Ingrid’s dream was now a reality.  She was given a part in a new play and over the summer break, she was hired by a Swedish film studio which led to her departure from the Royal Dramatic Theatre a year later to work full-time in films.  She starred in a dozen films in Sweden, including En kvinnas ansikte which was later remade as A Woman’s Face, starring Joan Crawford.  Ingrid made one film in Germany in 1938.

Then it was off to Hollywood…Thanks to David O. Selznick, she starred in Intermezzo:  A Love Story, her first acting role in the United States.  It was a remake of her 1935 Swedish film, Intermezzo.  Ingrid didn’t plan to stay in Hollywood.  She thought she would complete this film and return home to Sweden to be with her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom and their daughter, Pia.

Selznick had concerns about Ingrid.  “She didn’t speak English, she was too tall, her name sounded too German, and her eyebrows were too thick.”  However, Ingrid was accepted without having to modify her looks.  Selznick let her have her way because he understood her fear of Hollywood makeup artists who might turn her into someone she wouldn’t recognize.  He told them to back off.  Besides, he believe that her natural good looks would compete successfully with Hollywood’s “synthetic razzle-dazzle.”

Selznick, who was filming Gone With the Wind at the same time, shared his early impressions of Ingrid in a letter to William Hebert, his publicity director :

Miss Bergman is the most completely conscientious actress with whom I have ever worked, in that she thinks of absolutely nothing but her work before and during the time she is doing a picture … She practically never leaves the studio, and even suggested that her dressing room be equipped so that she could live here during the picture. She never for a minute suggests quitting at six o’clock or anything of the kind … Because of having four stars acting in Gone with the Wind, our star dressing-room suites were all occupied and we had to assign her a smaller suite. She went into ecstasies over it and said she had never had such a suite in her life … All of this is completely unaffected and completely unique and I should think would make a grand angle of approach to her publicity … so that her natural sweetness and consideration and conscientiousness become something of a legend … and is completely in keeping with the fresh and pure personality and appearance which caused me to sign her.

Not surprisingly, Intermezzo was a huge success and resulted in Ingrid becoming a star.  She left quite an impression on Hollywood.  And Selznick’s appreciation of her uniqueness made he and his wife Irene remain important friends to Ingrid throughout her career.

Before making Casablanca, Ingrid made one last film in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films, Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  According to her biographer, she felt guilty that she had misjudged the situation in Germany.  She had dismissed the Nazis as a “temporary aberration, ‘too foolish to be taken seriously.’ She didn’t believe that Germany start a war because the good people of the country would not allow it.  Sadly, she was wrong.  She felt guilty for the rest of her life and when she was in Germany at the end of the war, she had been afraid to go with the others to witness the atrocitites of the Nazi extermination camps.

In 1942, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, a movie famous for its wonderul lines and the famous song, “As Time Goes By”.  I was surprised to read that Ingrid did not consider it to be one of her favorite performances.  She said, “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart.”  I thought she and Bogart were great together.

I think I only saw For Whom the Bell Tolls once but really liked it.  My sister and I liked how she looked with her short, blond, curly hair and a “sun-kissed complexion”.  I read that Ernest Hemmingway wanted her to play the part of Maria.  When he met her, after studying her, he exclaimed, “You are Maria!”  When Ernest told Ingrid that she would have to cut her hair to play the part, she was quick to respond, “To get that part, I’d cut my head off!”

For Whom the Bell Tolls, was the film that saved the song, “As Time Goes By” from being removed from Casablanca.  Warner Brothers wanted to substitute the song and planned to re-shoot some scenes with Ingrid but thanks to her hair-cut, they had to drop the idea as there would be a problem with continuity even if she wore a wig.

A year later, Ingrid won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight.  It was a gripping and suspenseful movie of a wife being driven to madness by her husband, masterfully played by Charles Boyer.  She next starred as a nun in The Bells of St. Mary opposite Bing Cosby, garnering her third consecutive nomination for Best Actress.   She came in a succession of Alfred Hitchock movies, Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn (I never heard of this one).

During her marriage to Lindstrom, Ingrid had a brief affair with Gregory Peck.  This affair was kept private until five years after Ingrid’s death, when Gregory revealed in an interview with Brad Darrach of People, “All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop…. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”

Unlike her affair with Gregory Peck, the one with the Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini was a very public one.   Although Ingrid received another Best Actress nomination for Joan of Arc in 1948, the film was not a hit, partly because news of her affair with Rossellini broke while the movie was still in theatres.  It was her admiration for Rossellini which had led Ingrid to write him a letter, expressing her admiration and suggesting that she make a film with him.  She was cast in his film, Stromboli and during production, she fell in love with him and they began an affair.  She became pregnant with their son, Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe (“Robin”) Rossellini and this affair caused a huge scandal in the United States.  She was denounced on the floor of the United States senate and Ed Sullivan chose not to have her appear on his show despite a poll showing that the public wanted her there.  However, Steve Allen had her on his equally popular show, noting, “the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one’s personal life.” 

