Audrey Hepburn in 1954 reading telegrams of congratulations after she took home the Oscar for her performance in Roman Holiday. The film also won Oscars for Writing (Dalton Trumbo) and Costume Design, Black-and-White (Edith Head).
Audrey Hepburn (top) looking anxious with her mother Baroness Ella Van Heemstra at the Academy Awards ceremony in New York in 1954 just before she won an Oscar for the movie Roman Holiday. Sitting backstage, Audrey (bottom pic) has her make up touched up by an NBC dresser.
I swear this is not turning into a costumery blog, but the stills I’ve seen from the pre-Broadway production of Roman Holiday are filling me with such joy. The movie that the musical is based on is one of my favorites (anything with Audrey Hepburn is, really), so to see this getting the Broadway treatment is a dream come true. Hat tip to @anyasdimitry and @annbradleys for making me aware of the pre-Broadway production in San Francisco.
Obviously when working directly from a film, there’s an obligation in a sense for the musical’s costume designer to take some cues from the original production. Of course, when that original production was costumed by none other than eight-time Academy Award-winning costumer and Hollywood legend Edith Head (who indeed won the Oscar for Roman Holiday), any costume designer has absolutely got their work cut out for them. They need to pay homage to the source material while putting some uniqueness into it. That’s not an easy task, but everything I’ve seen from the pre-Broadway engagement suggests that Catherine Zuber has a masterwork in the making.
If the name Catherine Zuber sounds familiar, it’s because she’s twelve-time Tony nominee and six-time Tony winner, including a nomination for the 2016-2017 season’s War Paint. She tends to work in what I would consider more classical and showy productions which allow her the freedom to create lavish, rich designs. What I’ve seen of the Roman Holiday pre-Broadway engagement shows that this 2017-2018 debut will be no exception to Ms Zuber’s characteristic elegance.
For those who know the movie, the challenge in bringing this to Broadway is replicating Princess Ann’s (Audrey Hepburn in film, Stephanie Styles in the stage production) style to the front without it looking over the top. What I’m going to focus on this afternoon is one dress in particular which has caught my attention. There are plenty more costumes to examine in the coming months, but an absolutely darling edit by @anyasdimitry caught my eye and inspiration struck.
I mentioned before that one of Catherine Zuber’s hallmarks is classic elegance, and this certainly possesses that in spades. The cut of the top of the dress, coupled with the beadwork, reflect a timeless 1950s style that absolutely shouts “princess” in any language. But that complicated top gives way to a flowing, cotton-candy pink tulle that gives Ms Styles an untouchable quality–in a good way. The dress looks as though it could be composed of pink smoke, an effect of tulle’s sheer nature and quality, but which has been used by Catherine Zuber to give Princess Ann a kind of unobtainable look.
That’s key to the plot of Roman Holiday: Princess Ann is able, for the briefest amount of time (24 hours), to escape the rigors of her duties as the heir-to-the-throne of an unnamed European country. The titular holiday is the period where she is able to simply live a regular life–before her own sense of duty forces her to return to the tour of Europe on which she embarked in the first place. The tulle dress reminds the viewer that no matter how we may view Ann throughout the course of the musical, she is still–ultimately–a Princess and cannot hope to be won by the average suitor or interested person. What Catherine Zuber has done here is subtly remind us; because the tulle causes the dress to expand far more than the beaded top, it’s difficult to even gain physical access to Princess Ann without destroying the effect and beauty of the gown.
The shade of pink is also quite intentional, I think. This is not an Arden pink, as we saw with Zuber’s designs for War Paint; those were loud, showy, and designed to stick in the mind for the color alone. Here, the color takes a backseat to the overall impact of the dress. The light, nearly white, semi-translucent quality of tulle itself helps to make the entire ensemble look even more ethereal. Even cotton candy pink, as I called it earlier, might be ascribing too much color to what is on display; the bodice (upper part) is clearly pink, but it fades as it descends, giving an overall eye-pleasing effect.
