From One Wild Oat to Always

About a month ago, I decided to watch one Audrey Hepburn movie a day, in chronological order, to study several aspects of her acting, mannerisms, and costumes (for a specific little project I’m working on). Some earlier films are a bit more difficult to find but fortunately there are clips on YouTube! And I have a wonderful friend who somehow found the movies I was missing and was able to send them to me, so my collection is nearly complete, now!

I kept my notes as I went along, to share here. I’m not reviewing the movies or going into depth, just recording some impressions. I would be a terrible movie critic!

I started with One Wild Oat, in which she plays a receptionist at a hotel. I’d seen the film before, but this time I noticed a shocking word being censored from that scene! I had to watch it again to make sure my ears and eyes didn’t deceive me. Pretty funny, I didn’t know this sort of thing was done! What word, you ask? Well, Stanley Holloway (who she works with again in My Fair Lady – what a wonderful reunion it must have been!) refers to his mistress as a female dog….

The second film was Laughter in Paradise, which I don’t own, but found her short scenes from on YouTube, so that would have to do for now. This obviously didn’t count as my film for the day. In this film she was a cigarette girl, and once again only had a few lines. Her part was so small though, I didn’t really feel I needed to find and watch the whole thing.

The next film is Lavender Hill Mob. I’d seen it before, but again, don’t own this one. And little Audrey only has one line as Chiquita. “Oh but how sweet of you!” So I found that scene on YouTube and skipped the rest of the film, because… well, I’m not studying everybody else!

Young Wives Tale comes next, and she had a larger role to play in this one. She plays one of the tenants of the building, named Eve. The main characters are two other couples who live there. It’s an entertaining film, even if Audrey isn’t the star! I was quite fascinated by Joan Greenwood’s voice and accent and wondered if Audrey took any inspiration from her. I’m definitely going to be watching a few of Joan’s films in the near future.

Now We Go to Monte Carlo! Or rather, Nous irons á Monte Carlo, because I have yet to find the English version of this film. I would absolutely love to see it. My French is sadly not good enough to understand everything that is said. I get the gist of it, and understand about 50%, maybe. It’s a fun film, although I didn’t always follow the plot!

I’ve been wanting to watch Secret People again for a while, so I was happy to sit down to that. Somehow every time, I’ve forgotten enough of it that I’m still not sure what comes next. It’s lovely to see Audrey dancing, and I’m sure she enjoyed that role. I own a book written about the making of the film, however, and apparently it was absolutely freezing when they filmed the dance sequence at the theatre and she wasn’t able to dance en pointe because of her edema.

Roman Holiday is such a sweet film and of course I’ve seen it multiple times. I have to confess, I’m going to skip watching this one, as I don’t want to make myself tired of it. I can’t seem to watch films over and over the way I did when I was a kid! I’ve seen it recently, besides. I noticed by this film, she’s definitely worked on her voice and lowered it, slowed down her speech… which is why I’m wondering if Joan was any inspiration, along with her vocal coach.

Sabrina I do love, however I always found the ending a bit unlikely. Yes, I personally was in a relationship with someone 20 years my senior, but I just don’t buy that Sabrina and Linus really fell for each other. And that David has no interest in her by the end of the film, either. Everything seems forced in this script. That dress though… sigh! I will soon have my own version of it… I feel I’ve been waiting forever.

It’s 1867 now. War and Peace. I’ve only seen this one time before. It’s over 3 hours long and took me two days to finish, this time. I am not all that interested in war scenes, so I did some multi-tasking during those. I have not read the book nor seen any other versions of it, so I can’t compare it to anything. I found myself a bit frustrated with her character, saying she was in love with not one, but two men, after meeting them both just once. I was loving the dresses, however. Especially her ballgown. So many dresses I want. I tell myself “one at a time, one at a time!” But I also know I’m not getting any younger and I would love to feel like a princess in these gorgeous gowns. I don’t get to dress up nearly enough!

On the same DVD I have The Mayerling, I also have A Rainy Day in Paradise Junction, which I believe was made sometime right after Roman Holiday. She’s wearing her Princess Ann neck scarf, it seems, and her hair is still short. Even though it’s not a film, I figured I would re-watch this one as well. I remember my excitement over discovering it years ago in the Paley Museum in Beverly Hills. I never even knew it even existed! It’s interesting to see this live television show, something not many Audrey fans these days have seen. A story of dreams and disappointment… and another example of smoking for me! Audrey is so darn cute and perfectly photogenic in everything.

Back to Mayerling, 1889. The second film she starred in alongside her husband, Mel. Another television special, but I believe it counts! And is once again, something I’ve only seen once or twice before. It happens to be on Amazon (surprise!) so fortunately I could watch it there. It’s definitely not one of my favourite Audrey films, but it’s always wonderful to see her. The costumes of course, even in black and white, are to die for. But the characters are a bit flat, and I have questions. It’s based on a true story, but they seem to have done such a basic job of dramatizing it. I definitely question the idea that on their last (and only?) night together, she would simply fall asleep fully clothed and he would kill them both in the morning as she slept. Your last night alive, together, and you wouldn’t…. ? OK. But focusing on Audrey, as with every movie I watch, I think how unique Audrey is, and what a job anybody would have of imitating her successfully and sincerely for the upcoming series. They should probably just use CGI and someone very good at imitating voices. I am only half joking.

Funny Face. I love the fashion, and I know it’s a musical and they usually aren’t very deep, but once again her character falls in love with someone she hardly knows. But it really seems out of character for her, here. I could see it happening gradually over a longer period of time, but not within the several days this appears to take place over. Yes yes, suspend your disbelief, it’s a musical. But honestly, she doesn’t know him at all. Quiz Jo on Dick and she won’t know anything but his name.

Love in the Afternoon. These films certainly are wonderful fashion shows, I adore nearly everything she wears, and this movie is no exception. Also no exception to the “I met a man, don’t know much about him, but have fallen in love” theme. Actually, I take that back. She knows this guy is a player, she knows nearly every woman he’s had an affair with, and still falls for him. I don’t see it ending well. It’s a bit disturbing because she’s playing a teenager as well. They certainly had interesting ideas of what was acceptable and what wasn’t back then. I know they altered the ending for more prudish American audiences, but still. I’m sorry to be so critical of these movies! I love Audrey, but observing the characters and plots, well…

I had a little trouble staying focused with Green Mansions, it’s never really been one of my favourites and I haven’t seen it many times. Her husband, Mel Ferrer, directed it, and I can imagine she really enjoyed that experience. Audrey is of course beautiful, and her acting is not terrible. She’s the best actor in the movie, I would say. There are few characters, but they all seem to overact. A lot. The dialogue is pretty bad too. It would be interesting to see a modern telling of this story. I believe it’s based on a book, and I wonder how good the book is. And I wonder how Audrey would play it for the 21st century…

Oh, The Nun’s Story. This is probably my favourite Audrey film. I used to have a beautiful promotional photo from the film framed and hung on my wall, she was kneeling in prayer… sadly, it was lost or stolen when I sublet my home out several years ago. I miss it. Anyway. There’s a bit of bad acting in tthe film by a few actors, but it’s not as distracting as it is in Green Mansions, for example. I also like the more serious tone, and the fact that it was shot on location. The contemplative life is one I’ve thought about and feel drawn to, in a way. But I know (especially after years on my own) I would have a difficult time living for that bell… a life against nature. As a woman, I don’t think I would survive it. But as an actress, I would really love to play a nun. I’ve just finished reading the book as well, and was happy to learn even more of the story. I highly recommend the book and the film.

The Unforgiven. This one definitely stands out among her films. Audrey Hepburn? In a Western? I’ve never gotten into Westerns, this is one of the very few I’ve watched, but I still want to say it’s a stereotypical Western. Cowboys and Indians… I feel like more could have been done with the story, and I felt bad for the Indians who just wanted their sister to be returned to them. This could have been talked out! But many people die, instead, of course. Audrey’s accent always stood out to me in this film. I know she doesn’t have a strong British-English accent, but it’s not really American either. And I often wonder how much of the filming and what scenes were done after her fall from the horse.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Well everybody’s seen this a dozen times! I wouldn’t be surprised if I had most of it memorized. I try not to watch it too often, as with most films, so I don’t completely tire of it. It’s interesting how I feel Audrey has aged between her last film and this one. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because it’s the first time she’s really had long hair. It was sort of long in The Nun’s Story but she had extensions as well, and then everything was hidden under that coif. Then in The Unforgiven it was all extensions, you could tell her short hair was pinned back. But in Breakfast at Tiffany’s it’s actually long. She had had her son Sean by this point and I wonder if motherhood had sort of given her a new maturity. Because to me there is a growth between The Unforgiven and all the films that come after. I can’t completely put my finger on it.

I haven’t seen The Children’s Hour in a while, but it’s definitely a good one. It keeps my attention, although I ask myself why it was shot in black and white when colour was definitely an option by then. It stirs an interest in me to read the original book or play, as well. I know it’s based on a true story. I wonder how they would have shot it had they had less restrictions on what they could not say or show in film. I know it was the second time William Wyler had based a film on this story, the first time in the 1930s when there were even more restrictions. I always wonder what Hollywood would have been like had the censors not come about. I do believe we should be responsible with what we create, but I also feel that policing what we make and what we see is not really the answer. It does drive people to be more creative in how to tell their stories, work around the censors, be less obvious, which in a way is nice, and can turn out some beautifully creative scripts and shots, but can be so destructive as well.

Charade. I’ve seen this one several times. The first few times were so far apart I really couldn’t remember what happened when I saw it again, which is pretty enjoyable – to be able to watch a film two or three times and still be in suspense. It’s a good film, although again she’s falling for a man she doesn’t know, who keeps lying to her about who he is, what his name is… but she doesn’t care. Would this work in reverse, with a man falling for a woman who keeps lying to him? I don’t know. What is with these films. How is she in love with him?