The scandal drove Ingrid back to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter.  She went through a very public divorce and custody battle for their daughter.  She and Lindstrom divorced a week after her son was born and she married Rossellini in Mexico.  In 1952, Ingrid gave birth to twin daughters Isotta Ingrid Rossellini and Isabella Rossellini.  Five years later she divorced their father and the following year she married Lars Schmidt, a theatrical entrepreneur from a wealthy Swedish shipping family.  That marriage lasted until 1975 when they divorced.

In 1956, Ingrid starred in the movie, Anatasia. It was her return to the American screen and her second Academy Award for Best Actress which her best friend Cary Grant accepted for her.  She made her first appearance in Hollywood since the scandal when she was the presenter of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1956 Academy Awards.  She received a standing ovation after being introduced by Cary Grant.  In 1969, she starred opposite Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn in the hilarious and delightful movie, Cactus Flower.  It was nice seeing Ingrid take a turn in a light romantic comedy.

In 1972, US Senator Charles H. Percy entered an apology in to the Congressional Record for Edwin C. Johnson’s attack on Ingrid 22 years ago.  In 1974 she won her third Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express, earning her the distinction of being one of the few actresses ever to receive three Oscars.  Her final role was as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda.   She was offered the part because, “People believe you and trust you, and this is what I want, because Golda Meir had the trust of the people.”  This interested Ingrid and the role was greatly significant for her because she still carried the guilt of misjudging the situation in Germany during World War II.  Ingrid was frequently ill during the film although she hardly showed it or complained.  She was a real trooper.  Four months after the film was completed, on her 67th birthday in London, Ingrid died of breast cancer.  Her daughter, Pia accepted her Emmy.

Ingrid was a  woman of grace, natural beauty who brought realism and dignity to her roles.  She was a star with no temperament, making her a delight to work with, unpretentious, unique, hard-working, “a great star” who “always strove to be a ‘true’ woman.”  She was not a saint but a woman with real emotions.   She was not afraid to speak out against racism.  During a press conference in Washington, D.C. where she was promoting, Joan of Lorraine, she protested against the racial segregation she witnessed firsthand at the theatre where she was performing.  This drew a lot of publicity and some hate mail.  In a news column in the Herald-Journal, she is reported as saying, “I deplore racial discrimination in any form.  To think it would be permitted in the nation’s capital of all places!  I really had not known that there were places in the United States–entertainment places which are for all the people–where everybody could not go.”

Notes to Women salute this remarkable woman and actress who won our hearts and deepest admiration with her grace and courage.  We celebrate one of the greatest leading ladies that ever graced the silver screen.  She once said, “I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money.”  Dear Ingrid, we are so very thankful that you chose acting over opera.

I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.

I can do everything with ease on the stage, whereas in real life I feel too big and clumsy. So I didn’t choose acting. It chose me.

I don’t think anyone has the right to intrude in your life, but they do. I would like people to separate the actress and the woman.

Time is shortening. But every day that I challenge this cancer and survive is a victory for me.

If you took acting away from me, I’d stop breathing.

ingrid-bergman

Sources:  Stabroek News ; Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes; Herald-Journal

Dame Julie Andrews

Recently, I read how Dame Julie Andrews is still dealing with the death of her husband Blake Edwards, director of The Pink Panther and Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  Blake died in 2010 at the age of 88.  They were married for 41 years.  That is remarkable and wonderful.  Dame Julie revealed that the secret to their successful marriage was “to take it one day at a time and so, lo and behold, 41 years later there we still were.”  She admitted that there are times when she is perfectly fine and then, “it’s suddenly—sock you in the middle of your gut and you think, ‘Ah God, I wish he were here.’ But he is in a way, I think one carries that love always.”

Dame Julie had been married before to Tony Walton but they divorced in 1967.  And in 1969 she married Blake.  She describes in an article in US Magazine how they met.  “We met about ten years before we — I mean, literally ships that passed in the night at some event — but we actually… our cars, I was going one way and he was going the other,” Andrews spilled of her meet-cute with her longtime love. “Blake rolled down the window after smiling a couple of times and said, ‘Are you going where I just came from?’ I was going to a therapist and he was coming from… very corny!”

