We look at six facts that may surprise you about the charismatic muse and humanitarian.
The actress was only 63 years old when she died of cancer in 1993, but she packed more living into her time on earth than most people could do in a century. Everyone knows that she was the designer Givenchy’s muse, that she retired from acting to do relief work for UNICEF and that women still show up at Tiffany’s with bags of pastries thanks to Hepburn’s iconic performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, though seemingly every moment of her adult life was documented, there’s still a lot that most people don’t know about the glamorous movie star. Here are six lesser-known facts about Audrey Hepburn.
Audrey Hepburn Helped The Resistance During World War II, But Her Parents Were Nazi Sympathizers
Audrey Hepburn's activism during World War II was always a part of her official biography. The British-born actress moved to Holland during the war because her Dutch mother believed they would be safe in a country that had pledged to stay neutral. The Nazis invaded anyway. Hepburn, like millions of others, nearly starved when the Nazis cut off food supplies. Her envied slender figure was the result of being malnourished during adolescence.
According to legend, the teenaged Hepburn did what she could to support the Resistance. During her screen test for Roman Holiday, she recalled performing ballet for audiences that were afraid to applaud because they didn't want the Nazis to catch them. She donated the money she earned from her recitals to the Resistance. Like many other Dutch children, she occasionally acted as a courier, delivering papers and money from one group of resistance workers to another. Children were given this work because the Nazis were unlikely to search them. Hepburn's Hollywood handlers would publicize her bravery during the war, but they did their best to hide the fact that her parents were rooting for the Nazis.
Hepburn's father, Joseph, who abandoned her when she was a little girl, and her mother, Ella, were members of the British Union of Fascists. In 1935, they toured Germany with other members of the organization, including the notorious Mitford sisters, British aristocrats who were jailed for their Nazi sympathies. After Hepburn’s parents divorced, Ella returned to Germany to attend the Nuremberg rallies and wrote an enthusiastic account of the experience for fascist magazine The Blackshirt. Joseph was investigated by the British House of Commons for receiving seed money to start a newspaper from Germans with ties to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He was imprisoned as an enemy of the state for the duration of the war.
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