Biographies & Memoirs


Nights Off for Givenchy (1965-1967)

“I’m the only person alive who has attacked Audrey Hepburn, and in public. I’ve tried to make up for it with a series of heartwarming performances on public television.”


DIRE PREDICTIONS OF THE FERRERS’ IMMINENT MARITAL COLLAPSE had been rife—and wrong—for a decade. The Givenchy and Le Bret flaps produced additional stress but did not prevent their agreement, with Sean’s future in mind, on the major decision to leave Bürgenstock.

Sean would recall her saying that not least of the reasons why his mother chose to live in Switzerland was because “it was a place where there would never be a war.” As a boy then (and long after), his term of endearment for her was Mutti, a German diminutive of mother.1 Audrey loved the pet name but not much else about that language and what it represented for her: Bürgenstock was in the heart of the German part of Switzerland, and the idea of her son attending a German school was repellent.

The picturesque place to which the Ferrers relocated would remain Audrey’s home for life: the village of Tolochenaz-sur-Morges, above Lake Geneva, fifteen miles from Lausanne and thirty from Geneva. There in the French-speaking canton of Vaud, Audrey—not Mel—purchased a fine old eighteenth-century farmhouse. It was an eight-bedroom villa built of the local peach-colored stone, surrounded by a white picket fence and situated on Tolochenaz’s one and only street, Route de Bière, with beautiful Alpine vistas. It was called “La Paisible” (The Peaceful Place) and, for Audrey, would always live up to its name.

Tolochenaz dated back to an early Celtic settlement of lake dwellers, who built their homes on stilts.2 Its current inhabitants—barely five hundred of them—were mostly farmers with fruit orchards and vineyards and a few cattle. It was quite near the Geneva-Lausanne highway but set back far enough to retain its quiet, isolated charm. A hardware shop and a grocery were pretty much the sole businesses on the sole street.

“Come with me, I want to show you the exact angle the moment I first saw the house!” Audrey told Anna Cataldi, a good friend of later years, on Anna’s initial visit. Audrey led her into the garden and enthused, “I was here when I had the first glance of the house and it was spring and fruit trees were in blossom, and my heart stopped beating. I said, ‘This is my place!”’3

It was a place where her domestic instincts and love of family life led her to an old-fashioned testimonial: “I have never gotten over the wonder of being married,” she said. “Like many teenagers, I thought I was such an ugly thing that no one would ever want me for a wife.... Which is why I always say to Mel, ‘Thanks to you I’m off the shelf!’”4

Within a year, she would get over the wonder and the home front would not be so blissful. But for now, in mid-1965, they were happy with their post-My Fair Lady rapprochement, which was based on her becoming a full-time wife and mother. She put her career on hold in order to “be there” every day when Sean came home from the two-room schoolhouse where he was fast adding French to the four other languages he knew (Italian, Spanish, English and German). Staying home was no sacrifice when the alternative was being miserable on a movie set. From now on, Tolochenaz was her “harbor,” she said, “the absolute opposite of the life I led working. I was to a great extent left in peace. The Swiss press doesn’t care what you do. If I had lived in London or New York or Hollywood, it would have been outlandish. I never liked the city. I always wanted the countryside.”5

Life in Tolochenaz was made more paisible and pleasant by the presence of an artiste named Florida Broadway. “I once asked if that was her real name,” says Leonard Gershe, “and she said, ‘Would anybody make up a name like that?’”6

Florida was the African-American chef par excellence, hired by the Ferrers in California during My Fair Lady on Gershe’s recommendation. “Audrey was so crazy about her, she took her to Switzerland,” he recalls. Florida had previously worked for the likes of Joan Fontaine and Diahann Carroll, “but no one as nice as Miss Hepburn,” she says. For two years, she created gourmet and everyday meals for the Ferrers and was a member of the family, as she recalls today in her soft-spoken, regal way:

I didn’t like Mr. Ferrer at first—he was so stiff, where she was so warm and had a marvelous sense of humor. But I grew fond of them both. I was terribly lonely there at first. She’d invite me to go on walks, and I was allowed to make calls at least twice a week to my family in the U.S. They did other nice things—they let me use the chauffeur on my day off, and I’d go into the city and get lost.

Mr. Ferrer was a little fussy about food, but she ate everything and always wanted to experiment. If I was fixing something special for myself—some—thing ethnic—she’d want to come back and have some of it. Like greens—collards. I’ll never forget what we went through in Rome, trying to find this kind of smoked pork that I liked. Every time they went into the city, they’d come back with the wrong thing. It was never what I wanted. She kept trying and trying and finally found it—oh, I was ecstatic! I said, “I’m going back to my roots.” She said, “After all this trouble, I’ve got to have some of this!” So she came back into the kitchen and sat down and enjoyed it the same as I did.7

A frequent visitor in those days was Audrey’s mother, who “got a big bang out of her title,” Florida thought. “The Baroness really liked goulash. Mrs. Ferrer, on the other hand, liked a good hearty soup and I made great soup.” Sean she describes as “a very privileged little boy, and why not? His food was all prepared fresh. He turned out to be a chunky fellow—he liked a lot of bread and cake.”

Mel was allergic to garlic. “Oddly enough, so was Ella,” says Gershe. “They were also allergic to each other. Anyway, Florida had to find some other way to spice up the pasta.”

It was her greatest culinary challenge.

“My God, how can you cook without garlic?” she says. “So I invented a spaghetti sauce using green olives instead of garlic. The olives, and the slow process of cooking it forever, did the trick. They really liked it. She used to say she had spaghetti all over the world but never quite as good as mine.”

