AN EXTRAORDINARILY INTIMATE INSIGHT INTO AUDREY HEPBURN’S LIFE.
LETTERS TO HER FATHER
Collection of 19 Autograph Letters Signed, 92 pages; octavo; Burgenstock and Tolochenaz in Switzerland, Madrid, and Rome; 1963 to 1980. Seventeen of the letters are written to her father Anthony Hepburn and two to Fidelma Hepburn, one just prior to her father’s death, and one shortly thereafter.
This collection of letters gives an intimate insight into Hepburn’s feelings and relationships, and documents her work, activities and events at many significant moments in her life from 1963 to 1980. The letters discuss Hepburn’s movies – Charade (1963) and My Fair Lady (1964). She also writes of her marriage to her first husband Mel Ferrer and his film work, and of her second marriage to Andrea Dotti. Not least of all, the letters reveal her deep love, caring for and education of her two sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti; her relationships with her mother, father, stepmother, stepbrother, aunt and dogs, Mr. Famous and Assam; and her strong attachment to her home and refuge, La Paisible in Tolochenaz, Switzerland.
Hepburn signs these letters either Audrey or variations on M. P. – an abbreviation for Monkey Puzzle, her father’s nickname for her. Apparently, he called her this because as a child she was a little monkey and hard to understand.
Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels and spent her childhood in Belgium, England and Holland. During World War II she lived in Arnhem, Netherlands, where she had been studying ballet when the war broke out. She suffered greatly from the German occupation of the Netherlands, both from malnutrition and severe psychological trauma.
Her father was a fascist in the 1930s and a Nazi sympathizer. He abruptly abandoned his family and it was not until the 1960s that Audrey Hepburn was able to track him down and, as these letters illustrate, reestablish a relationship with him. Barry Paris wrote in his biography of Hepburn that it is also “know that, after the war, Audrey learned through the Red Cross that he was alive and eventually mustered the courage to see him in Dublin in 1959. [‘It is hard for children who are dumped…. I never saw him from that time he left when I was six. But at age thirty, I had this great need and I traveled to Dublin with Mel. My father was living in a tiny apartment, just two rooms. He looked the way I remember him. Older, yes, but much the same. Slim and tall. He was married to a woman some thirty-odd years his junior, almost my age.’ …Audrey attributed their long separation to…fear that his fascist politics and imprisonment might hurt her reputation.] Unknown is the fact that he came to visit her in Switzerland in the late sixties and that, ever after, she kept a photo of him and herself from that visit in her dressing room. In October 1980, when Hepburn received word that her father was gravely ill, she desperately wanted to see him again but was full of trepidation. She asked Rob [Wolders] to come with her. ‘We flew to Dublin, and it was an amazing experience’ Wolders recalls. ‘…He said extraordinary things about [Audrey] and about his regrets for not having given her more in her childhood, for not showing his love for her.’ Joseph Hepburn-Ruston died the next day, October 16, 1980, at the age of ninety…. His fascist past would be buried with him… ‘What’s important,’ says Wolders, ‘is that she had no bitterness toward him… She didn’t hate him for his fascism, but she became what she was in reaction to it.’ During an interview ten years later, Phil Donahue observed that at least her father ‘died knowing you loved him’ ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘and I knew that he loved me. It’s always better late than never’” [Barry Paris, Audrey Hepburn].
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