Paris When it Sizzles. I wonder what audiences thought, two pictures in a row, Audrey in Paris. This isn’t a great movie, but I always enjoyed it just because it was silly. “I’m like, so happy for you.” I wish Audrey had done more comedy.

My Fair Lady. A classic, even though they didn’t use her voice. I very much wish they would dub her back in for a special release. You can tell when it’s Marni singing and it’s distracting. They dubbed Freddie though, too, poor thing. I adore Rex Harrison in this. Actually haven’t seen him in anything else. Was he in any other films? Well there’s something I need to know. Once again, wishing for every costume in this film. I know this is fiction, it’s a film, a musical… and so much is not realistic, but once in a while something bothers me. In the span of one song, Eliza can go from talking like a Cockney girl to speaking like Audrey Hepburn. How. Just how. Please teach me.

How to Steal a Million. We’re getting into the 1960s and styles I’m not as fond of. Audrey of course looks cute, and it’s an entertaining story. And a lesson in “read the fine print before signing anything.” Which nobody ever does, let’s face it.

Two for the Road. For some reason I put this movie on frequently last year while I was working on sewing projects. Maybe it was the French countryside, the 60’s… the pace of the film… It’s not a terribly upbeat film, but I like it all the same. And after a few viewings you start figuring out the timeline. I remember it may have been my first time seeing it, on my first trip to Paris in a theatre where they had a showing for a group of film buffs. I went with a friend and enjoyed it on the big screen. I don’t remember much more than that!

Wait Until Dark. Another one I hadn’t seen in a while. Actually I probably haven’t seen it since before I worked on Alan Arkin’s show, the Kominsky Method at Warner Brothers. That was a wonderful time. And it turns out, according to the plaque on the wall of one of the soundstages, that they filmed a part of Wait Until Dark on that same stage! Anyway, it’s a good film. And funny because, similar to The Children’s Hour, it takes place mainly in one setting. Probably because they were both based on plays, of course. It must be an emotionally intense play to perform night after night. Although I don’t know any blind people, personally, I think Audrey did a good job. I would love to learn more about life without sight and how people learn to get about in their daily lives.

Robin and Marian. I’d only seen this film once before, hated the ending, and had no desire to watch it again… so it was time to watch it again! I couldn’t tell if it was a drama or comedy, but I enjoyed it a bit more than before. I still hate the ending and also wonder how Maid Marian would have that perm. I thought nuns shaved their heads, but I am not an expert on nuns.

Bloodline. This may be the first Audrey film where I am not interested at all in the wardrobe. Even her habit in Robin and Marian was more interesting than the clothes she wore in this film. But it’s just not my style, I know. That hair is not my favourite (on anybody!!) either. This is also a film I’ve only seen once in the past, and it’s still not a favourite. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention but I never understood the link between the snuff films and nude women being murdered, and the storyline. I’m Googling now and still can’t really see why that needed to be in there. Other little details were annoying as well, like the very modern looking photos in that ancient photo album. Oh well.

They All Laughed. I didn’t laugh the first time I saw this movie, and I’m not laughing so much this time either. OK, there are moments, and I can see how they’re trying to make it funny. It’s interesting to see Audrey’s son Sean in the role of Jose. It’s also sobering to think that Dorothy Stratten was killed by her ex-husband shortly before the film was released. I have a friend who was working at the Playboy mansion when it happened, and was even the one to answer the phone when the phone call was received. So tragic. And the reason why we need conflict resolution and critical thinking and the like taught to children.

Love Among Thieves. I remember enjoying this one, and I did enjoy it again this time. Even though Robert Wagner knows something about Natalie Wood’s death. But still… the movie wasn’t bad, it was sort of old-fashioned and much more enjoyable than the previous two films. And Audrey surprises us all with her piano playing ability! She’s amazing.

Last but not least, Always. Another film I’d only seen once before. I remember being disappointed that Audrey wasn’t in it very much. But on my second watch, I did enjoy the film, and doubly enjoyed her appearances. My envy of her children for growing up with such an amazing mother was triggered, though. I love my own mom, but especially in this role Audrey is just such a soothing presence. You can imagine she was a very good listener and could really make you feel she cared. I think I’ve spent too much of my life looking for someone like that, rather than being someone like that, and still hoping I can change.

So now I’ve made it through all of her movies! It took longer than I planned, but not by much. And I enjoyed watching her grow and age. How interesting it must be to grow up on film like that. And how wonderful to be able to leave such classic works behind.

I must continue to immerse myself in Audrey, to learn her mannerisms and intonation. I’ve been working (well… slowly. I really need to put more effort into it!!) on Dutch and learning to speak it as she spoke it (which I’m told is very proper, and with an accent, which, as a semi-French-speaking American, shouldn’t be too difficult). It does help that I have a Dutch boyfriend and have been spending plenty of time in Holland. Fingers crossed we can sort out a way to keep me here!

This post has been long enough so I’m going to end it here! What is your favourite and least favourite Audrey movie?

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