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How Audrey Hepburn weighed only 88 pounds, suffered from jaundice and anemia, survived on boiled grass and tulip bulbs and had her dream of becoming a ballerina crushed by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands
Audrey Hepburn, who captivated the world with her riveting performances, international goodwill work and unique beauty, never escaped the effect the Nazi occupation of Arnhem in the Netherlands in 1944-45 had on her life.
Nazi occupiers starved more than four million people and Audrey escaped death only by a 'hairbreadth' and lost everything that mattered to a young girl: her home, her father vanished, relatives were shot or deported, and her own life was always at risk with the Allied bombing raids.
'We ate nettles and everyone tried to boil grass – in addition to tulips – but I really couldn't stand it,' she said.
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Tiny dancer: Audrey Hepburn's dream of becoming a ballerina was thwarted by the Nazi occupation of Arnhem in the Netherlands. The World War II interrupted Audrey's private schooling in London and her dreams of being a classical ballerina. It put her five years behind the training of other girls who had better food and shelter during the War, her son writes in his new book
Fifteen-year-old Audrey Hepburn-Ruston had been hovering close to death for months, sick with jaundice, her legs and feet swollen from oedema caused by malnutrition, so weak with hunger that she could barely climb the stairs in her grandfather’s home, just outside Arnhem.
Beautiful: During the Second World War Audrey Hepburn-Ruston had been hovering close to death for months and was so weak with hunger she could barely climb the stairs
Audrey’s mother was a Dutch aristocrat, but her father was English and they had been living in Britain before the war.
Following her parents’ divorce, when war began Audrey’s mother took her back to Holland, believing they would be safer as it was neutral. But the Germans invaded in 1940 and the young Audrey watched her Jewish neighbours being herded into trucks, men into one truck, women into another, babies into another.
‘We did not yet know that they were going to their death,’ she would remember years later.
She lived in fear of being kidnapped and taken to a military brothel as so many other girls had been. She was once picked up by the Germans to work on their kitchens but managed to escape.
But in April 1945 as the fighting came closer, she and her family took refuge in the cellar as the Germans and Allies fought from house to house. ‘Once in a while, you’d go up and see how much of your house was left, and then you’d go back under again,’ she recalled.
Icon: Audrey Hepburn lived in fear of being kidnapped and taken to a military brothel as so many other girls had been
Then on the morning of April 29, the shelling and shooting stopped. Audrey heard voices and singing, and smelt English cigarettes. They crept upstairs and opened the front door to find the house surrounded by English soldiers all aiming their guns at them.
‘I screamed with happiness, seeing all these cocky figures with dirty bright faces and shouted something in English … a cheer went up that they’d liberated an English girl.’
At the war’s end, she returned to London and began training as a ballet dancer, but her slight physique meant that she would never reach the top.
She became a chorus girl then had a series of small parts in British films before being picked for the lead role in the play Gigi on Broadway aged 22, which in turn launched her Hollywood career.
In the week she was liberated by British troops in Holland, far away to the east, BBC journalist Richard Dimbleby — father of David and Jonathan — was reporting from the liberated concentration camp Belsen on the living skeletons he encountered there.
Pin thin: Luca Dotti says his mother had a healthy appetite but never put on weight. She came away from those early years with a passion for good food, family, home and garden – as well as being burdened with delicate health
Her diet consisted mostly of endive, a leafy, crisp green vegetable, digging up and eating tulip bulbs and drinking enough water to feel full.
Surviving the German occupation, at 16 she weighed 88 pounds and suffered from asthma, jaundice, acute anemia and a serious form of edema.
But she survived – unlike 22,000 others who died during the Dutch famine when the Nazis confiscated food and fuel for themselves. The Dutch were left to die from starvation and freeze to death.
'Mum carried the war with her for her entire life,' writes her son Luca Dotti, in a loving tribute to his mother that he calls a 'kitchen table biography', including recipes of her favorite dishes in Audrey at Home, Memories of My Mother's Kitchen, which is published by Harper Design.
The Second World War interrupted 5'6' Audrey's private schooling in London and her dreams of being a classical ballerina. It put her five years behind the training of other girls living in London who had better food and shelter during the War. Her parents were afraid of the bombing in London and made her return to The Netherlands.
Disappointed that she wouldn't be on stage as a dancer, she applied what she learned from her rigorous dance training to her career as an actress.
But behind the movie star persona was a woman who worked hard to get back what she had lost: home, family and the security of a kitchen.
She came away from those early years with a passion for good food, family, home and garden – as well as being burdened with delicate health.
Mr. Famous: Audrey adored her dogs and loved relaxing with her first beloved Yorkshire terrier Mr. Famous, at the home of one of her best friends in Los Angeles. Mr. Famous appeared with her in a scene in Funny Face and started a lap-dog trend among celebrities when she carried him everywhere
Sadness: Audrey as a teenager with her mother, Dutch baroness Ella Van Heemstra in 1946, Note the dark circles under Audrey's eyes
Audrey's anemia left her with dark circles under her eyes that fostered one of many complexes throughout her life including viewing her feet as being too long, and her ears and nose as too large.
To regain strength after the war, she consumed a lot of spinach, muesli, liver and of course, chocolate. The war also left her with food addictions.
She was crazy about chocolate believing that it helped to 'banish sadness'.
When she was given a box of chocolates as a young girl, 'I used to eat them all without stopping until every last one was gone', she confessed.
'Now if I get a box of good chocolates, it will last a while, maybe for two hours.
Hearing her parents argue, she ate 'fingernails, bread or chocolate'.
At the end of the German occupation, a Dutch soldier gave her seven chocolate bars she believed helped her through those final days of hunger.
Chocolate was always within arm's reach in a chest of drawers in her living room and a little evening chocolate became a habit throughout her life as well as chocolate cake with whipped cream baked in her kitchen that she made herself.
Pasta was another serious food addiction – 'She couldn't do without pasta', Luca writes.
No matter how much she ate, she never gained weight and did not limited herself to small portions but 'she would help herself to second servings of plates overflowing with pasta. This was how she often ended a meal…' where in many Italian families pasta is the first course.
After returning home from traveling, 'a plate of spaghetti al pomodoro was always waiting for her'.
She even traveled with pasta, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in her suitcase.
Hepburn's first marriage to actor Mel Ferrer (left) lasted almost fifteen years. In 1968 she met Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti (right) and within a year they were married. The couple had one son, Luca in 1969, before divorcing thirteen years later
Audrey Hepburn and the man she described as the love of her life, actor Robert Wolders. They were together until her death in 1993
Along with her profound love for pasta and chocolate, 'she had an excessive passion for ice cream, which she ate with a greediness worthy of a mischievous little scamp'.
Vanilla ice cream sweetened with a variety of condiments was another favorite.
Wine and a good Scotch were on her list of vices.
Audrey smoked as a young girl and developed a nicotine habit that continued all her life.
At the end of the war and the liberation by the Allied troops, the smell of British gas and British cigarettes represented freedom to the young girl.
'When I ran out to welcome the soldiers, I inhaled their petrol [gas] fumes as if it were a priceless perfume and I demanded a cigarette, even though it made me choke.'
British cigarettes became her first choice all her life. First an actress, she began acting in minor film roles in London in 1951. Major roles followed from Hollywood movie studios.
Hepburn's first marriage to actor Mel Ferrer in 1954 lasted almost fifteen years during which she had two miscarriages, one occurring after falling from a horse and breaking her spine in four places on the Mexican set of The Unforgiven in 1959.
Hepburn had to take a break from filmmaking and gave birth to the couple's only child, Sean, in 1960. She had two more miscarriages before they divorced in 1968.
That same year she met the Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti and within a year they were married. The couple had one son, Luca in 1969, before divorcing thirteen years later.
Her next love was Dutch actor Robert Wolders, the widower of screen star Merle Oberon. Hepburn said those years with Wolder were the happiest years of her life.
Luca Dotti writes about his mother's passion for pasta, chocolate and ice cream as well as his fondest memories of the Holywood legend in his new book
'It's going to sound like a thumping bore, but my idea of heaven is Robert and my two sons at home – I hate separations – and the dogs, a good movie, a wonderful meal, and great television all coming together. I am really blissful when that happens. My goal was not to have huge luxuries. As a child, I wanted a house with a garden, which I have today. This is what I dreamed of,' she told Larry King on October 21, 1991.
'She was happiest not wearing makeup and at home with the dogs and the flowers and giggling away or going to the movies, not being a movie star at all, not being this idol for millions of people all over the world', stated her close friend in Hollywood, Doris Brynner.
Hepburn spent the last third of her life as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador traveling the world on humanitarian missions.
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush in December 1962.
Three months earlier, in September 1992, she checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles suffering from abdominal pains. A laparoscopy revealed metastasized abdominal cancer that had spread from her appendix.
Two surgeries could not remove it and she returned to her Swiss chalet for her last Christmas. She succumbed at age sixty-three to the rare appendiceal cancer on 20 January 1993 in her sleep.
Her final days were spent at La Paisible in Switzerland – the house in the country with a garden and fruit trees that she had always dreamed of owning.
A new photo book sheds light on the life of Audrey Hepburn during the prime of her career, capturing her behind-the-scenes on set as well as in the privacy of her home.
Bob Willoughby's Audrey Hepburn features 280 pages filled with photographs of the late Hollywood icon, from her arrival in Hollywood in 1953 until 1966, three years after she shot to fame in My Fair Lady.
In one of the more intimate images, Hepburn is seen doting on her baby son Sean, who was born in 1960, as her The Children's Hour co-star James Garner smiles in the background.
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Behind-the-scenes: A new book features rarely seen candid photos of Audrey Hepburn from 1953 to 1966. (Pictured: Sean, Audrey's son by Mel Ferrer, plays with his mother while actor James Garner beams)
Downtime: The portraits were all taken by the late Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby, her friend and confidante. (Pictured: The actress at the villa the Ferrers rented while shooting Paris When It Sizzles)
Sean, whose father was Hepburn's first husband Mel Ferrer, giggles from his crib as his glamorous mother laughs with him.
Another photo shows the actress reclining against a tree beside a pond, which was located at the villa that the Ferrers rented while shooting 1964 film Paris When It Sizzles.
Sporting her signature short bangs, Hepburn wears a knee-length pink skirt and white shirt and looks demurely at the camera, her bare feet planted on the tree trunk.
The portraits in the book, which hits stores in September costs $54 on Amazon, were all taken by the late Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby, who passed away in 2009.
Everyday life: Hepburn takes her pet fawn Pippa or 'Ip' shopping in Gelson's supermarket, in Beverly Hills
Keeping fit: She wore a striking red leotard to do some exercising and stretching in the garden
Interactions: In one particularly striking photo, she is seen looking downcast with her Green Mansions co-star Anthony Perkins, who is seemingly attempting to cheer her up
He said of meeting the Belgian-born star for the first time: 'She took my hand like… well a princess, and dazzled me with that smile that God designed to melt mortal men's hearts.'
From that first encounter, the pair became fast friends, and Willoughby was often at her side to capture her at her most candid moments.
He even snapped a photo of her shopping at a Beverly Hills grocery store with her pet fawn Ip, whom she met on the set of 1959's Green Mansions, directed by her then-husband Mel Ferrer.
