At a time when sexy bombshells such as Marilyn Monroe were all the rage, wispy Audrey Hepburn rose to the top of the Hollywood heap and she is making a comeback in GAP commercials that feature a dance she did in the film "Funny Face."
In the book "Enchantment: The life of Audrey Hepburn," author Donald Spoto chronicles her rise to stardom — something he said she never really wanted.
"She wanted to be a dancer but her experience during the second World War with her family in Holland left her almost on the brink of starvation," Spoto told The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "The war experience was simply dreadful. She was malnourished; she was in retched physical condition. When she went to London to study ballet, it was really too late. She didn't have the stamina for it."
Spoto said she got a few jobs playing cameo roles in some small British comedies in the late '40s and '50s but got her big break when she was discovered in Rome.
Hepburn, known for her 20-inch waist, made almost 30 films throughout her career including "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "My Fair Lady" and "Roman Holiday," for which she won an Oscar when still only in her early 20s. But perhaps even more than a movie star, she is a fashion icon. Spoto said her European sense of style didn't come from a stylist, like many celebrities today, but was "innate."
"Clothes were never about showing herself off, they were about showing respect for the people you're with," Spoto said. "You dress appropriately but you never dress in such a way that people will remember you or, you know, rather than the clothes, let's say. It's an extraordinary thing because, for Audrey, fame and fashion had no great cache for her. She was not interested in pursuing fame."
Despite all her success, one thing Spoto said Hepburn wanted more than anything else was a happy family life. She married twice and had a son with each husband, but was never able to make a marriage work.
"By her own statement, she said the thing I want most in the world is to love and be loved," Spoto said. "It's extremely difficult to sustain marriages under the pressure and the enormous burden of fame. Her marriages were not successful. She worked very hard at them. But they did not work out, and they were the causes of some of the terrible episodes of depression in her lifetime. This is part of the story that needs to be told, I believe, because it's linked up to her incredible courage, to her incredible ability to turn away from absorption with her own suffering and reach out to other people, which she did."
Later in life, Hepburn, who died in 1993, became the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and spent the rest of her life raising money to help children in countries all around the world. She paved the ways for other philanthropic stars like Angelina Jolie.
To read an excerpt of "Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn," click here.