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Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit Paperback – April 5, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hepburn's son (with actor Mel Ferrer) shows his mother as a compassionate, emotional woman who searched for and offered love above all. He traces the roots of his mother's longing in her experiences with her distant father and the destruction of her native Belgium during WWII. Via photos and stories, he notes how Hepburn (1929-1993) aimed to live an everyday family life of home, school and holidays. Rendering her husbands respectfully and without off-color stories, Ferrer doesn't offer lascivious behind-the-scenes dramas or quips about directorial injustices. Instead, he lets designers and composers who worked with Hepburn talk about the actor's inimitable talents. Composer Henry Mancini believes her "quality of wistfulness" inspired the songs he wrote for her, especially Breakfast at Tiffany's "Moon River." Designer Cecil Beaton calls her an "authentic existential Galatea" with a voice containing the "quality of heartbreak." Ferrer also details Hepburn's influential friendship with clothing designer Hubert de Givenchy, including the dressmaker's generosity in Hepburn's final days. Directors William Wyler and Billy Wilder also appear, as do actors Gary Cooper and Fred Astaire (the latter was Hepburn's co-star in her favorite movie, Funny Face). Movie-related photos abound, but the most memorable images are of Hepburn's family and the children she met in her work with UNICEF. Her 1989 speech to members of the United Nations staff on the millions of dying children in developing countries concludes the book. What began as a son's remembrance and selective movie survey becomes a call to action. In this way, the work differs greatly from standard self-important star bios. 300 full-color and b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A family memoir.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671024795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671024796
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Michelle B. Braverman on December 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a completely beautiful book, lovely to look at and to read. I was, in fact, in tears after the first page. No one could have written this but someone as close as Sean was to his mother. The fact that he did, and did it so well, is a wonder and a gift to all Audrey fans. Yes, it's not a true "bio", but I don't think loving Audrey requires "all the facts please". Hers has always been a spirit that glowed beyond the silver screen. And it truly radiates from his heartfelt words, gorgeous pictures and presentation. It's the one book I would recommend to anyone who says "Why Audrey?" and the one book those who love her already must have.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By FabAudrey20 on November 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Audrey Hepburn is the closest thing I'll ever have to an idol in my life. If you've seen her in a film you'll know that she could melt the hardest heart with a look, and she seemed to be an angel on Earth. If you've read a biography on her, you'll know that she was far more than a pretty face and really was an angel on Earth. Sean Hepburn Ferrer's book on his mother does nothing to dispel this notion.
This book is not so much a biography or even a memoir so much as a scrapbook of sorts. He writes about their everyday life and how she just wanted Sean and his brother Luca to be raised and loved right, and there are long sections of just pictures. Featuring never before seen pictures and some lovely personal stories, you walk away from this book feeling that you sat down to dinner with the family and were immediately embraced by Audrey herself. Sean writes from the heart, the best place to write about Audrey from. I don't want to give much away because I really feel this is a book everyone should peruse for themselves, but I will say that this book was worth the long wait.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen J. on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Audrey Hepburn chose to never write her autobiography because
she was afraid of offending someone inadvertandly by
careless revelations.
Her son,Sean,writes a loving tribute of this lovely lady
whose beauty shines through on every page,as it did in her
films.Films such as "The Nun's Story",the musical "My Fair
Lady"and Truman Capote's "Breakfast At Tiffany's."
He also writes of how important his Mothers'work in UNICEF
became to her,in her later years,and in turn to himself.
Audrey was born in Holland and during World Warll she
suffered from malnutrition, brought on by a diet consisting
of tulip bulbs and water.She often went without food all
day.After the war ended,she was a beneficiary of UNICEF.
She understood the chidren of the Third World and their
suffering better than many celebrities.
In many ways,it is refreshing to read of Ms.Hepburn from
her eldest son's point of view.(Audrey had a younger son
she adored named Luca Dotti)from her second marriage.
This is a true love story.
For any woman who admired Audrey Hepburn,this is a
perfect Mother's Day Gift.For anyone,this is a
gift and the proceeds go to the "Audrey Hepburn
Children's Fund."
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Nadine on December 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The different accounts that Sean Hepburn-Ferrer's has shared with us are touching, private and intimate and give a true picture of the amazing person Audrey Hepburn was.
I began to read the book one evening before bed, I planned to read a few pages and then go to sleep. I couldn't put the book down. I read until I couldn't stay awake a moment longer, finishing the book when I woke up later that morning.
The 300+ photographs complimented the book perfecty. The addition of photographs from the family album only made the book more special.
Although I would have dearly loved to have been able to read Audreys autobiography, her premature death prevented that. I am so pleased that her son was able to write this book for her.
One point: If you re after a detailed biography, this is not what this book is. However after reading a biography, I would recomment this book.
Audrey Hepburn is certainly "An Elegant Spirit".
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If there is a polar opposite to Christina Crawford's scathing poor-me memoir, "Mommie Dearest", it has to be this loving tribute to Audrey Hepburn from her eldest son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer. Rather than being an exhaustive biography on the legendary film star (and enough of those exist anyway), it is more a very attractive coffee table book with remembrances from her colleagues, family friends and most importantly, Ferrer himself. It is a testament to Hepburn that all these books, especially this one, have been nothing less than respectful and at times downright reverential. There is no getting around the fact that she was well loved by those closest around her and certainly by her fans, me included. That she comes across as such a giving person merely validates what we all want to believe about her, and this becomes especially clear in Ferrer's account of her later years making goodwill trips to Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Somalia on behalf of UNICEF. And while as a fan, I was disappointed about her long absences from films from the late sixties until her death in 1993, Ferrer makes it clear how important motherhood was to her and how imperative it was for her to stay at home with her sons during those years. Just from the treasure trove of family photos, this book clearly shows that her dedication to them was and continues to be reciprocated.

The perspective of this book is understandably biased but fresh, and obviously Ferrer's access to his mother's personal belongings - family snapshots, paintings and drawings done by her, even her passports - builds an intimate story.
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