Close comrades: Hepburn pictured with Bob Willoughby, who passed away in 2009
Enraptured: Willoughby said of meeting the star (pictured in 1953) for the first time: 'She took my hand like... well a princess, and dazzled me with that smile that God designed to melt mortal men's hearts'
Getting in character: Hepburn grins as she greets the international press, who were invited to attend the first day of shooting of My Fair Lady
Classic beauty: The star wears striking earrings during a photo session at Paramount Studios in 1953
'Beverly Hills habitués are fairly blasé about what they see, but Audrey being followed around town by this lovely creature stopped everyone in their tracks,' the photographer once said of her unusual pet.
Willoughby also captured her interacting with her co-stars while shooting her movies, revealing aspects of her personality rarely seen in pictures.
In one particularly striking photo, she is seen looking downcast while sitting on a camera boom with her Green Mansions co-star Anthony Perkins, who is seemingly attempting to cheer her up.
At work: Here she chats with director George Kukor on the set of My Fair Lady while Assam, her Yorkshire terrier, sits in the basket of the bike she used to cycle around the studio grounds
On set: The actress pictured in a still from one of her most famous films, My Fair Lady
Fashion sense: She wears a dress designed for her by Givenchy while reclining on a bed in Paris When It Sizzles
Captivating: Hepburn pictured flaunting her famous doe eyes in a still from Paris When It Sizzles
And another behind-the-scenes photo sees her chatting with director George Kukor on the set of My Fair Lady.
While the pair converse, Assam, her Yorkshire terrier, sits in the basket of the bike the actress used to cycle around the studio grounds.
Willoughby, who was credited by Popular Photography as 'the man who virtually invented the photojournalistic motion picture still,' shot many stars in his career, including Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood and James Dean.
Picture perfect: Willoughby, who shot many stars in his career including Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood, was known to consider Hepburn (pictured in 1953) his favorite
Popular subject: The star climbs into the Paramount Studios car waiting to return her to the hotel after a photo session with photographer Bud Fraker
Muse: Willoughby is pictured examining a still of Audrey Hepburn
But above them all, he was known to consider Hepburn as his unequivocal favorite. 'As Hepburn's career soared following her Oscar-winning US debut in Roman Holiday, Willoughby became a trusted friend, framing her working and home life,' reads a description of the book.
His historic, perfectionist, tender photographs seek out the many facets of Hepburn's beauty and elegance, as she progresses from her debut to her career high of My Fair Lady in 1963.
'Willoughby's studies, showing her on set, preparing for a scene, interacting with actors and directors, and returning to her private life, comprise one of photography's great platonic love affairs and an unrivalled record of one of the 20th century's touchstone beauties.'
The real tragic love of Audrey Hepburn's life - how Hollywood star cried 'like a hurt child' when lover Bill Holden refused to have children then returned to his wife
As she arrived at the Georgian-style villa in Hollywood designed by noted architect Paul Williams, Audrey Hepburn had good reason to be nervous.
Inside was not just her boyfriend who she was madly in love with - his wife was there waiting to meet her too.
Bill Holden, her co-star in the 1954 romantic comedy Sabrina, had asked her round to meet Ardis as he had done with many of his previous mistresses.
The mother of his three children, Ardis had long learned to look the other way so long as Holden came home to her each night.
But with Hepburn, Ardis sensed something different – and she was scared.
Chemistry: A publicity still from Sabrina which was intended to emphasize their on-screen chemistry. But what those watching the movie did not know was how deeply Audrey Hepburn and William Holden had fallen in love
Love: As their on-screen relationship sizzled, so too did their off-screen romance. It was intense, and Holden's wife knew that this time she had a fight on her hands for her husband, who had strayed before
Couple: William Holden and his wife Ardis pictured together. Hepburn was a 'wife's worst nightmare' – a cultured beauty who was well spoken and had completely entranced her husband.
Triangle: The posters promoted the love triangle at the center of Sabrina. Behind the scenes was Audrey Hepburn's greatest love
According to a new book about their affair, Hepburn was a 'wife's worst nightmare' – a cultured beauty who was well spoken and had completely entranced her husband.
