May 4 – Happy Birthday, Audrey Hepburn

Posted on May 4, 2016

Audrey Hepburn is one of the most famous actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age, with starring roles in tons of big-time movies—including one of my favorites, My Fair Lady.

She got lots of nominations and awards and is one of the few people who have won Academy (motion picture), Emmy (TV), Grammy (music), and Tony (live Broadway theater) Awards.

She even appears in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame!

But I don't want to talk too much about that. I want to acknowledge that Hepburn devoted a lot of her time and effort to helping other people. Much of her later life was devoted to UNICEF, the United Nation organization that works on improving children's lives.

Most people know about the acting, the awards, her wonderful fashion sense, and her amazing work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. But...did you know that she bravely worked to help people during World War II?

Hepburn was born in Belgium on this date in 1929. Her father was a British businessman, and her mother was a Dutch baroness. The family lived in several different nations, and Hepburn ended up being able to speak five languagesL English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian.

Hepburn's parents were members of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s—and remember, the Nazis were fascists—and Hepburn's dad ended up becoming an actual Nazi sympathizer! But at that point he left the family and didn't see Hepburn at all for decades.

When Britain entered World War II, declaring war on Hitler and the Nazi's, Hepburn's mother moved the with her children to the Netherlands. Audrey was ten years old. Her mother hoped that the Dutch would remain neutral, as they had during World War I. But instead, Germany invaded and occupied the Netherlands.

Hepburn's family endured a lot of hardships, including being malnourished because the Germans cut off the Dutch food supplies. At one point, the Dutch people started making flour out of tulip bulbs.

But Hepburn didn't sit around a complain. She worked for the Dutch resistance! She was already a wonderful ballet dancer at age 14, and she performed for fundraisers and donated the proceeds to the Dutch people who were still fighting the Nazis. She also sometimes delivered messages and packages.

Of course, Hepburn saw a lot of terrible stuff. But she also saw how much relief being flown in from other countries helped people. This is one reason she worked with such dedication to help people in disasters or poverty.

Two more things:

  1. I read in some places that Hepburn's mom, as well as her dad, was pro-Nazi. That doesn't seem to jive with other things I read, and I am inclined not to believe that, especially given the fact that her mom's own brother was killed by the Nazis, and the family endured a lot of hardships at their hands.

    No matter what the truth about her mom, Hepburn actively worked against the Nazis. And she was courageous to do so; she would have been executed if her work for the Dutch resistance was discovered.
  2. There are a lot of quotes attributed to Hepburn, including a lot in which she gives “beauty tips” like “for beautiful eyes, look for the good in others,” or she proclaims that she believes in pink, in manicures, in kissing, on and on. There doesn't seem to be any evidence at all that she said any of those things. Here's one that she DID say:

Also on this date:

Greenery Day in Japan

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