Review: 'Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection' a Must For Cinema Lovers

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 3, 2021

Review: 'Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection' a Must For Cinema Lovers

In 1999, the American Film Institute released a list of the 50 greatest American screen legends by gender. Audrey Hepburn was number three (behind Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis). While lists like these are arbitrary and ever changing, Hepburn will always be considered one of the most significant cinema stars of all time. One need only look at her most iconic roles. And thanks to Paramount's new Blu-ray "Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection" box set, we can. Here is a collection of five of her best performances, along with two other terrific turns. All have been previously released on Blu-ray, except "Paris When It Sizzles."

Say what you want about Blake Edwards' "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961), but Hepburn's captivating and style-defining performance as Holly Golightly cannot be underestimated and gets better with age. Author Truman Capote may have wanted Marilyn Monroe in the role, but Hepburn makes it her own, and her rendering of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's "Moon River" is absolute magic (and came close to being excised from the film). The Extras are fab. The transfer is terrif. The party is wild! And the cat is, well, cat. Nominated for five Oscars (winner of two for music), including Best Actress for Audrey.

Speaking of Academy Awards, the grand winner of 1964, George Cukor's "My Fair Lady," received a whopping 12 nominations and eight awards, but its leading lady, Audrey Hepburn, was egregiously overlooked because of a brouhaha she had nothing to do with. Julie Andrews originated the role of Eliza Doolittle onstage, but the studio never had any intention of casting her. Strike one for Audrey — doesn't matter that she brilliantly embodied the poor Cockney gal turned society lady. Strike two was about her vocals. She had every intention of doing some of her own singing but was dubbed — against her will — by the powers that be. (She was said to have stormed off the set the day she found out). Vocals of two songs are on the bonus content that validate Hepburn all these years later and prove she was victimized, and should have outright won that Oscar!

Anyone who thought Hepburn couldn't sing need only watch Stanley Donen's rousing "Funny Face," from 1957, where she teams with Fred Astaire and delivers a sultry vocal of Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?" Set in Paris, the dazzling movie satirizes the fashion industry, as well as beatnik culture. The great Kay Thompson steals some scenes, but it's Audrey by whom you're mesmerized.

Richard Quine's "Paris When It Sizzles" might be considered the bastard child of this collection. Upon release it was mercilessly panned by the critics, and it's the one film that isn't as perfectly restored as the others, with noticeable lines and fuzziness. It's a shame, really, because it's actually a sweet and often stingingly funny comedy that pokes fun at many of Hepburn and co-star, William Holden's, previous films. To quote "Paris" quoting "Tiffany's," "I must say, the mind reels!"

Hepburn's star debut, William Wyler's 1953 rom-com "Roman Holiday," co-starring Gregory Peck, brought Audrey her first and only Oscar (and the film 10 nominations). It remains one of the great films of the '50s.

(More via my review of the Blu-ray here:

https://www.edgemedianetwork.com/story.php?295559)

Holden's first film with Hepburn was Billy Wilder's "Sabrina" (1954), which also starred Humphrey Bogart (after Cary Grant pulled out a week before filming). As the poor daughter of a chauffeur who journeys to Paris, then returns a gorgeous swan, attracting the attention of rich playboy Holden, Hepburn is enthralling, enchanting, and enrapturing. Even the cringe-worthy age difference between Bogart and Hepburn can't take away from this gem. Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Actress, the combination of Wilder and Hepburn proved phenomenal.

King Vidor's "War and Peace" was the only film in the set I hadn't seen. The misguided casting of mostly Hollywood actors (especially Henry Fonda) in the Tolstoy classic, set against Napoleon's invasion of Russia, turned me off. But accent issues notwithstanding, the film is quite decent (although the script is fairly facile), mostly because the focus is largely on Natasha, and Hepburn brings a grace but also a sexiness to the role that she hadn't yet shown — especially with her scenes with Vittorio Gassman. "War and Peace" marked the only time she appeared onscreen with husband Mel Ferrer. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Director.

This Blu-ray is a must for all cinema lovers, as an introduction, a tribute, or an addition to any film library.

Audrey Hepburn had something remarkable, something undefinable that the camera was able to capture — a radiance, an effervescence, a mystery, a sadness, a euphoria. She was incomparable.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Bonus Content:

Commentary by producer Richard Shepherd

A Golightly Gathering

Henry Mancini: More Than Music

Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective

Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Making of a Classic

It's So Audrey: A Style Icon

Behind the Gates: The Tour

Brilliance in a Blue Box

Audrey's Letter to Tiffany

Original Theatrical Trailer

Galleries

"My Fair Lady"

Bonus Content:

More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady Then & Now

1963 Production Kick-Off Dinner

Los Angeles Premiere 10/28/1964

British Premiere

George Cukor Directs Baroness Bina Rothschild

Rex Harrison Radio Interview

Production Tests

Alternate Audrey Hepburn Vocals

Galleries

Comments on a Lady

Theatrical Featurettes

Story of a Lady

Design for a Lady

The Fairest Fair Lady

Trailers

Awards

"Funny Face"

Bonus Content:

Kay Thompson: Think Pink!

This is VistaVision

Fashion Photographers Exposed

The Fashion Designer and His Muse

Parisian Dreams

Original Theatrical Trailer

"Sabrina"

Bonus Content:

Audrey Hepburn: Fashion Icon

Sabrina's World

Supporting Sabrina

William Holden: The Paramount Years

Sabrina Documentary

Behind the Gates: Camera

"Roman Holiday"

Bonus Content:

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday

Behind the Gates: Costumes

Rome with a Princess

Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years

Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist

Paramount in the '50s

Remembering Audrey

Theatrical Trailers

Galleries

Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection is currently available on Blu-ray.

Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com) and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute