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Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Celebrity biographer Spoto (The Art of Alfred Hitchcock) offers a sparkling, fawning life of the European gamine whom America took to instantly with her 1953 debut in Roman Holiday. Hepburn (1929–1993) held the irresistible charm of a childlike star naïvely unaware of her appeal, from her first big break at age 22 when selected by Colette herself to play the Broadway version of Gigi. Born to a Dutch baroness and an English ne'er-do-well (and fascist sympathizer) who separated when she was six, Hepburn and her mother underwent horrendous deprivations during the Nazi occupation of Holland during WWII; her early ambition to become a ballet dancer was undermined by inadequate nutrition and training. Her early film successes flowed astonishingly, however, from Sabrina, Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon, Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady to attempts at roles with more gravitas, as in The Nun's Story and Wait Until Dark. Often paired with older, avuncular leads, Hepburn was viewed as unerotic, yet Spoto tracks her steamy relationships with playboys and co-stars, and marriage to American actor-director Mel Ferrer, who often acted as her Pygmalion. Her later work with UNICEF is sketched too briefly. Spoto's previous Hollywood biographies allow the author authoritative access to Hepburn. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

Spoto's career has taken on an interesting split personality lately, as he has alternated between celebrity biographies (of Ingrid Bergman and Jackie Onassis, for example) and thoughtful accounts of such religious figures as Jesus and St. Francis. Here he returns to celebrities but chooses a subject, Audrey Hepburn, whose image makes her seem almost ethereal. And yet, as Spoto reveals, her life was plagued with all-too-human difficulties and sorrows. Virtually abandoned by her father, Audrey spent her childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland. Her parents had been Fascists, but Hepburn's mother's personal experience with Nazi brutality led her to join the Dutch Resistance, sometimes using young Audrey in her work. The Hepburn vulnerability, with which moviegoers so identified, originated in this time of upheaval, but Spoto reveals that she also developed a good deal of steel in her spine, a useful attribute in her later life, when she faced myriad personal problems, particularly with her husbands. Several good biographies of Hepburn have been published recently, including a photographic memoir by her son, Sean Ferrar (2003), from which Spoto borrows generously here. But he also does a seamless job of weaving together his own research and interviews, and he offers keen-eyed insights and analyses of Hepburn's movies. Unlike so many biographies, this one is not simply a recitation of the subject's accomplishments. Spoto's digs beneath the surface, giving readers strong images of both actress and woman, and he does so in way that is, like Audrey Hepburn, quite elegant. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; First Edition edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739474790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307237583
  • ASIN: 0307237583
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There are already a number of posthumous biographies of the fabled star on the market, the most notable being her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer's loving 2003 memoir, "Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers". Author Donald Spoto adds another one, a respectful portrait that may lack the personal detail Ferrer provides but at the same time, allows enough distance from the subject to be a bit more objective. In 1983, Spoto wrote a fascinating profile of Alfred Hitchcock where the legendary filmmaker came across as a repressed, twisted individual whose outlet was the terror he could instill in his films. This time, he etches an in-depth portrait of a woman whose vulnerability, personal insecurity, and innate love of family endeared her to all those exposed to her - Hepburn's inner circle, friends, colleagues, lovers and ultimately the world.

The facts of her life and career are already well known - near-starvation during WWII where she spent her childhood in beleaguered Belgium and Holland, a legendary screen career sparked by a fortuitous debut in 1953's "Roman Holiday", and her selfless work on behalf of UNICEF during her later years. What Spoto adds are multi-textured portraits of Hepburn's parents, surprisingly both Fascist sympathizers whose opinions diverged during the war - he abandoned the family with his beliefs intact, while her mother grew frustrated and joined the resistance movement. Hepburn's film career is well documented here, as are her personal relationships. She wed twice, bearing sons with each marriage - her first husband, Mel Ferrer, is described by her friends as controlling and guardedly jealous of her meteoric success, while her second husband, Andrea Dotti, a psychiatrist, is shown to be a notorious womanizer.
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Format: Hardcover
Donald Spoto's new biography of Audrey Hepburn will please those who wish to gain a fuller understanding of Ms. Hepburn's private life and rise to stardom.

Spoto is most effective when revealing the private Hepburn: her early years in World War II Holland; her father's early departure from the family; her complex and frequently unsatisfying relationship with her mother; her disappointing marriages to Mel Ferrer and Andrea Dotti; her joy in her sons; and the happiness she ultimately found with Robert Wolders and her work on behalf of UNICEF.

The Audrey Hepburn who emerges from Spoto's pages shows admirable discipline-- she prepares rigorously for each of her roles and manages her film career and image adroitly-- combined with an affecting insecurity. Hepburn is always anxious to please family, colleagues and friends, is uncertain about her beauty (she feels that she is too angular and that her nose is too large), and experiences bouts of nerves on movie sets and before television and other public appearances. Her insecurity is perhaps the product of the thread of sadness that runs through her personal life: an absent father, a war-torn childhood, a critical mother, and unhappy marriages. These difficulties contrast starkly with the glamour and success of Hepburn's superb film career.

Hepburn also emerges as a woman of depth and principle-- her favorite role is that of Sister Luke in A Nun's Story, and she maintains a lifelong friendship with the former nun on whose life the film is based. Hepburn also takes her work with UNICEF seriously, researching her own speeches and traveling globally to disaster sites.
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Format: Hardcover
When I think of some of his previous work, Donald Spoto's priorities seem geared towards including enough scintillating information for good PR and improved sales. Perhaps I've been unfair. Not only does has he done historical work (Amazon.com called my attention to his historical biographies), but this is a well-researched, non-sensationalist biography of Ms. Hepburn. If anything, it could have standed something less objective, some sort of socio-cultural analysis of how we were and remain completely smitten with her, but Mr. Spoto shows restraint. A remarkable, truely admirable figure, this book illuminates some of her many roles both in and outside of Hollywood. There are some lovely black and white photos, but not many; one's hnger for that image must be satisfied elsewhere. One book cannot do its subject justice, but this is a very good beginning. You can appreciate Ms. Hepburn without having seen a single one of her films, but I can't think of one good reason why you'd want to.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I watched two of Ms Hepburn's movies, My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany's, as a teenager and was blown away by Audrey Hepburn's grace and beauty. Donald Spoto's book elaborates on the source of this magic and mystery, and the REAL Audrey Hepburn is even more beautiful and loveable than the public persona. The book is well written and gives lots of information in practical, easy language. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who has seen Audrey Hepburn in a movie and wonders how such a gorgeous creature really lived.
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