Dame Julie was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England to Barbara Ward Wells and Edward Charles “Ted” Wells.  It later turned out that Edward Wells was not Dame Julie’s father.  Years later, in 1950, she learned from her mother that she was conceived as a result of an affair her mother had with an unnamed family friend.  What a shock that must have been.  Dame Julie didn’t disclose this family secret until 2008 in her autobiography.

When World War II broke out, Barbara and Ted Wells separated.  Ted Wells stayed to help to evacuate the children from Surrey to the Blitz while Barbara joined Ted Edwards in performing for the troops through the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).   Barbara and Ted Wells soon divorced and remarried.  Barbara married Ted Edwards.  Dame Julie lived with Ted Wells and her brother in Surrey and then in 1940, Mr. Wells sent her to live with her mother and step-father, believing that Andrews would be better able to provide for his talented daughter’s artistic training.

Dame Julie was used to calling her step-father, Ted Andrews, “Uncle Ted” so, when her mother suggested that she address him as “Pop”, it didn’t bode well with Dame Julie.  And it didn’t help that during the times that the family was very poor and lived in a bad slum area of London, that Ted Andrews was violent man and an alcoholic.  Twice while drunk, he tried to get into bed with his step-daughter, forcing her to lock her door.  Dame Julie described these times as a “very black period in my life.”

Thankfully, life got better for Dame Julie.  Her lovely voice launched her career in Britain where she became the youngest solo performer in a Royal Command Variety Performance at the London Palladium.  She performed along with Danny Kaye, the Nicholas Brothers and the comedy team of George and Bert Bernard for members of King George VI’s family.

In the United States, she made her Broadway debut playing Polly Browne in the already highly acclaimed London Musical, The Boy Friend.  As far as the critics were concerned, she stole the show.  Towards the end of her contract with The Boy Friend, she was asked to audition for My Fair Lady on Broadway and got the part.  In 1956, she starred opposite Rex Harrison as Eliza Doolittle.  Surprisingly, while Rex Harrison reprised his role for the movie, Dame Julie was passed over because, according to Jack Warner, she lacked sufficient name recognition and therefore the part went to Audrey Hepburn.  For Warner the decision was easy.  “In my business I have to know who brings people and their money to a cinema box office.  Audrey Hepburn had never made a financial flop.”

Dame Julie got to play the title role of Mary Poppins, a Disney film.  Her turn in Camelot had impressed Walt Disney so much that he thought that she would be perfect for the role of an English nanny who is “practically perfect in every way”.  In fact he wanted her for the part so badly that when she declined because of pregnancy, he insisted that they would wait for her.  No doubt he was happy that he did.  Mary Poppins became the biggest box-office draw in Disney history.  And the icing on the cake was, Dame Julie won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.  At the close of her acceptance speech, Dame Julie said, “And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner.”  My Fair Lady was in competition for awards at the same ceremony.  I wonder how Mr. Warner felt.

Dame Julie starred in other well known movies such as, The Americanization of Emily, which she described as her favourite film, Torn Curtain, opposite Paul Newman. She starred with Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Miller for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.  Thoroughly Modern Millie and Torn Curtain were at that time, the biggest and second biggest hits in Universal Pictures history, respectively. In 1982, she and James Garner, her The Americanization of Emily co-star would star opposite each other in Victor/Victoria.  In 1995, she starred in the stage production of the movie, making this her first appearance in a Broadway show in 35 years.  Two years, later, she was forced to quit the show when she developed hoarseness in her voice.

Dame Julie had surgery at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital to remove non-cancerous nodules from her throat.  She recently stated that the problem with her voice was due to “a certain kind of muscular striation that happens on the vocal cords as a result from the strain from Victor/Victoria.  She came out of the surgery with permanent damage that destroyed the purity of her singing and left her with a raspy speaking voice.  In 1999, she filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctors at Mount Sinai, including the two who had operated on her throat.  The doctors had assured her that she should regain her voice within six weeks but two years had passed and her singing voice still hadn’t returned.  The lawsuit was settled in 2000 for an undisclosed amount.

In spite of this setback, Dame Julie has kept herself busy with many projects.  During the 2000s, enjoyed the successes of The Princess Diaries and its sequel and the Shrek animated film and Despicable Me.  In 2001, she was reunited with her Sound of Music co-star, Christopher Plummer in a live television performance of On Golden Pond.  In 2007, she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild.  In 2010, Dame Julie appeared with Christopher Plummer and the actors who portrayed the Von Trapp children on Oprah to commemorate the film’s 45th anniversary.

Dame Julie is an author of children’s books.  In 2011, she and her daughter won a Grammy for A Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies, the best spoken word album for children.  That same year she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  In addition to her three Grammys, Dame Julie is the recipient of a BAFTA, five Golden Globes and two Emmys and the Disney Legend Honor and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Just recently Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music.  In a Vanity Fair interview, they reflect on the making of the great musical classic.

I will always think of her as Maria, singing, “The Hills are alive with the Sound of Music” on top of that picturesque mountain in Austria.  One day I hope that my family and I will visit Salzburg where this wonderful movie was filmed.  The Sound of Music will always be one of the best musicals of all time and my favourite.  It is the third highest grossing film of all time.

Notes to Women applauds this classy lady.  She has had an amazing career.  She has appeared on stage, acted in top grossing movies, appeared in TV specials such as The The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Jack Benny Program and Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, the CBS special with Carol Burnett, voice work for animated movies and penned children’s books.  In 1980, she headlined “Because We Care”, a CBS TV special with 30 stars to raise funds for Cambodian Famine victims.

We congratulate her for being made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts.  Not surprisingly, Dame Julie is ranked number 59 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.  We wish this dear Lady continued success and all the very best.

Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th

Sometimes oppurtunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.

Sometimes I’m so sweet even I can’t stand it.

Premiere Of Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" - Arrivals

 

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Andrews; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000267/; http://ca.eonline.com/news/632214/julie-andrews-reveals-the-secret-to-her-long-lasting-41-year-marriage; http://thinkexist.com/quotes/julie_andrews/

Audrey Hepburn

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
 For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
 For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
 For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
 For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
 People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
 As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”
Audrey Hepburn

We adored her as Eliza Doolittle and Sabrina.  She starred opposite some of Hollywood’s top notch leading men–Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda and William Holden.  There was a sweet, endearing quality about her and such grace.   She was a delight to watch.

She had such a lovely British accent.  However, I learned that she was not born in England.  She was born in Ixelles, Belgium.  She was the only child of an English banker of Irish descent and his second wife, a baroness and Dutch aristocrat.

Audrey spent her childhood chiefly in the Netherlands, including German-occupied Arnhem, Netherlands, during the Second World War. Her parents divorced when her father, a Nazi sympathiser, left the family.  Hepburn referred to her father’s abandonment as the most traumatic moment of her life. Years later, she located him in Dublin, Ireland, through the Red Cross. Although he remained emotionally detached, she stayed in contact with him and supported him financially until his death.

In 1939, her mother moved her and her two half-brothers to their grandfather’s home in Arnhem in the Netherlands, believing the Netherlands would be safe from German attack. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945, where she trained in ballet along with the standard school curriculum.

In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands. During the German occupation, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra, modifying her mother’s documents because an “English sounding” name was considered dangerous, with her mother feeling that “Audrey” might indicate her British roots too strongly. Being English in the occupied Netherlands was not an asset; it could have attracted the attention of the occupying German forces and resulted in confinement or even deportation. Edda was never her legal name, also it was a version of her mother’s name Ella.

Audrey studied ballet in Arnhem and then moved to London in 1948, where she continued to train in ballet and worked as a photographer’s model. She appeared in several European films before starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi.

She starred opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday for which she won the Academy Award  That was the first movie I saw her in with her short, sophisticated hairstyle.  I loved the part where Gregory Peck’s character put his hand in the mouth of the statue, La Bocca della Verità (in English, “the Mouth of Truth”) and when he pulled it out, it looked like he had lost it and Audrey’s character screamed.  He then popped his hand out of his sleeve and laughed. It turned that Audrey’s scream was real.Gregory Peck decided to pull a gag he had once seen Red Skelton do, and did not tell Audrey beforehand.  The gag worked and for me it was one of the most memorable moments of the movie.  When my sister and I visited La Bocca, I couldn’t help but think about that scene.

What I admired about Audrey Hepburn was  her work with UNICEF.  Her war-time experiences inspired her passion for humanitarian work and, although she had worked for UNICEF since the 1950s, during her later life she dedicated much of her time and energy to the organization. From 1988 until 1992, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia. In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. 

Audrey was grateful for her own good fortune after enduring the German occupation as a child and for this reason she dedicated the remainder of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest nations. Hepburn’s travels were made easier by her wide knowledge of languages; besides being naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, Audrey also was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and German.

Her first field mission was to Ethiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek’ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food. Of the trip, she said, “I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can’t stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, [and] [sic] not because there isn’t tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. It can’t be distributed. Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars… I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die. Horrible. That image is too much for me. The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering”. (Wikipedia). 

I always have the image of her with African children and the way she was loving and playful with them.  You could see that her heart was in what she was doing and that being there made her happy.

What a classy lady Audrey was.  She was a true leading lady not only on screen but in real life.