In the dessert department, Florida’s dilemma was that “one of them liked chocolate cake and the other liked white, so I made an ‘integrated cake’ for them—half chocolate and half white. Mr. Ferrer got a big bang out of me calling it that. Some people treat their help as just hired hands, but they weren’t like that. I only had one experience with her that I was upset about....”

Florida, out of loyalty and discretion, hesitates to tell the story but finally decides to do so:

The household was fully staffed. I was the chef. One day, on the maid’s day off, Mrs. Ferrer came in and noticed a dirty spot in the kitchen. She asked if I would clean it up. Well, there wasn’t a mop—and anyway, that wasn’t my job. So I said that the girl would be back the next day to do it. She said, “Well, you could just get down on your hands and knees and do it yourself.” I was horrified. I said, “You know something, Mrs. Ferrer, I only get on my knees to pray.” And she said, “Well, pray the while!” I was offended. It sounded medieval, like a Shakespearean play. I thought, “What does she mean?” Then it occurred to me she was saying, “Pray the while you’re down there!” So I said to her, “I would rather not.” It was the only time I got really angry with her. To me, that was like insulting my religious beliefs, and I let her know it.8

This, by all accounts, was Audrey Hepburn at her most “vicious”—and predictably, she felt guilty about it.

“I never did clean the spot up,” says Florida. “She must have regretted it because she did all sorts of little things for me that afternoon to kind of make up for it.”9

WHEN ASKED if she ever noticed any eating disorder on Audrey’s part, Florida Broadway responds with a categorical no:

“For a tiny woman, she had an enormous appetite. I really doubt those bulimia or anorexia stories. She loved to eat, and they had all kinds of things with butter and cream. They liked chocolate souffle, roast duck, rich things. Once when Yul Brynner came to dinner, I made this roast duck and, oh, you never heard such carrying on over a duck in all your life.”10

Brynner was married to Audrey’s beloved Doris Kleiner, one of the prominent, jet-setting Beautiful People of the day. Born in Yugoslavia, she grew up in Santiago, Chile, came to Paris in the 1950s, and was working there at Pierre Cardin’s when she met Audrey. The Brynners married in 1960, during the making of The Magnificent Seven, and took up residence in a beautiful lakeside property near Lausanne, just ten minutes from Tolochenaz.

“We became close friends right away,” says Doris. “Nothing happened in my life without her knowing about it or in her life without my knowing about it. Soul mates. It only happens once in a lifetime. Audrey really cared and really listened. Most people don’t. If you really listen, it’s because you really care. I don’t listen to half of what I hear—but Audrey did.”

She listened especially to Doris’s daughter Victoria—her godchild. Audrey was no figurehead godmother, but an actively functioning one who “always gave incredibly sound advice whenever I had problems with my parents or boyfriends or if I was scared about something,” says Victoria. “It was heaven, having this generous, adorable, loving person who was never critical.”

At one point Victoria considered becoming an actress and took Method-acting classes in Paris. “I came back distraught and flabbergasted by the system,” she says. “They told me to imagine I was holding a cup of coffee and how I would drink it, with my eyes closed sitting on a chair. When I related this to Audrey, she said, ‘That seems funny—either you drink a cup of coffee in a natural way or you don’t.’ She was graced with such a natural talent herself, it made no sense whatsoever to her.”11ay

She always had time for Victoria who—like her mother—became an integral part of Audrey’s family. As always, nothing was more important than family, Doris Brynner reconfirms:

“She wasn’t a social person. Her biggest joy was being at home with her children or in the garden. That was where she wanted to be most. She was a great cook and loved her food. Yul didn’t like pasta, so whenever he went on trips, Audrey would come to my house and we’d have pasta and vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce. That was our great treat. We lived more than twenty years within sight distance, just above her. She’d come up or I’d go down for walks with the dogs.... The prime time was to have a plate of spaghetti and chat, just the two of us.”

Their lives were centered around their children and their homes, in the beautiful vineyard country near Lausanne, where the grapes ripen from the reflection of the sun off the lake. They left the area only rarely. “We weren’t shoppers,” says Doris. “Maybe twenty years ago, life was different, we would go to a party in Portugal or take off to get away for a bit. But that was long ago. Anybody who just gets on a plane to go shopping in Paris is a fool. Your priorities change over the years, thank God.”12

BUT AUDREY, we know, always had a weakness for Paris. She now flew there, in July 1965, not for a shopping spree but to make How to Steal a Million for director William Wyler—their third together—at the Boulogne Studios. The screenplay by Harry Kurnitz, from a story by George Bradshaw, was a light confection in the Pink Panther vein: Hepburn plays the daughter of art forger Hugh Griffith, whose flawless fake of a Cellini statue of Venus is about to be exhibited as the real thing. Ethical Audrey is so upset about it, and worried for her father’s impending arrest, that she joins forces with burglar Peter O’Toole to steal it from the museum.

Wyler and 20th Century-Fox pulled out all the artistic stops: Master designer Alexandre Trauner of Hungary was hired to create the beautiful sets. He, in turn, hired expert copyists for the gigantic labor of creating all the phony Renoirs, van Goghs and Picassos needed for the film.13az Mel had agreed to stay in Tolochenaz with Sean while Audrey worked in Paris and flew home on the weekends. Terribly fearful of kidnappers, she had bought a German shepherd (and later an Australian sheepdog) to guard their home and refused to let Sean be photographed by anyone. Her fears were increased in Paris when, one morning, a group of men in masks tied up the studio concierge and made off with the production’s payroll.

But her consolation was Peter O’Toole—and the fun they had during the eleven days it took to shoot the sequence in which they are locked up together inside a cramped museum closet, awaiting the precisely timed moment to execute their heist.

“If you’re not in a place like that with somebody you like, it can be very boring,” she said. Years later, the very mention of O’Toole’s name would make her burst into laughter. “My friend! He was very dear and very funny. I don’t know why, but he used to call me the Duke of Buckingham....”14

O‘Toole knew why. As he later explained to writer Ian Woodward, the reference was to the great nineteenth-century actor Edmund Kean and a colleague—both heavy drinkers—who were playing Richard III and the Duke of Buckingham in Richard III. Kean as the King tottered onto the stage, “thoroughly polluted with liquid light, started his soliloquy and the audience began to call and bawl ‘You’re drunk!’ ‘He’s drunk!’ ... Kean glared at them and said, ‘If you think I am drunk, wait till you see the Duke of Buckingham,’ and, waiting at the side of the stage, was indeed the Duke of Buckingham on his hands and knees.”

But what did that have to do with Audrey?

“We were filming an exterior in Paris and the weather turned round and became very, very cold indeed,” O’Toole related. “Audrey had to walk across the street, get into a waiting car and drive off, but the poor child had turned bright blue with cold. The light was going and the shot was needed. I pulled Audrey into the caravan and gave her a shot of brandy. She went all roses and cream, bounced out of the caravan, radiated towards the motor car, hopped into it and drove off, taking with her five great big lamps [being used to light the scene], the trimmers of which had flung themselves on the cobbles out of the way. From then on she was my Duke of Buckingham.“15

Director Wyler complained—but not too bitterly: “They react on each other like laughing gas, and the trouble is they’re in almost every scene together.”

Freewheeling O’Toole, an erstwhile drummer and banjo-player, was as fond of jazz and he was of drink, and obtained both in quantity at a Parisian bistro called Le Living-Room. More than once he helped shut the place down at its closing time (six a.m.). He attributed his nocturnal habits to childhood days of tagging along with his bookmaker father and falling asleep under the tables at which good Irish whiskey was consumed—and good horse-racing tips exchanged—into the wee hours.

Says a female cast member who wishes to remain anonymous:

“The three men who started out on that film—Hugh Griffith, Peter O’Toole and George C. Scott—were wonderful actors but often incoherent by eleven a.m. Scott said he was ill. They sent a doctor, but George threw him out bodily. So they fired George.”

Scott was to play a crass American tycoon who has a fixation on the Cellini statue and is desperate to buy it—and Audrey. His role now went to Eli Wallach, imported on a kind of emergency leave of absence from the Broadway production of Luv.

“There was one scene in the movie where I had to kiss her,” says Wallach, “and Audrey was quite tall. ”She looked at me and smiled and said, ‘I’ll take my shoes off.’ I said, ‘I love you, I love you.’ She took her shoes off and played the scene.“16

The unlikely duo of Wallach and O’Toole were good friends on and off the set. “Peter was in his prime,” says Wallach, “—a bright man who liked to tease. He had his evil spirits. The alcohol sent the editor of his brain home. But he had great respect for Audrey, which came across on the screen. And when he was finally told he had to stop drinking—he did. For good.”

O’Toole was a cutup but also a good observer. He found Audrey to have a fine sense of fun but also “a modesty and a sadness” about her. And he was fascinated by Charles Boyer, who played the part of a gallery owner in the film.

“Charles had just lost his son,” O’Toole recalled. “We had to shoot a gay scene. I wondered, at such a moment, if his memory would hold out. It did; Boyer thought of nothing but playing the scene well, but we all had tears in our eyes.... Bloody total perfection.”17ba

Of equal perfection in How to Steal a Million is the first memorable glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in her white suit, white gloves, white “bobby” hat, white stockings, white shoes and white sunglasses. Everything is white—except her flaming red sports car, for outrageous contrast. Soon after, she is lying sexily in bed (reading an Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazine) when she hears a burglar break into her father’s art gallery below.

It’s O’Toole, of course, and it’s one of the film’s funniest scenes: She catches and holds him at gunpoint. The gun goes off accidentally, and they both faint as a result of his flesh wound. “I’m a society burglar,” he complains when revived. “I don’t expect people to rush about shooting me.” He talks her out of calling the police and into driving him back to his hotel. She puts her go-go boots over her negligee and gripes, “This is crazy—you should be in jail, and I should be in bed.” But she is smitten, inevitably, after his first bold kiss.

Hepburn is stunningly dressed by Givenchy in every scene, most notably in a black voile dinner dress and lace “mask” midway. Wyler’s pace is leisurely—the film is two hours and seven minutes long. He gives the audience its money’s worth of Audrey. She and O‘Toole are as good as the script, which is not as Hitchcockian as it wants to be. In Charade, Hepburn was really a foil to Grant; in Million, O’Toole is the foil to Hepburn.

“Take off your clothes,” he orders after they’re locked inside the closet, handing her a scrubwoman’s outfit.

“Are we planning the same sort of crime?” she enquires.

The closet scene was photographed with masterful irony by Charles Lang—just a narrow strip of lighted space in the middle of the huge, wide and otherwise pitch black Panavision frame. Such was their proximity and for so long, said O’Toole, that he had a hard time restraining himself. Romantic as well as funny, that sequence fueled press rumors of an affair, encouraged as usual by the film’s publicists and, as usual, false.

Wyler had been pleased to make a comedy in the wake of his depressing previous picture, The Collector. But when it was released in July 1966, the critics were less pleased. “They have her repeat her characterization of the jeune fille undergoing romantic awakening, a role in which she is now expert to the point of ennui—a kind of upper-class Debbie Reynolds,” wrote Richard Schickel in Life. Crowther in the New York Times called both the movie and the Givenchy wardrobe “preposterous.” To look at it, one would never suspect that the glossy, lumbering How to Steal a Million was made in the raging middle of the Vietnam war. Wyler made only two more films before retiring in 1970.

