Audrey Hepburn dies at 63

Audrey Hepburn, the Oscar-winning actress known for her charm and elegance in such films as “Roman Holiday,””My Fair Lady” and “Charade,” died yesterday at her home in Tolochenaz, Switzerland. The actress, who had undergone colon cancer surgery last November, was 63.

Hepburn won a best actress Academy Award in 1953 for her first American film, “Roman Holiday.”

She was nominated for Oscars four other times: “Sabrina,” with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, in 1954; “The Nun’s Story,” with Peter Finch, in 1959 ; as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with George Peppard in 1961; and for “Wait Until Dark,” with Alan Arkin in 1967, in which she played a fast-thinking blind woman terrorized by thieves.

She will receive–along with Elizabeth Taylor–the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this year’s Oscar ceremonies. She had been a longtime goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“God has a most beautiful new angel,” Taylor said in a statement.

AMPAS president Robert Rehme said in a statement, “All of us at the Academy are saddened at the loss of one of our most charming and talented actresses. She was an extraordinarily compassionate human being who richly deserved the applause of the world not only for her professional work but for her many good works on behalf of children everywhere.

Award to be tribute

“We are very sorry that Miss Hepburn will not be with us to accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on next March’s Oscarcast, but we expect the presentation to be a meaningful tribute to her career and her life.”

“She was unique,” said director-producer Stanley Donen, who directed Hepburn in “Funny Face,””Charade” and “Two for the Road,” considered by many to be three of the actress’ best films. “Working with her was a major part of my life.”

Asked to describe the qualities that made her unique, Donen said, “She had a quiet sincerity, but at the same time she had romantic, feminine, receptive and delicate qualities. Her voice was one of her largest appeals, in addition to her glorious looks.”

About directing her, Donen said, “She was genuinely appreciative of anybody helping her on a film and she was considerate. She never threw her weight around when you gave her your opinion. She was always grateful. She wasn’t argumentative. She was a wonderful person to work with.”

Blake Edwards, who directed Hepburn in the classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” said, “I can’t remember anybody who was like her. She was a lot of fun to work with.”

“Tiffany’s” co-star George Peppard said in a statement: “It’s very sad. A silver bell has been silenced.”

The actress was born Audrey Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929, near Brussels, Belgium. Her father, J.A. Hepburn-Ruston, was a banker of English-Irish ancestry , and her mother, Ella van Meemstra, a Dutch baroness. After her parents divorced, she was sent to a girls’ school near London, but then spent World War II in Holland.

After returning to London on a ballet scholarship, she was discovered as a model by fashion photographers in London and began studyingacting.

After jobs in the chorus and minor roles in British movies, Hepburn met the French author Colette during the filming of “Monte Carlo Baby” in 1951. The writer insisted she play the part of Gigi when her novel was adapted to the stage.

“Gigi” took Hepburn to Broadway in 1951. She starred in “Ondine” in 1954, for which she won a Tony Award.

That same year, she was presented the Oscar for 1953’s “Roman Holiday,” in which she played a princess who goes incognito in Rome and falls in love with a journalist. The role made her a star.

She married her “Roman Holiday” co-star Mel Ferrer, in 1954. In 1960, they had a son, Sean Ferrer.

After she and Ferrer divorced in 1968, she married Andrea Dotti, an Italian psychiatrist, and had a son, Luca, in 1970. The couple was divorced in 1980.

Hepburn stopped making movies regularly in the late 1960s, but returned for several roles, including Marian, to Sean Connery’s Robin Hood, in 1976’s “Robin and Marian.”

Her last film role was in Steven Spielberg’s “Always” in 1989.

Hepburn became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 1986, and devoted a great deal of time to the cause, visiting the suffering in Africa and appealing to governments for aid in Third World countries.

Her death “is a painful and irreplaceable loss for her family, friends, for children everywhere and UNICEF,” said UNICEF director James Grant.

Earlier this month, she was too ill to travel to L.A. to accept a Screen Actors Guild honor, but sent a message thanking all her directors and co-stars.

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