Book Review: Audrey Hepburn, La Parisienne – ‘That’s The Girl!’

Book Review: Audrey Hepburn, La Parisienne – ‘That’s The Girl!’

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others, for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness, and for poise, walk with the knowledge you are never alone.” -Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)

“Audrey Hepburn’s passionate love affair with Paris shaped her sense of style,” says Marc Lemonier, the author of a fascinating, just published bilingual book about the iconic actress and style maven. 

It’s the summer of 1953, when Audrey Hepburn, then 24, packs her suitcase and travels to Paris for a life changing rendezvous. It’s to meet with a young couturier named Hubert de Givenchy. However, there was confusion. It seems that Givenchy and his team were expecting the arrival of the actress Katherine Hepburn! However, the atmosphere changed when Audrey insisted on trying on a suit she needed for her part in the film Sabrina. Then something magical happened, Givenchy & Co. were impressed at the sight of beautiful Audrey – her posture, her aura – and the designer invited her to dinner at a Left Bank bistro. This led to a lifelong friendship; Audrey became Givenchy’s muse and inspiration.  

She was born on May 4th, 1929 in Ixelles, the chic district of Brussels. Her mother was Baroness Ella and her father Joseph Ruston was British. Marc Lemonier’s fascinating book traces her life in Holland, Great Britain and the USA – Audrey never actually resided in France – and then Switzerland where she lived until her death.

Audrey’s youth was not a bed of roses; it was only after her death that her role in the Dutch Resistance was revealed. The young girl not only danced to raise funds, but also passed on messages to British airmen whose planes had been shot down in Dutch skies. Fluent in English, French, German and Italian, she acted as a courier between families hiding Jews in the area around the Dutch village of Velp, where her family had retreated.  

This picture-perfect book notes how Audrey and the writer Colette became best friends and Audrey played Gigi on Broadway. “Laughter is the best calorie burner,” she said.

We are guided through her fabulous films beginning with Billy Wilder’s Sabrina (her first truly Parisian film) with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, when she attends the Cordon Bleu Cookery School. “Today we will learn the correct way to crack an egg,” says the French chef/teacher. 

With her husband Mel Ferrer (until they divorced in 1968) Audrey stayed at the Hôtel Raphael (17 avenue Kléber, 16th). It was a good location, handy for Givenchy’s fashion house at 3, avenue George V. During the filming of Parisian movies, such as Sabrina (1954), Charade (1963), How To Steal a Million (1966), Paris When It Sizzles (1964), Funny Face (1957), Love In the Afternoon (1956), Hepburn never wanted to buy or rent a home, loving the luxury and pampering of deluxe hotels. Who can blame her? 

Who can ever forget Funny Face with Fred Astaire? I’m going to re-watch them all, having read this book! And, as Audrey Hepburn said in the film Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea.” For those who might have to wait a little while before arriving in the city, the book could be the next best thing.

Audrey Hepburn,  La Parisienne – “That’s The Girl!” 
By Marc Lemonier with English translation by Mary Deschamps
To order your copy, go to Parigramme (€14.90) 

Lead photo credit : Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy. Courtesy of "Audrey Hepburn, la Parisienne-That's the girl !"

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !