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Audrey Hepburn Timeline 1950 - 1959

The 1950s saw Audrey emerge as a major Hollywood movie star after first captivating audiences on Broadway in Gigi.


Audrey gets a major supporting role in The Secret People. The role utilises her ballet skills and one dramatic scene evokes memories of the Arnhem bombing. During this production she is offered her next role: Nous Irons à Monte Carlo, shot on location on the French Riviera.

During the shoot, in a chance encounter with the film crew in a hotel lobby, Colette sees Audrey and thinks her perfect for the lead role in her Gigi. Although Audrey's subsequent reading is disappointing, she gains the part at Colette's insistence.

Audrey screen tests in London for the lead role of the princess in William Wyler's Roman Holiday. Wyler views her performance later and finds her irresistable. Now signed for a Hollywood movie as well as a Broadway play, Audrey leaves on her own—the first time without her mother—for New York.

Gigi rehearsals begin in October, however Audrey's auditions are substandard. After much hard work, and much-needed vocal coaching, she steadily improves, even up till opening night. The majority of newspapers give low marks to the play but kudos to Audrey.

During Hanson's visit for the Gigi premiere, Audrey accepts his diamond ring to formalise their engagement. His work is split between NYC, Toronto, and Britain, and during Gigi he and Audrey spend a lot of time together.

After her Gigi success, Audrey resumes her voice coaching, and her dance instruction—at the Tarassova School of Ballet in New York City. In an interview, Audrey credits dance for giving her the discipline to learn her first lead acting role in Gigi so quickly.


On May 31, Gigi closes early in New York since Paramount is eager to get started on Roman Holiday, for which there is a narrow shooting schedule. Audrey goes straight to Rome immediately after closing night, with her wedding—having been planned for between the play and film that spring—postponed.

Roman Holiday is completed in September and Audrey learns much from the experience: When asked later how much she had learned from Wyler, she would say "almost everything." On this film Audrey begins her life-long collaboration and friendship with Edith Head.

Wedding plans are put off again as Audrey goes straight into the American road tour of Gigi, lasting eight months. Midway through, Audrey announces her engagement over. It is an amicable split and they continue to see each other. Audrey would say that her desire to give up at least a year after marriage to just being her husband's wife made it being impossible to give up her career, which she has worked on so hard for.


Roman Holiday opens in the U.S. in August, and audiences and critics love it. Audrey's "look" becomes all the rage and is followed by fashion magazines everywhere.

In London in July for the British opening of Roman Holiday, Audrey first meets Mel Ferrer at a fête hosted by her mother. Mel is twice-divorced, a father of four, an actor, stage and film director and twelve years her senior. The chemistry between them is instant and they would soon fall in love.

September, and Audrey begins shooting Sabrina on Long Island. The nine-week shoot is followed by time in Hollywood for retakes. On this film Audrey begins her lasting relationship with Givenchy, who designs the fashion costumes worn by Sabrina.

Ferrer sends Audrey the script for Broadway's Ondine, in which he hopes to have them both star. She loves it and agrees to the role, securing Mel as costar.

At the end of Sabrina, and before the start of Ondine rehearsals two weeks later, Audrey moves back to New York, where her mother later arrives soon after.


Ondine premiers on February 18th to rave reviews. Audrey now learns she has been nominated for an Academy Award for Roman Holiday, and on March 25 she is awarded Best Actress. Three days after and Audrey is awarded again: the Tony award for best stage actress in Ondine.

Three months into Ondine, Audrey is suffering from exhaustion, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and fifteen pounds underweight. On advice from her doctors to rest she quits, and so Ondine closes on July 3 after 157 performances. At the end of the month she flys to an alpine resort Switzerland, where after a week of media imprisonment she finally finds respite at a villa in Bürgenstock.

August, and Mel Ferrer flies to Switzerland and formerly proposes, and Audrey accepts—over Ella's objection. On September 24 they are married in a civil cermony at Buoche, on the shores of Lake Lucerne. The next day they repeat their vows at a religious ceremony in a chapel below the mountain at Bürgenstock. After a four-day honeymoon near Bürgenstock she and Mel enjoy a week together near Cinecitta Studios, Italy, where he was filming La Madre. They return to Bürgenstock where they learn that Audrey is now pregnant. For the rest of her life Audrey would now call Switzerland her home.

In November Audrey makes her first return to Holland on the invitation of the League of Dutch Military War Invalids for a five-day fundraising tour.


February, and Audrey receives her second her second Oscar nomination, for Sabrina, but loses to Grace Kelly in A Country Girl.

In March, Audrey has a miscarriage. She and Mel grieve privately.

The Ferrers both sign under producer Dino De Laurentiis for War and Peace. In spring they go to Italy where shooting begins on July 4. Because of the ten-hour days, and her miscarriage and general frailty, Audrey would later call her role of Natasha the toughest role she ever did. Although the film will receive generally negative reviews, many reviewers praise her portrayal of Natasha.

Audrey is now deluged with script offers, most of which either fall through for whatever reason or she rejects—including two dozen from Associated British. Her next film project will instead be Funny Face, with Fred Astaire.


Funny Face is shot in three months in Hollywood, followed by a month in Paris. Audrey and Mel are together the whole time while Ella, based in London, makes several trips to visit her daughter in Paris. Now included in her contract, Givenchy designs all of Audrey's film clothes.

Audrey returns home for four weeks rest before Love in the Afternoon, again with Billy Wilder. She is coupled with Gary Cooper—twenty-eight years her senior. During the shoot in Paris Audrey makes trips on weekends to the south of France to join Mel, where he is filming The Vintage.

Audrey leaves Europe to spend Christmas at La Quinta, a desert resort near Palm Springs, with Mel and his children, Pepa and Mark.


January, and the Ferrers begin work on the television movie Mayerling, which takes a week of rehearsal then two weeks taping at the NBC studios. Mayerling airs February 4, and although it garners a large audience the reviews are bad. On the basis of its failure NBC will reject several other proposed Hepburn-Ferrer team productions. From now on Ferrer thinks of himself more a producer/director rather than costar of the partnership.

In need of a rest, Audrey chooses to reject all movie offers while she accompanies her husband to Spain and Mexico for the shooting of The Sun Also Rises. Among those films she would reject is The Diary of Ann Frank, which she finds "too painful" and too close to her wartime experiences. Audrey, urged by Mel, signs for The Nun's Story as her next film, which is to be soon followed by Mel's own project to star Audrey, Green Mansions.


Filming for The Nun's Story begins in Rome's Cinecitta Studios, and then followed by the difficult stint on location in the Belgian Congo. For the conclusion of the shoot, back in Rome, the crew works is forced to work around Audrey for a time as she is bedridden with kidney stones, partly due to dehydration from working so long in the Congo. The film will open on July 18, 1959, and make more money that any other Warner Brothers film to date. Hepburn is named Best Actress of 1959 by the New York Film Critics and its British equivalent, however the film wins none of the eight Oscars it is nominated for, including Audrey for Best Actress.

Immediately after the conclusion of The Nun's Story shoot, Audrey begins Green Mansions in Hollywood. Mel has already spent several months with a crew in British Guiana and Venezuela shooting backgrounds. The film is completed in November and eventually released prior to the The Nun's Story. The film fails with both critics and audiences—with Mel as director getting the blame—and fails to recoup its investment.

The Ferrers return to Bürgenstock for a rest, during which time Audrey again finds herself pregnant.


Audrey's next film is The Unforgiven, shot in Mexico. During the shoot she falls off a horse and breaks her back. She is hospitalized with four broken vertebrae, torn muscles in her lower back and a badly sprained foot. Ferrer immediately joins her as well as Audrey's Hollywood physician and Marie-Louise Habets—the real-life Sister Luke, whom she had gotten to know during The Nun's Story—who takes personal nursing charge of her. After a month, and with the help of an orthopedic brace, Audrey is able to complete the film. When released in April, 1960, the film is mostly panned by critics.

After The Unforgiven, Audrey returns to Bürgenstock for the duration of her baby's term. But, soon after, she miscarries again due to her fall during The Unforgiven. Mel would call it "a tragedy" and said, "it has broken her heart and mine". Audrey goes into a deep depression, losing weight and smoking heavily.

Less than six months later, and Audrey is pregnant again. She refuses all work until the baby is born, turning down West Side Story, The Cardinal, plus a later-shelved Hitchcock film, No Bail For The Judge. She finally accepts Breakfast at Tiffany's, to be commenced only after the birth.

At some point around this time, Audrey receives erroneous news of her father's death. Investigating the rumours, Mel discovers that he is living in Dublin, and he and Audrey visit him there (apparently during the latter half of the year). Ruston is familiar with his daughter's fame despite their separation, and at age 74 was married again—to a woman thirty-odd years his junior. The reunion is bittersweet, but from that time Audrey sends him a monthly check until he dies, two decades later.

Next Page: Audrey Hepburn Timeline 1960 - 1969

This article is taken from Graham's Audrey Hepburn Page.

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