On this day 25 years ago Audrey Hepburn sadly passed away. But let's not dwell on this sad end, as this year is the 70th anniversary of Audrey's first screen appearance.
Yes, her first lead role was in Roman Holiday in 1953, but her first screen appearance was five years earlier in Nederlands in 7 Lessen/Dutch in 7 Lessons (1948) directed by Charles Huguenot van der Linden, produced by H M Josephson.
The cast includes Koes Koen (Wam Heskes/George), A Viruly (Air Pilot) and Audrey Hepburn (Air Hostess).
Despite its title, this film is not an educational video but a Dutch feature film about a girl crazy cameraman (Koes Koen) who has a week to make a travelogue of Holland.
Made for the Rank film company, the two film-makers (Charles Huguenot van der Linden and H M Josephson) cobbled together this film, mostly using aerial shots of Amsterdam from their archives. They filmed short sequences on the ground about an English cameraman making a travelogue, constantly tempted by the beautiful Dutch maidens.
Two versions of the film exist. In the longer 79 minute version shown in the Netherlands, Audrey is seen twice. Once as a pretty young thing skipping down the road, into whom the cameraman bumps. The second time sees her as the Air Hostess waving him goodbye. In the 38-minute truncated version shown in the UK, only Audrey's air hostess role survived.
Accounts vary on how Audrey got the role. Following the war and the return of Audrey's health, Audrey began studying ballet once again. One account reveals that the producer and director visited Madame Sonia Gaskell’s studios in Amsterdam, where Audrey was studying, looking for a suitable young girl. There, they spotted Audrey and cast her in the small role. The other relies on her family connections rather than her natural talent: a mutual acquaintance of the Van Heemstras and the director Van Der Linden arranged for Audrey's audition.
Regardless of how she came to be cast, her three days filming gave her a taste of the movie life, but it wasn't enough of a life to lure her away from her grand passion – ballet. The following year, with restrictions in air travel lifted between the Netherlands and England, Audrey and her mother left for England where Audrey studied ballet with the famous Dame Marie Rambert.
And so began Audrey's journey to stage and screen stardom. This is an extract from my my book on Audrey Hepburn, which you can snap up for as little as 1p on Amazon!