It didn't take Ardis long to realize what she had to do; as soon as they closed the front door and waved her goodbye 'the gloves came off and (she) went into attack mode', author Edward Epstein writes.
In no uncertain terms she gave him an ultimatum and 'demanded that Bill stop seeing that woman'.
It was a demand he would ignore, but the relationship would come to an end weeks later for a reason that would break Hepburn's heart - and leave her feeling utterly betrayed.
Epstein recounts the episode in 'Audrey and Bill' which describes in detail her little-told affair with Holden for the first time.
He explains how they fell in love despite disapproval from Hepburn's mother and having come from completely different backgrounds.
He was the son of a schoolteacher and an industrial chemist from small town Illinois who had only just found fame a few years earlier with his roles in Sunset Boulevard and Stalag 17.
She was the daughter of European nobility, a symbol of fashion who had beaten Elizabeth Taylor for her role in Roman Holiday, which earned her the Best Actress Oscar.
At the time filming of Sabrina was due to start, Hepburn, who grew up in England, had recently broken off her engagement to James Hanson, the wealthy British industrialist and a member of the House of Lords, a parting which Epstein describes as 'unpleasant'.
She had moved to Los Angeles where she became the toast of the dinner party circuit where media mogul Jules Stein threw a party for her at his mansion, an unheard of honor for a newcomer.
Holden was 'obsessive' about meeting Hepburn, Epstein writes, and he rightly pegged her as someone who wanted the man to make the first move – which he duly did.
Things progressed quickly and blossomed into 'all-out passion' and their on-screen chemistry spilled over into the dressing room.
Hepburn saw Holden as her 'guardian angel' and a 'red blooded American male'.
Irony: Sabrina saw Audrey Hepburn play the woman at the center of a love triangle with Humphrey Bogart (left) and William Holden (right). In fact, Holden was the center of the real-life triangle between her and his wife
Golden age: Audrey Hepburn rose to the heights at the peak of Hollywood's power and glamor.
Reunited: Paris When It Sizzles in 1964 put the couple back together but it was a flop - the fireworks between them were long gone and the critics cruelly dubbed it 'Paris When It Fizzles'
Holden saw Hepburn as his 'ultimate prima ballerina' – she had studied the dance in her youth and her posture showed she had been classically trained.
He took her out for dinner most evenings after filming or to out of the way spots where they shared romantic walks. Holden would later call her 'the love of my life'.
Epstein writes: 'The couple shared an emotional intimacy that precluded words. One smile from him and she knew she was understood'.
Miraculously they managed to keep their affair out of the tabloid newspapers, even though they were caught in an intimate moment when a member of the Sabrina crew barged into Holden's dressing room without knocking.
Had it become public it would have been catastrophic for Hepburn – her Cinderella image would have been ruined and she would have been labelled a home wrecker.
But that did not mean she would avoid meeting Ardis, a former actress whose stage name was Brenda Marshall and who was close friends with Nancy Reagan.
Holden set up the meeting and when Hepburn laid eyes on her rival she was 'impressed', Epstein writes.
Facade: William Holden and his wife Ardis Ankerson. She knew that he strayed but had passed off previous mistresses as un-threatening - until she met Hepburn
lacking magic: Paris When It Sizzles was supposed to capture the same romantic fervor as Sabrina, but it flopped as the chemistry was gone
Memory: Publicity stills of Paris When It Sizzles showed Audrey Hepburn and William Holden together and hinted at the passion between them
Marriage: Unable to contemplate a childless union with Holden, Hepburn married Mel Ferrer. The couple are seen together in 1961
In Hepburn's eyes Ardis was 'beautiful; the role of injured wife did not suit her.'
Epstein says: 'But the beautiful Ardis brought out the competitive spirit in Audrey. Hepburn held her head high, gave out one of her killer smiles and said: 'Oh, I'm so happy to meet you'.
'Ardis' heart must have frozen at the sight of her – here was this radiant creature, fifteen years younger than she, who wasn't merely beautiful but had unique qualities of class and an almost spiritual grace.
