She was born in 1929 as the daughter of an English banker and a Dutch baroness – both fascist sympathizers. Although born in Belgium, she received the british nationality due to the nationality law of that time.
Trying to escape the World War II, she and her family moved to the Netherlands, where she was trained in ballet with Winja Marova. After the Germans invaded the Netherlands, she adopted the alias Edda van Heemstra – an english sounding name would have been too dagerous at the time. The family struggled: brothers were deported to a labour camp in Germany whilst she suffered from malnutrition, anaemia, oedema and respiratory problems.
In an interview, she once said: “I have memories. More than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on to the train. I was a child observing a child.”
By the end of the war she had become a proficient ballet dance, which surely contributed to her being a synonymous of elegance. The family moved to London, where she studied Ballet at the Ballet Rambert. Her future was promissing but according to Rambert she would not be able to become a prima ballerina because of her height and her malnutrition.
She started playing small roles in english movies. Whilst filming a small part in the the English and French production “Monte Carlo Baby”, a french novelist called Colette offered her a leading role in the Broadway play Gigi. This debut earned her a Theatre World Award.
And that was just the beginning of her career. Her debut film was Roman Holiday (1953) – with this film she won The Academy-Award for Best Actress, The BAFTA for Best British Actress in a Leading Role and the Golden Globe for Best Actress. Following her success in this movie, she stared Sabrina (1954). This is one of my favourite movies ever, a romantic Cinderella Story. For her Performance she was nominated for the 1954 Academy Award for Best Actress and she won the BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
In 1992 she began suffering from abdominal pain caused by a very rare appendiceal cancer, sadly she died in 1993 at her home in Switzerland. Her funeral services were presided over by Pastor Maurice Eindinger, while Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (UNICEF) delivered a eulogy. Family and friends were present to bid her a last farewell, including designer Hubert de Givenchy and actors Alain Delon and Roger Moore. Flower arrangements were sent to the funeral by The Dutch royal family and Elizabeth Taylor.
She played so many lovely movies but the most of us know her for her performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Today would have been her 85th birthday – she was an Academy-Award winning actress, a humanitarian and Goodwill Ambasador of UNICEF and also the fashion icon in the 20th century: She was Audrey Hepburn.