Audrey Hepburn, a woman of ethereal beauty and grace, never wanted to be a star. The gamine charmer desperately wanted to quit the biz to be a mom, but her taste in men was not as impeccable as her taste in clothes. Donald Spoto's latest dish-filled bio chronicles her quest and many affairs along the way. Alas, the tome loses momentum with each unfortunate alliance.

Audrey Hepburn, a woman of ethereal beauty and grace, never wanted to be a star. The gamine charmer desperately wanted to quit the biz to be a mom, but her taste in men was not as impeccable as her taste in clothes. Donald Spoto’s latest dish-filled bio chronicles her quest and many affairs along the way. Alas, the tome loses momentum with each unfortunate alliance.

Born to a Dutch baroness and English ne’er-do-well in 1929, Hepburn survived grueling conditions when the Nazis occupied Holland, moving to London with her mother after the war. There she was soon discovered, much to the envy of her fellow chorines. Before long, she was on her way to making “Roman Holiday,” “Funny Face” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in a remarkable eight-year run.

How badly did she want children? Enough to dump “Sabrina” co-star William Holden, married but promising to divorce, when he told her was sterile. When old flame Mel Ferrer divorced his wife, Hepburn resumed their affair. They married, but Hepburn soon suffered the first of several miscarriages.

She did quit the biz for a while to be with her first child, eventually giving birth to her second son in a second, short-lived marriage to an Italian playboy. By this point, however, the book has lost as much energy as her career.

Spoto does his best to paint Hepburn in a saintly light even through the affairs — she did do a lot charity work for UNICEF, after all — but it’s hard to keep dredging up the sympathy for someone who keeps making such unfortunate choices in men. Spoto’s meandering writing style doesn’t help either: He delivers plenty of dish but far too little insight.

So she wanted to be a mom, and had a hard time getting roles in middle age; same could be said about many actresses. Why was this one so beguiling? Spoto never really captures Hepburn’s spirit — failing to deliver the promised “Enchantment” in the title.

Enchantment

Crown; 352 pgs.; $25.95

Production

Donald Spoto
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