Hepburn and O’Toole did not work together again, and in later years Audrey often expressed regret about it. Eli Wallach thinks the film never got proper credit for the fact that she was finally paired with a handsome lover her own age, instead of the older men with whom she was usually saddled.

The problem with How to Steal a Million was McLuhanesque: Its message was its medium, and its medium was entirely Audrey. There is a point in any star’s career, says Caroline Latham, at which the real-life personality begins to dwarf or dominate the characters he or she plays. One solution is to mock the legend, playing on audience memories of the star’s previous roles. In this case, Wyler played on her persona as a fashion statement—“High Audrey” all the way. “The absorption with Hepburn’s looks and mannerisms,” says Latham, “teeters on the edge of parody.”18

When O’Toole surveys her in the shabby cleaning woman’s disguise, he says, “That does it!”

“Does what?” she asks.

“Well, for one thing,” he replies, “it gives Givenchy a night off.”

BULLETIN, widely published: “Audrey Hepburn and Richard Burton will star in the MGM musical remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, each to receive a salary of $1 million against 10 percent of the gross.”

False bulletin. Her pal Peter O’Toole and singer Petula Clark would eventually take the roles, instead.

The role Audrey much preferred at the moment was that of gardener in Tolochenaz—and expectant mother. She was ecstatic about both, but in January 1966, her joy ended in a Lausanne clinic with another miscarriage. Once again, she was overcome by sorrow. The mediocre reception of How to Steal a Million did nothing to pull her out of it, but Mel was determined not to let her wallow in depression. His antidote, as always, was the therapeutic activity of a new project. For psychological and professional reasons alike, he thought she should update her film image to suit the times—which were a-changin’.

Of dozens of proposed scripts, the winning candidate was Two for the Road, to be directed by Stanley Donen. If she was going to do a real “makeover,” it would be under the guidance of an old and trusted friend. The offbeat story concept, on the other hand, was quite new and untested. Writer Frederic Raphael and his wife, from the time they were childhood sweethearts, always went on holiday to the south of France. Going to the same places over and over, he sometimes had the sensation of passing a former version of himself along the same road. He asked Donen if a movie about the relationship of a man and woman—told in five different time bands as they traveled their holiday road—sounded interesting. Donen said it sounded wonderful.19

Two for the Road chronicled a faltering twelve-year marriage, not unlike the length and condition of Hepburn’s own. It would be her daring departure, once and for all, from the fifties to the swinging sixties (now that they were half over).20 Paul Newman was the director’s first choice for her leading man. When he turned down the role, Donen offered it to Albert Finney.

The Angriest Young Man of the British new wave and one of its hottest properties was Finney, who had given brilliant performances in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and Tom Jones (1963). Hepburn heard much about him from Peter O‘Toole, his fellow student at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. O’Toole had taken the lead in Lawrence of Arabia when Finney rejected it in favor of stage work in Billy Liar and Luther. At thirty, Finney was seven years younger than Hepburn, and she was the first real film superstar with whom he’d been teamed.

“Audrey Hepburn Swings? You’re Kidding,” said the incredulous Ladies’ Home Journal headline, while shocking talk of miniskirts and nude scenes peppered the text beneath it. Audrey didn’t need “a look,” said the magazine. “She already is one.” She would alter her style about as readily as Charles de Gaulle. “Why change?” she once said. “Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.” But that was then. Now, of her metamorphosis in Two for the Road, she was saying, “All convention is rigidifying. I think we should try to avoid being rigid—that does age one.”21

Her revisionist declaration was a little stiff, but she was trying hard. Indeed, she would have to: Raphael’s script called for adultery, a bathing-suit appearance, and a steamy bedroom scene in which she wore nothing at all. “It is inconceivable that it could have been submitted to me ten years ago,” she said, “or even five,” and her qualms were many. But when Mel read it, his advice was, “Take it right away.”22

When we first meet the Hepburn and Finney characters, Joanna and Mark, their relationship is set: They’re rampantly unfaithful to each another, but no time is wasted on background explanation. The issue is marital game-playing, and this marriage seems doomed at the outset—or maybe not, depending on the time frame.

Two for the Road’s structure was revolutionary: The couple’s shifting attachments unfold in episodic, non-sequential fashion. Donen cuts back and forth over a twelve-year period, with only the cars, clothes and hairdos to help us figure out the chronology.

Beyond that are the metaphysical implications—“the past’s intrusion upon the present,” says Donen biographer Joseph Casper, who calls the film “a pas de deux on wheels.” Mark and Joanna sometimes even pass themselves surrealistically on the road. It was a “deconstructivist” narrative that helped introduce New Wave techniques to Hollywood, but the shooting was mostly in France. Audrey was introduced to Finney there in the summer of 1966 and was instantly struck by his muscular good looks and his sharp, unpredictable mind. Her impact on him was potent, too:

Audrey and I met in a seductive ambience [in] a very sensual time in the Mediterranean. We got on immediately. After the first day’s rehearsals, I could tell that the relationship would work out wonderfully. Either the chemistry is there, or it isn’t.... That happened with Audrey. During a scene with her, my mind knew I was acting but my heart didn‘t, and my body certainly didn’t! Performing with Audrey was quite disturbing, actually.... With a woman as sexy as Audrey, you sometimes get to the edge where make-believe and reality are blurred. All that staring into each other’s eyes.... People are always asking me when I’m going to marry her.... I won’t discuss it more because of the degree of intimacy involved. The time spent with Audrey is one of the closest I’ve ever had.23

The usual reports of a romance between costars were quick in coming, with one significant difference: This time, it was true. When production moved to the French Riviera, Hepburn cut loose even more, frugging away with Finney in the local discotheques and otherwise cavorting with him in their off-hours.

The greater test of Audrey Hepburn’s new “liberation” lay in those much-ballyhooed scenes in which she had to unveil most of her self-consciously thin body. The beach scene with Finney had her in a stew. She told Donen she didn’t think she could do it. It was one thing for the younger, athletic Finney to run around in his swimming trunks; it was another for Audrey, at thirty-seven, to expose herself to the world. But Donen cajoled and talked her out of a body double, and she came through admirably.24

That left the final challenge of the “nude” bedroom scene, filmed at the Hotel du Golf in Beauvallon near St. Tropez: After all the publicity, it turned out to be much ado about very little, the total nudity consisting of her upper back. The rest of her was demurely covered by a sheet. Finney, for his part, was even more demurely covered—clad in a T-shirt throughout their postcoital pillow talk in the scene.

Audrey’s biggest problem in Two for the Road was the reverse of what she originally feared: not what she had to take off but what she had to put on. With Mel’s approval, Donen decided to dump Givenchy in favor of Audrey’s new, “mod” look—not too far removed from the one Raphael conceived the previous year for Julie Christie in Darling. “The beautiful simplification of her life was gone when Givenchy wasn’t to dress her,” said one of Audrey’s friends. “Mel was trying to tear away some of the cocoon which had been wrapped around her for too long.”25

Most of her Two for the Road wardrobe would be purchased “off the rack” pret-à-porter at Parisian boutiques. Ken Scott was brought in as fashion coordinator, and she took a liking to his Ban-Lon prints. But Scott found her “extremely rigid,” even about informal clothes. Red and most other primary colors were taboo. “I want to stay in fashion,” she told an interviewer at the time, “but being young in spirit counts more toward looking young than dressing in a hippie style.”26 There was always a certain defensiveness in her comments on the subject.

Worn-out by arguing over every detail, Scott departed and was replaced by Lady Claire Rendlesham, who got along better with Audrey and worked hard to modify (and pad out) the selections, from miniskirts to swimsuits, according to her demands. Most of the clothes came from London’s Mary Quant, supplemented by Paco Rabanne and other top “mod” designers of the day.

In the end, Audrey’s new duds enhanced her performance and, in the opinion of costar William Daniels, helped liberate her not only from her inhibitions and from Givenchy, but also from Mel. She seemed relieved to be out from under his supervision and to become a kid again—or at least her own woman—after years of conforming to his wishes. Daniels recalled her as “constantly laughing, relaxed and joyous,” often taking off with Finney to drink and dance at the bistros.27 Novelist Irwin Shaw, an old friend, described his visit with her on the set:

“She and Albie had this wonderful thing together, like a pair of kids with a perfect understanding and a shorthand of jokes and references that closed out everybody else. It was like a brother-sister in their teens. When Mel was there ..., Audrey and Albie got rather formal and a little awkward, as if now they had to behave like grown-ups.”28

Stanley Donen said “the Audrey I saw during the making of this film I didn’t even know. She overwhelmed me. She was so free, so happy. I never saw her like that. So young! ... I guess it was Albie.” Finney was youthful, frisky, impulsive and exciting—everything Mel was not.29

She could not go too far, of course. The attachment with Finney was strong but temporary. It could not be allowed to compromise or endanger her custody of Sean. Though separated, she and Mel were on civilized terms and had decided to give the relationship another try. During one of many phone calls, Mel told her he was taking Sean to a matinee of My Fair Lady. The next day, she phoned to ask if he’d had a nice afternoon.

“Yes,” said Sean.

“Did you do anything special?”

“Yes, we had ice cream.”

“Did you see a movie?” she prompted.

“Yes.... Mommy, why did you hate to take a bath?”30

It was time to go home, hold him in her arms, and explain things like Eliza’s bathtub scene in person.

DONEN CALLS Two for the Road the first Audrey Hepburn movie to deal with the aftermath rather than the initial euphoria of falling in love. Essential to its success was her comic timing which, in the director’s opinion, measured up nicely to Raphael’s sharp dialogue (and helped earn him an Oscar nomination for it).

“When we married you were a disorganized, egotistical failure,” Joanna tells Mark. “Now you are a disorganized, egotistical success.”

Two for the Road ended with a shocking, two-word exchange between the two stars—shocking, at least, for an Audrey Hepburn film, and the closest thing to profanity in any of her films:

“Bitch!” says he.

“Bastard!” she replies.

As the insecure, egotistical architect, Finney had more difficulty than Hepburn, and his one-dimensional performance was somewhat grating. “Albie really can’t bear playing a man with pleasant charm,” said Donen. “He wants to play something more startling. He doesn’t like to come in and win you with his pleasant ways.”31 Eleanor Bron, William Daniels and Gabrielle Middleton (the horrid daughter) nearly stole the film in their several hilarious episodes as the travel-companions-from-hell.

Many felt it was Audrey’s best performance in years, and some even said it was the best in her entire career. One of the film’s biggest fans is Audrey Wilder:

“I was crazy about Two for the Road and thought she really let her defenses down in it. That was a real person. She let herself be seen in not the best light—the bathing suit and all. Actresses all try to protect themselves usually. That’s the nature of the beast. But she’s really real in that.”32

Films and Filming hailed it as “a combination of American expertise and European cool,” adding that it would not have been nearly so convincing if Hepburn’s role had been played by the more overtly sexual Julie Christie or Jeanne Moreau.

Two for the Road did moderately well at the box ofnce—better in Europe than in America, where it was handled as a kind of “art film,” just beyond mainstream appeal. But it was influential in changing the way Hollywood would treat the subject of marriage, and certain film historians still consider it “a veritable textbook on editing.”

Donen’s next film, the brilliant Faust-parody Bedazzled (1967), would employ a much sharper satirical touch. His personal judgment of Two for the Road is that it was “a good movie, but I don’t think it should have been as sweet as it was.”

“AUDREY CARED for Finney a great deal,” says Robert Wolders today. “He represented a whole new freedom and closeness for her. It was the beginning of a new period of her life.”

But given that the Ferrers were still trying to work out their marriage, the reports of her activities with Finney caused Mel concern. Audrey, for her part, was concerned about Mel and a fifteen-year-old Spanish dancer named Marisol.

Marisol had captivated both Ferrers a year or so earlier at a party given by the Duchess of Alba in Madrid. With fiery eyes and voluptuous breasts, Marisol thrilled that gathering with her remarkable singing and dancing. Soon after, Mel and Audrey began to plan a movie around her, Cabriola.Mel’s story and screenplay were accepted by Columbia as a vehicle for Marisol and Spain’s great bullfighter, Angel Peralta. The picture would be made primarily for the Spanish and South American markets.

Mel would direct.

Audrey took it upon herself to take Marisol to Alexandre of Paris, who restyled the girl’s hair under Hepburn’s supervision. During and after Cabriola, rumors of Ferrer’s “affair” with Marisol abounded. With much weariness, Ferrer today denies it: “There was no romantic involvement; it was common knowledge that Marisol was involved with the Spanish producer of the film. Audrey and our son Sean were with me as we went from location to location in Madrid and Andalucia.”33

Marital difficulties notwithstanding, he and Audrey decided to build a villa on the Spanish Riviera near Marbella. The Peter Viertels lived there, too, and often visited, Deborah Kerr recalls:

“It was a charming house, very simple, and of course everything was white. Wherever they went, everything was white. I always thought that was—not strange, but so indicative of her: Everything had to be white. The car was white. Even the baby was dressed in white.”34

At the end of Cabriola filming, “We decided to stay on at the Marbella Club and have a little holiday with Sean,” Mel recalls. “Audrey had brought a stack of unread scripts with her, and while she and Sean went for a stroll on the beach I tried to unwind by going through them.” One of them came from Kay Brown, a friend of Mel’s who had found Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind in galley form and persuaded David O. Selznick to read it.

“The play Kay submitted was Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark, says Ferrer. “When Audrey returned from her walk, I took Sean back to the beach and she read the play. We called Kurt Frings in California and set a deal that afternoon.” 35

KNOTT WAS the author of Dial M for Murder, and—thanks to Kay Brown—Mel read his Wait Until Dark even before it opened on Broadway. He immediately pegged it as a tour de force for his wife—by far the most vulnerable of all the vulnerable roles she had played to date, or ever would: a blind girl terrorized in her Greenwich Village apartment by three vicious

“Wait Until Dark was a pivotal moment in Audrey’s career,” Ferrer contends. “She went from an ingenue to a leading woman in it, and it was one of the best films she ever made.” Warners paid $1 million for the screen rights and provided Audrey with an exceptional supporting cast: Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and child-prodigy Julie Herrod. Mel was the producer and quickly signed up Britain’s Terence Young for his Hollywood debut as director.

Young’s very first film, it may be recalled, was the powerful war documentary Men of Arnhem (1944), which Audrey revered. More recent and spectacular were his three wildly popular James Bond pictures, Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball. Young was the man who had rejected Audrey for a part when she was a total unknown but predicted she would “make it” and asked her to let him direct a future film of hers one day. She now did so. Warners was nervous about his reputation for heavy gambling and habitually going overbudget. But he was the firm choice of both Ferrers, and they would have their way.

Young had wanted either George C. Scott or Rod Steiger to play the main villain who tries to kill Audrey, but both of them declined to take such an unsympathetic part and the role went to Alan Arkin—recently Oscar-nominated for his own debut in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966). “Arkin may not have had the brutal, cold menace that Scott could have delivered,” said Young, “but he gave it all sorts of new dimensions—the total lack of feeling and that memorable quality of evil.”36

Audrey, meanwhile, did her homework. She studied first with a doctor in Lausanne whose specialty was teaching the blind and then in New York, where Mel had secured the cooperation of the Lighthouse Institute for the Blind to prepare her further for the role. She observed the behavior and movements of the sightless there and learned how to read Braille.

“Audrey and I both had lessons as blind people,” recalled Young just before his death in 1995, “but Audrey was miles faster than I. She was quickly able to find her way, blindfolded, around the Lighthouse rooms and corridors. She mastered the routine of filling a kettle, lighting the gas, boiling the water, putting tea in the teapot and pouring it without spilling a drop. When it was my turn, every natural disaster took place.”37

She learned to differentiate textures with her fingertips, to judge people’s distance by a sound, to tell by the tapping of her cane whether she was walking on tile, wood or stone, and to put on makeup without a mirror. It was a profound experience, and one of the people who led her through it was college student Karen Goldstein, blind from the age of six.

“Karen came to the Warner Studios and was to run through the movements of the scenes so that Audrey could then copy her,” said Young. “She picked up a lot from Karen—dialing a phone, judging the height and eyes of someone with whom she was speaking so that conversation was natural—all from the sound and direction of the voice. After a few days, she decided to work on her own. But being Audrey, she went to Jack Warner and persuaded him to pay Karen her full salary for the rest of the twelve-week schedule.”38

Filming of Wait Until Dark began in New York City in early 1967. Mayor John Lindsay helpfully agreed to block off traffic in the Village for the ten-day shoot, as thousands of gawkers crowded the barricades for a glimpse of Audrey. Interiors were shot at Warners’ Burbank studio, where technicians who had worked with Audrey on My Fair Lady thought she now looked tired and gaunt. For the second time in a row, her friend Hubert was passed over. “She went somewhere like Saks and bought her meager two costumes off the peg,” Young remembered. “We settled on the most ordinary ones—she was blind and the colors weren’t important. Givenchy was obviously not for this particular epic.”39

When production chief Walter MacEwen saw the rushes, he thought Audrey’s expressive eyes belied blindness. Contact lenses irritated her, but she agreed to them in certain close-ups when she could not avoid reacting with her eyes. “I ran picture after picture to see previous attempts of other actors playing blind and I never saw anybody nearly as good,” said Young. “She was able to focus in the far distance, and to keep the focus so that even if she was talking to someone very near, her eyes would not refocus on that person.”40

Young debunked the reports that MacEwen and Jack Warner were furious about Mel and Audrey’s expenses: “Mel was an exceptionally efficient producer. Kurt Frings would have certainly got all of that worked out in her contract. He told me, with awe, that after [The Nun’s Story] she returned several thousand dollars to the studio because she hadn’t needed so much for her expenses. That had to be a unique occasion in the history of the cinema.”41

Unique, too, was the formal English tea break taken daily at the stroke of four on the Wait Until Dark set. The ceremony was very elaborate. Audrey adhered rigidly to the rule of one spoonful of tea for each guest and one for the pot, with a steeping period of precisely ten minutes. Terence Young related how it came about:

Originally I had arranged for tea to be brought on the set for myself. Audrey said she would like tea as well, because the coffeemaker on the set got a little tired by the end of the day. The next stage was that Audrey bought a couple of mugs and hand-painted on them THE TOFF, which is what she had nicknamed me, and AUD for herself. Charles Lang, the cameraman, told us he much preferred tea, so a day later he joined the gang with his own mug. Richard Crenna and Jack Weston asked why they were being treated as second-class citizens and said they, too, wanted tea, which I’m sure they hated, but it was all part of the fooling around that went on off the set, which I strongly encouraged.

The weekend intervened, and I went to a tea party given by the actress Edana Romney, whom I had directed in my first film, Corridor of Mirrors. She was comfortably installed in Beverly Hills having brought her maid and in particular, her butler, Freddy, who was a terrific character. I invited Edana to tea at the studio and [asked her to] bring Freddy plus the solid silver tea service.... I had the Props Department lay out a square of fake grass with pedestals and huge vases at the four corners, filled with ghastly plastic flowers.

The white table had an umbrella, and Props unearthed some very delicate China to replace our mugs. The cast sat down and had tea as if they did this every day; the butler served them, everybody spoke with English accents, and then it was back to work. The Tea Garden was left intact on the stage, and all the cast brought something different—cakes, biscuits, you name it. The end of the week, at four o’clock, there were sounds of music from the direction of the garden. They had arranged a string trio, three elderly ladies, while Jack and Richard fox-trotted to the music of “Tea for Two.” Thereafter, I gave up.42

“Thanks to Audrey, we shot on European hours,” said Richard Crenna. “We came into the studio at eleven a.m. for makeup, never took lunch, and went home at seven. [At the four p.m. break] all the actors tried to outdo each other and put on a bigger and better tea. It got to a point where you just walked past the table and you gained ten pounds—except Audrey.”43

In fact, she lost fifteen pounds during Wait Until Dark. The gossip columnists blamed it on her marital problems, but Young thought otherwise: “It was one of the most rigorous roles Audrey ever played. She worked herself so hard that you could see the pounds rolling off her each day.”44

The final result was worth it: Wait Until Dark is a virtually perfect thriller—from the first to the last time Hepburn leaves her door unlocked. Charles Lang’s moody lighting heightens the suspense at every turn. Audrey’s frantic lightbulb-breaking scene became a classic, but no more than her deadly struggle with the psychopathic Arkin and his final, terrifying leap at her in the eerie light of the refrigerator.bc By today’s standards, the film was just mildly violent (brass knuckles, verbal abuse and a knife or two are the only weapons) but extraordinarily sadistic since the tormented victim was sightless. To test public reaction, worried studio executives held a sneak preview—at which the audience shrieked repeatedly in that uniquely cinematic, disturbingly neurotic, commercially fantastic combination of horror and delight.

Warners left Young’s picture exactly the way he made it.

Wait Until Dark opened in November 1967 to record-breaking grosses at Radio City—the ninth of Audrey’s sixteen starring films to premiere there. It earned a hefty $11 million for the happy studio and a fifth Oscar nomination for the less happy but much acclaimed Hepburn. “That performance is so extraordinarily authentic,” says costar Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (the blind girl’s kind but useless husband). “Working with her was heaven, even though she was going through hell with Mel.”45 Audrey withheld her true feeling until long afterward : “I was nominated for Wait Until Dark when I liked myself better in Two for the Road that year.”46 But playing the besieged, hysterical blind girl had been a vital catharsis, says Ian Woodward, “an emotional release far more purgative than any psychological ‘remedy’ dispensed by the average Hollywood headshrink.”47

Maybe a little too purgative. It would be nearly a decade before Hepburn made another film.