'The others Bill had brought home were beautiful, but not like this; this she was not prepared for.
'Unlike many Hollywood beauties away from the camera Audrey even had a beautiful speaking voice! There was nothing strident or uncultured in this package. She was a wife's worst nightmare, and to compound matters, she seemed like a nice person.'
Over the evening Ardis saw that 'there was much more going on' that with her husband's previous liaisons – a realization that made her demand they stop seeing each other.
Holden and Hepburn's affair did end, but it was over the issue of children, not his wife's wishes.
Epstein writes that during their time together Hepburn spoke 'often' of having children and that she wanted three or four babies so that she could retire from acting to raise them.
He writes: 'Once while chatting brightly about the names of their future children, suddenly an embarrassed smile, tinged with fear, crept into Bill's face.
'He told her that the one thing, the only thing they could not have together, was children. He would recall the fixed expression in her eyes; how she stood looking at him like a hurt, bewildered child.'
Unforgettable: The role that came to define Audrey Hepburn was Breakfast At Tiffany's but it came many years after her romance with Holden, which she was to say was the greatest of her life
Hollywood couple: Nancy and Ronald Regan with Bill and Ardis Holden, on left, after the Reagan's wedding at the Holden's house in Toluca Lake, California, 1952.
Epstein writes how Hepburn's eyes 'searched his face' as he explained that he had undergone a vasectomy some years earlier at his wife's urging.
Hepburn's reaction was one of shock. She could not believe he had waited until now to tell her this.
Holden hoped she would not hate him but the 'trusting, simple part of their relationship' was gone.
Epstein writes that Hepburn 'ended their affair on the spot' – she felt that she had no other choice.
At that point Mel Ferrer re-entered her life.
Hepburn was pleased to see the troubled actor and director because his 'attentiveness and sense of romantic urgency' was the perfect tonic to Holden.
Ferrer already had four children from previous relationships but he convinced Hepburn she would be the focus of his life.
He was from a better background than Holden as well and his father was a well known Cuban American surgeon.
Hepburn knew she was at a weak point in her life but went along with it anyway, and accepted when he proposed.
But before the wedding she faced one final indignity.
To put any rumors to bed about her and Holden, Paramount, the studio to which she was signed, decided to stage an evening at Holden's house during which Hepburn would announce her engagement to Ferrer.
Beauty: Hepburn was known for her looks but it was her personality which made Holden's wife fear her
Scene: The love triangle movie Sabrina was publicized with pictures of Hepburn and Holden together
Style: The immaculately dressed and tailored Hollywood couple epitomized its golden era - but behind the scenes an affair was playing out, ultimately doomed by his inability to have children with her
With Holden and his wife present, what clearer sign could there be that nothing had been going on?
Epstein writes that, as one would imagine, conversation was somewhat 'forced'.
He writes: 'A synthetic cordiality filled the room. Audrey's eyes avoided Bill's. His bloodshot eyes underscored his angst. He was clearly a man carrying a torch'.
In later years Hepburn and Holden would look back on their time together by marveling at the innocence of it all, and how unencumbered by life's burdens they were.
Hepburn had a son with Ferrer, her first of her two husbands. He sacrificed his own career for hers but became her tormentor because he was so jealous about her success.
Hepburn became a screen legend thanks to her iconic role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but suffered a huge backlash after being cast in the title role for My Fair Lady because many felt it belonged to Julie Andrews.
Holden eventually did divorce Ardis and dated French actress Capucine before she ended their relationship due to his long-standing alcohol problem.
He also saw tragedy too and killed another driver with Ferrari in Tuscany, a scandal for which he was given an eight month suspended prison sentence.
Holden and Hepburn were reunited on screen in Paris When it Sizzles which was released in 1964 after spending years on the cutting room floor.
But critics dubbed it 'Paris when it fizzles' because by then the magic between the two of them was gone – even on the silver screen.