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With Roman Holiday, which earned her the 1953 best-actress Oscar, Audrey Hepburn became not just a major Hollywood star but also a living icon for the Eternal City.

Roman Holiday (1953), made only a short time after World War II, when people were still recovering from the loss and deprivation it had caused. With that film Audrey Hepburn became almost a second Colosseum: an icon of the city, an icon of a different, free-and-easy Roman spirit that was symbolized by a girl who traveled the world on a Vespa. In 1955 she came to Rome again to film the colossal War and Peace at Cinecittà. When she stepped off the airplane at Ciampino Airport, she was welcomed as a foreign star (at the time mistaken for an American), but by then she was Roman by adoption.

These were the years of Rome as “Hollywood on the Tiber,” a nickname that dated back to Quo Vadis (1951), when the city was transformed into a giant film set. The major film companies sent their stars to Rome, from Montgomery Clift to Orson Welles to Anthony Perkins (photographed chatting with Audrey during a flight to Taormina), from Shelley Winters to Ava Gardner. The Italians didn’t just stand there looking. With investments from producers such as Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis, Italian cinema proved itself capable of giving lessons and collecting awards, even from America’s Hollywood—La Strada (1954) and Le Notti di Cabiria (1957), both directed by Federico Fellini. Along with these giant producers came meticulous craftsmen who were inspired to create epic films; their efforts were made public by cunning press agents. The Romans experienced the real-life dream of seeing foreign stars descend from the silver screen to stroll the streets of their city, pursued by hordes of photographers eager to immortalize them.

Audrey Hepburn the star,  whether public or private; she was always true to herself. A woman who loved to care for flowers, she cultivated her life with grace and dedication.

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