“I HAD BEEN completely miserable while making Wait Until Dark because I had been separated from my son, Sean, for the first time,” she would say.48

The Ferrers’s working relationship was brilliantly successful during that production but, by its end, the only thing more painful to Audrey than Sean’s absence was Mel’s presence. MacEwen claimed one reason for the rift was Ferrer’s “auditions” of way too many pretty models for the five-second bit-part of a girl found hanged behind a door. But Richard Crenna says, “It was only later we heard that Audrey was having a very difficult time in her marriage.” Terence Young knew more about it because “both Audrey and Mel had confided [some] things to me. But they were a class act in every sense, and very little showed.”49

One insight, a la Upstairs, Downstairs, comes from some unpleasant words overheard by chef Florida Broadway: “One time Mr. Ferrer wanted Mrs. Ferrer to work more than she wanted to. She felt she worked too much, and he was pushing and driving her more than she was willing. Something she said about being tired started it. They had their little tiffs and arguments.”50

In addition to the stresses and strains of thirteen years of marriage, her miscarriages upset and occupied her obsessively. In January 1967 she sent a heartfelt condolence letter to Sophia Loren, strongly identifying with Loren’s miscarriage that month.51 Five months later, Hepburn herself was pregnant again, at thirty-eight, but soon miscarried once more. Losing those babies, she said, was her greatest trauma, “as painful as my parents’ divorce.”52

A few weeks later, she and Ferrer separated for good. Years earlier, Audrey had decided that 110 pounds was the ideal weight for her height. But she had now dropped down to ninety-five and, by one brutal assessment, resembled “an emaciated grasshopper.”53

Mel was always accused of being a Svengali who called the shots and dictated her decisions. But in the end, it was Audrey who seemed to be in the driver’s seat and to have been so, in many ways, from the beginning. “It’s a problem when the wife outshines the husband as Audrey does me,” Ferrer said, with painful candor, back in 1960. “I’m pretty sensitive when producers call and say they want to discuss a film with me, when in reality they’re angling for Audrey and using me as bait.”

The estimations of their friends differ widely.

“Mel was—probably still is—a hypersensitive person,” says Leslie Caron, “and I think he gets hurt easily. I think that happened in his relationship with Audrey, although I cannot say too much about it because I wasn’t ‘holding the candle,’ as we say—an expression in French. It means I could not see inside their private chamber.”54

Yul Brynner, on the other hand, wondered how Audrey put up with Mel for so long: “I suppose she was so desperate to make it work [and] so sweet, loyal and human.... Mel was jealous of her success and could not reconcile himself to the [fact that] she was much better than he in every way, so he took it out on her. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer. God knows, she did everything a woman could do to save her marriage.”55

Designer Ken Scott couldn’t understand how Mel and Audrey ever got together in the first place. “She is so lively, charming and youthful,” said Scott, “and he was a stick-in-the-mud, old beyond his years.”56

Actor Robert Wagner’s analysis is gentler:

“I met her when she first came to Hollywood with Mel. They used to come to our house when Natalie [Wood] and I lived on Beverly Drive. I think they loved each other very much, but two [high-profile careers] make a relationship more intense, and that intensity can work both ways. Mel was with her when she was very young, and it all changes as your life progresses.”57

“Mel was the sabio—the guy that knew everything,” says Peter Viertel. “Once he called me and said, ‘You should forget this woman Gardner—she’ll destroy you.’ He loved to give advice. Audrey listened and was impressed by his knowledge of the movie business. She was a good wife and believed in being a good wife. That’s what he wanted, and I suppose she lured him into thinking she could provide it. I think they just outgrew each other.”

Mel Ferrer, now seventy-nine, says, “I don’t think anybody could compete with Audrey [and there was no] sense in trying to. I had a great deal to do with her career, and I’m delighted I was able to contribute. But I didn’t benefit from it.”58

Documentarist Gene Feldman insists, “Mel was no ogre. He genuinely loved her. Obviously, he’s a man of enormous ego and drive. Suddenly he became ‘the husband,’ which in our society is very difficult. Audrey understood that, and I think diminished herself incredibly so that she wouldn’t threaten him. That’s like walking stooped all the time. It’s hard.”59

For a long while they worked together well, says Rob Wolders. “Audrey had her most productive period then, in large part because Mel was looking after her. People conveniently forget that they made a lot of good choices together.”

On September 1, 1967, their lawyers’ jointly announced that Hepburn, thirty-eight, and Ferrer, fifty, would divorce. Mel was in Paris. Audrey was home in Switzerland with Sean. Much later she would say, “I hung on to my marriage because of Sean.” She now sat him down for the much-dreaded talk. “We’re not happy together,” she said. “It’s not going to affect you right now, but we’ve chosen not to live together anymore.”

Sean developed a good understanding of it, says Rob Wolders: “It was extremely important to Audrey that the relationship between Sean and Mel should not suffer. Although she may have had certain negative feelings about Mel, she would never show them to Sean—or to anyone else. She never bad-mouthed Mel.”

Like most things in her life, the divorce was conducted with what Sheridan Morley called “an avalanche of good manners.”60 Neither of them ever went public with their feelings. “Audrey never spoke about private, personal things and neither did I,” says Mel. “It was kind of an agreement that we had.”61 In later years, Audrey would express a curious kind of guilt that the marriage had failed to work. Never having recovered from her parents’ divorce, she would never quite recover from this one either.

Eva Gabor felt Mel indeed tried to dominate Audrey, “but I don’t know that he got away with it, because Audrey was a very strong woman. She wasn’t a weakling by any means. When you’re in love, men get away with things. But only for a while. That’s why I think they got a divorce.”62

Audrey went into self-imposed exile with Sean at La Paisible and told Frings to stop sending scripts. She was depressed and indifferent about whether she ever worked again. “I thought a marriage between two good, loving people had to last until one of them died,” she said. “I can’t tell you how disillusioned I was. I’d tried and tried. I knew how difficult it [was to be] second-billed on the screen and in real life. How Mel suffered! But believe me, I put my career second. [Even] when it was clear the marriage was ending, I still couldn’t let go.”63

In Audrey’s mind, it was her personal failure and defeat.

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