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Interesting Facts About Audrey Hepburn's Life You Probably Never Knew

Updated September 30, 2020 226.4k views14 items

Audrey Hepburn is quite possibly one of Hollywood's most timeless stars. Born in Belgium in 1929, she went on to become an actress, model, dancer, and humanitarian, as well as a beauty and fashion legend. Audrey Hepburn's movies and her signature style stood the test of time, revered decades after she passed away in 1993. But there are plenty of things about Audrey Hepburn's life most people don't know. Despite being a beloved Hollywood starlet, her life wasn't all roses.

Away from the camera, she faced struggles and triumphs. There are plenty amazing facts about Audrey Hepburn that go beyond her movies. Dysfunctional parents, two high profile and failed marriages, and a lifetime of medical issues and poor health were also part of the reality behind the public facade. Here are some of the things you probably didn't know about Audrey Hepburn.

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  • Hepburn's 'Little Black Dress' Was Auctioned For Close To One Million Dollars, But Wasn't Worn In The Film

    Hepburn worked closely with the designer Hubert de Givenchy. In 1961, he designed what was actually a prototype of the black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's. The bottom part of this dress would be redesigned by Paramount's designer Edith Head, chiefly to remove the long leg slit that was considered too revealing. Following the film's production, the dresses worn by Hepburn in the film were destroyed.

    Givenchy retained three copies of his original design, one of which was given to a friend, author Dominic Lapierre, to auction off to benefit the City of Joy Foundation, a charity based in Calcutta, India. Christie's auctioned this dress for close to a million dollars in December 2006. However, this and two other dresses purported to be from the film were never worn in Breakfast At Tiffany's.

  • Her Love Life Was Rather Stormy

    Photo: Unknown photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    After a fairly serious affair with the married William Holden while filming Sabrina, Hepburn moved on after discovering Holden had undergone a vasectomy. She then met and married Mel Ferrer. She had two miscarriages before giving birth to a boy, Sean Ferrer, in 1960. After two more miscarriages and mutual infidelity, the couple would divorce in 1968. Despite her connection with Ferrer through her son, Hepburn would only speak with him two more times for the rest of her life.

    She quickly remarried an Italian psychologist, Andrea Dotti, and had another son, Lucca Dotti, in 1970. This marriage would last until a divorce in 1982. Hepburn would never remarry, but would become involved with actor Robert Wolders (pictured above), a relationship which lasted until her death in 1993. 

  • Her Vocals Were Dubbed In 'My Fair Lady'

    Photo: Warner Bros. / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    When Warner Brothers decided to produce My Fair Lady, they determined Julie Andrews was not big enough of a star to carry the lead female role of Eliza Doolittle. But casting Hepburn instead left the studio with another problem. Hepburn just didn't have the vocal ability required for such a demanding musical. Instead, all of her singing would be dubbed by Marnie Nixon, a gifted soprano who also dubbed in vocals for Natalie Wood In West Side Story and Deborah Kerr in The King and I. 

    Although this sleight of hand was kept from the public, stories that this was done secretly without Hepburn's knowledge are untrue. You can compare the two vocalists' rendition of "I Could have Danced All Night," here.

  • Her Film Breakthrough Came In 'Roman Holiday'

    Photo: Trailer Screenshot / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In 1948, Hepburn's mother, who was quite ambitious about her daughter's show business career, moved both of them to London. As the family fortune was completely depleted by the war, she supported both Hepburn and herself as a cook and menial worker, quite a comedown for such an aristocrat.

    Audrey initially got small parts as a chorus girl and bit film parts until she was cast in the title role of the 1951 play Gigi on Broadway, quite a step up from previous casting. Her first starring role in a Hollywood film was the 1953 movie Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck, a performance that won her the Academy Award. Her performance as a princess wanting to see the sights of Rome on her own made her an international star. In addition to her best actress Oscar, she won the BAFTA award for Best British actress and the Golden Globe, the first time an actress won all three awards for a single performance.