But Zuber’s design does not stop there. Below the tulle are layers of fabric and beadwork that help to give the gown body, and which are showy and elegant in their own ways. Once again, with credit to @anyasdimitry for her edits, let me present the following detail stills (and link to originals as found here):
The insubstantiality of the tulle is given new life by the clamshell leaves that Ms Zuber has worked into the design, including what looks like more impeccable beadwork. The layers have the effect of darkening the pink just a little bit, but still leaving it with a kind of light, airy nature that allow it to render the character of Princess Ann unobtainable. Having seen tulle work before, it’s not easy to weigh it down and still allow something of a bell shape to develop (regardless of the figure of the wearer); that Ms Zuber has managed to do so here is quite remarkable.
But here’s what gets me the most about this dress and, indeed, many of Catherine Zuber’s designs over the years. The level of detail that is present in this costume is simply stunning. Edith Head, when she created the original designs for the Roman Holiday movie, had the benefit of knowing that the camera would occasionally capture a close-up view of her costumes, and she could tailor her designs accordingly. But on the stage, no such close-up opportunity exists, except through promotional stills like these. The incentive to put immense detail-work and beadwork into a dress is simply not present on Broadway the way it is in Hollywood–but Ms Zuber does it anyways. These are gowns meant to leave an impact whether one is sitting in the front row or in the cheap seats at the back of the second balcony. You may not be able to see every facet of the design, but you can tell instantly that the piece is a masterwork.
The love and care that has been put into this outfit makes me think that, assuming the actual Broadway production bears any resemblance to the San Francisco tryouts, we simply have to assume that Catherine Zuber will earn her thirteenth Tony nomination next season. Based on what I have seen so far, I think we have to assume that when that nomination comes, she’ll be a strong contender for the award; setting aside my issues with the American Theatre Wing, the classic elegance of the design makes me think that Tony voters will appreciate the homage to the Hollywood production and recognize the detail and attention poured lovingly into the costumes by Ms Zuber.
I’ll add more stills and costume reviews to this production as it gets closer to its Broadway debut. But so far, what I have seen, I love.
✧ Evening Gown and LBD for Sabrina (Hubert de Givenchy, 1954)
Though she’d won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her first film, Roman Holiday, Sabrina was only Audrey Hepburn’s second film, so when the 24-year-old actress told her producers at Paramount Pictures that she wanted to work with the 26-year-old French couturier Hubert de Givenchyin creating Sabrina’s post-Paris wardrobe, the executives reminded her that the film already had a costume designer, Edith Head, who at 56 had already won five Oscars for Costume Design (including one for Roman Holiday). If she was compelled to work with Givenchy (whom Hepburn had contacted at Cristóbal Balenciaga’s recommendation after he had turned her down), that was fine by them, but Givenchy would get no credit and she’d have to pay for the clothes out of her own pocket. To their surprise, Hepburn agreed. Head, now limited to designing Sabrina’s wardrobe at the beginning of the film, when the character was simply the overlooked cheuffer’s sparrow-like daughter living over the multicar garage, seethed.
The budding Givenchy-Hepburn coalition produced Sabrina’s sensationally sensual yet regal strapless white organdy gown with embroidered black flowers on its tiered hem. Not only does it turn the two brothers, played by Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, besotted with the “new” Sabrina, into combatants, but it became the dress the press always ran photographs of when citing Hepburn. Retailers were deluged with requests for copies of it, practically ensuring the film an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. But Head refused to share the nomination with Givenchy, justifying her demand that the studio submit only her name for award consideration because, although Givenchy had designed most of Sabrina’s wardrobe, all the costumes were sewn and finished on the Paramount lot under Head’s supervision. Head won her sixth Oscar for Sabrina - she would win two more over the course of her career - shamelessly omitting Givenchy in her acceptance speech.
Audrey Hepburn and her mother Ella Van Hemstra at the Academy Awards in 1954. She is really nervous and very stressed but we all know that she has won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for “Roman Holiday”.
“The first images I have of her are, interestingly enough, when she was quite young,” Emma Ferrer says of her paternal grandmother, Audrey Hepburn. “I remember seeing a photo of her jumping on a trampoline—I believe this was before I understood that she was famous. But I remember thinking that she looked like a friend I wish I could have had."
Of course, Audrey Hepburn—or simply Audrey, as she will forever be known—has always been a luminous presence: She was a brilliant actress, a timeless style icon, and a tireless crusader for the world’s underprivileged children as an International Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. She was also a devoted mother who put aside her career at its peak to raise her two sons, Sean Ferrer, whose father was Audrey’s first husband, the actor Mel Ferrer, and Luca Dotti, from her second marriage (to the Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti).
One thing that Audrey never had the chance to do, though, was enjoy the experience of being a grandmother. In late 1992, she fell ill during a UNICEF trip to Somalia and died a few months later, in January 1993, of a rare form of abdominal cancer.
Emma Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer, Audrey’s first grandchild, was born in Switzerland in May of the following year to Sean and his then wife, Leila. Now 20, Emma is the eldest of Sean’s three children and spent most of her adolescence in and around Florence, Italy, where Sean, who runs an agency that deals with intellectual property and is also a filmmaker and keeper of the Audrey flame, lives outside the city. (Luca, his wife, and their daughters occupy his mother’s former apartment in Rome.)
"Muse” is an overused word these days, but that’s exactly what Audrey was for the legendary photographer Richard Avedon. She was, in a word, his inspiration, and their interaction played out over a number of years in the 1950s in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar. Avedon photographed Audrey on the streets of Paris, in fashion stories, and several times as a cover subject for the magazine. Even though he worked with some of the biggest models of all time—Suzy Parker, Dorian Leigh, Carmen Dell'Orefice—he was completely enamored with Audrey as a subject, and she loved sitting for him.
Avedon, of course, was memorably fictionalized in the 1957 movie Funny Face. Though he didn’t appear in the film, he served as an adviser. The part of the photographer, Dick Avery, was played by Fred Astaire. Audrey was cast as Avery’s muse—the mousy but promising bookstore clerk who, under his tutelage, blossoms into a glorious supermodel in Paris.
I met Emma in Florence on a Monday in late June, but the week before, she sat for the photo shoot that produced the images you see here. In what might be considered life imitating art—or, perhaps, art imitating art—the man behind the lens was none other than Avedon’s 23-year-old grandson, Michael, now himself a young photographer, much like Dick was when he first shot Audrey.
Today Emma is four years younger than Audrey was when she appeared in 1953’s Roman Holiday, a breakout performance for which she won an Oscar. Emma herself has no designs on acting, though, like her grandmother, she has studied ballet. Instead, Emma’s heart is set on becoming an artist. To that end, she is entering her third year as a student of the Florence Academy of Art.
As anyone who has been there knows, Florence is the sine qua non of Italian cities: the birthplace of the Renaissance, the center of art and culture, the home of the Medicis and of Dante Alighieri, and, not incidentally, the original base for the fashion houses of Gucci, Pucci, Cavalli, and Ferragamo. Florence looks remarkably as it did during the 15th century, the enormous cathedral, its dome engineered by Brunelleschi, dominating the cityscape. Michelangelo’s David has resided in the Accademia Gallery since 1873. Where better for an art student to study?
Sean reminded me that I’d met Emma before, in May 2003. She was only nine at the time. I was then editor in chief of Town & Country, and we’d just done an entire issue on Audrey, accompanied by a special exhibition at Sotheby’s, timed to the 10th anniversary of her death. But when Emma walked through the front door of the hotel where I was staying, the Portrait, I recognized her instantly. First there was her gait—she fairly floated. Then I noticed the unmistakable, graceful posture of a dancer. Though she is not her grandmother’s doppelgänger, there are definite similarities—the arched brows, the almond eyes, the long lashes, the full mouth, the radiant smile. And like Audrey, Emma is tall, with the legs and bearing of a gazelle.
Before Emma and I got together, I visited the new Gucci Museo in Piazza della Signoria. There, amid the vintage handbags, apparel, and shoes was a framed photograph of her grandmother taken in the 1960s. Later, while waiting for Emma in the lobby of the Portrait, I spotted two books on display: Audrey a Roma, based on an exhibition that Luca had curated documenting her years in Rome, and Audrey 100, a volume consisting of 100 images of Audrey chosen by the family, by everyone from Philippe Halsman to Mel Ferrer. Clearly, Audrey was in the Florentine air.
For the better part of the next two days, Emma and I did what we both love to do in Florence: We wandered the streets—some glutted with tourists, others positively deserted—and took in the scenery. We had lunch at the Trattoria La Casalinga, walked to Via Tornabuoni, Florence’s Rue du Faubourg, and popped into the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, housed in Palazzo Spini Feroni. Dedicated to the works of the founder of Ferragamo, the museum has on display an array of wooden foot molds designed for the brand’s most renowned clients. On one row hang the lasts of Gloria Swanson, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, and, naturally, Audrey.
Emma was born in Morges and spent her first year at La Paisible, the Hepburn family’s country house in the Swiss village of Tolochenaz, near Lausanne, where in her later life Audrey lived with (though never married) the Dutch-born investor and former actor Robert Wolders. When Emma was two, Sean and Leila relocated with her to Los Angeles. Even as a child she liked to draw. She also took art and ballet classes and attended Crossroads, the private arts school. “Growing up there felt entirely normal, since I was only a child,” Emma recalls, although she admits that had she remained in L.A., she might well have become that dreaded Hollywood brat. “I know kids who had to go into rehab,” she tells me. “It’s only now that I realize certain elements of a Hollywood lifestyle are, in fact, not entirely healthy.”
Sean and Leila divorced when she was six. At 14, Emma moved with Leila to Florence, mostly so Emma could be closer to Sean, who had settled in the Tuscan countryside. (Leila has since returned to L.A.) Sean remembers Emma as “a sunny child, always looking for something new to keep her interested,” and because of her parents’ breakup, probably mature beyond her years. As we walked and talked, Emma spoke of the deep impression that art school had made on her. “I always drew and liked to take art lessons,” she explained, “but I needed intellectual skills to learn about balance and structure.” She showed me some of her drawings on her iPhone: charcoal portraits and sketches of human figures and plaster casts, all done from life. She listed some of the painters she admired—Rembrandt, Titian, Velázquez, and Zurbarán—and talked about learning to imitate the work of other artists. “At first I resisted the process of copying because I felt it wasn’t original,” she says. “But the truth is, I drew in a very naive way.”
The conversation inevitably leads to the subject of Audrey. “I still have that image of her on the trampoline very clearly in my mind—strangely enough, a lot more clear in ways than images that I see of her every day in shopwindows,” says Emma. “I’ve been questioning a lot lately what she means to me. I knew her image, of course, and that I happened to be, by pure chance, related to her. But as a child I couldn’t really relate to Audrey Hepburn, the actress. To me, she was family. I can live with her through my father. His stories are all about his growing up. But honestly, I haven’t seen all of her movies. When I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I enjoyed it the same way any young girl would. I’ve seen My Fair Lady and Roman Holiday, but I suppose my favorite is Funny Face.” I suggested that we find a way to watch an Audrey Hepburn movie together. Between Charade and Sabrina, we chose Sabrina and made a date to go to her father’s house the following day to watch it.
I ask Emma if she has anything of Audrey’s. “All I can think of are her cashmere turtlenecks, which I adore and wear all throughout the winter,” she says. “And a white antique stuffed teddy bear.”
The next day was sweltering, so the prospect of a late-afternoon drive to Sean’s place in the Tuscan hills came as a relief. And because it was June 24, the Feast of San Giovanni—Florence’s patron saint—most of the shops and restaurants were closed. Fortunately Sean had offered to cook us dinner.
By the time we reached the house, a 17th-century villa nestled in the vineyards of the Frescobaldi family in the Chianti Rufina, the weather was palpably cooler. Emma lives in the upstairs room of a converted barn that also contains Sean’s office and a screening room. After we arrived she showed me a handful of her figure paintings with intense shadowy backgrounds.
We settled into the screening room to watch Sabrina. Directed by Billy Wilder, the 1954 movie stars a youthful Audrey as Sabrina, the daughter of Fairchild, the British chauffeur to the Larrabees, a wealthy family who live on an estate on the North Shore of Long Island. In desperation, Fairchild sends Sabrina off to cooking school in Paris in order to make her forget about David (played by William Holden), the dashing son of his employer, with whom she has long been infatuated. Even if you’ve never seen the film, you can probably guess what happens next: Sabrina returns from France, transformed into a gorgeous, stylish, sophisticated woman (dressed, by the way, by Hubert de Givenchy) and completely turns David’s head.
We were about three quarters into the movie when Sean announced that dinner was ready. At that point we’d been joined by his wife, Karin Hofer, her son, Adone, and Emma’s boyfriend, Richard, a 27-year-old American from Nashville. Emma and Richard met when he taught some of her classes at the art academy in Florence; when the term ended, their relationship began. “He taught anatomical sculpture as well as drawing and painting,” Emma tells me. “We were friends for a while before anything happened between us.”
Sean, an excellent cook, prepared a four-course meal. A gentle breeze was in the air, as we sat at a table under an extended pergola overlooking a grove of olive trees and listened to the honking of a family of wild boars (probably the same dozen that Emma said she’d seen while on a run a few days earlier). Later I asked Sean about Audrey and how much of her he sees in Emma. “My mother was the same as she was on the screen: unassuming, humble, funny, emotional, strong, delicate,” he says. “Fortunately Emma has much better boundaries than either Mom or I ever had. But the genes are strong—and the comedic gene is alive and well. And I can’t help but think that both had to quit professional ballet because they were too tall.”
Life will soon change for Emma when the academy opens a Stateside branch in January, in an arts center in Jersey City. She’s planning to move there to continue her studies. She won’t be going alone; Richard will also be coming to help run the new outpost. “I have mixed feelings about leaving Florence,” she confesses. “I worry about finding the kind of organic food I like to eat and wonder where I will live,” she says. “At the same time I am so excited about being in New York.” The evening was all very relaxed and chatty—until we noticed that it was 9:30 P.M. and realized we wouldn’t get back to Florence in time for the fireworks unless we made a mad dash for it.
Even the city’s outskirts were chockablock with spectators, primarily parents with kids on their shoulders. Eventually Emma, who was driving, stopped the car at the side of the road so we could get out and watch the grand finale. As I stood watching the explosions of color in the sky next to Emma and Richard, who were holding hands, I couldn’t help remembering that famous moment in Sabrina, when Audrey’s character is admonished by Fairchild for behaving like a woman of the world. As if in explanation, she says, “But don’t you see, Father? Everything has changed.” To which Fairchild snaps, “Nothing has changed. He is still David Larrabee, and you are still the chauffeur’s daughter. And you are still reaching for the moon.” With that she sinks into a rocking chair, turns her face up, her eyes half closed, as if in a reverie, smiles radiantly, gives a deep sigh, and utters the unforgettable line, “No, Father. The moon is reaching for me.”
When I returned to New York, I received an e-mail from Emma in which she referred to our watching Audrey in Sabrina. “It had been a while since I’d seen one of her films, and the feeling was indeed magical,” she wrote. “Somehow, seeing her in her youth and brilliance reminded me that I do, in fact, carry her spirit along with me.
"Sometimes when I was younger, I felt confused toward what having a grandmother like her could mean in my life,” she added. “But I am now understanding.”
Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly backstage at the 28th Annual Academy Awards on March 21, 1956. Neither Grace Kelly nor Audrey Hepburn were nominated at the event in RKO Pantages Theatre. Grace Kelly presented Best Actor Oscar for Ernest Borgnine for Marty and Audrey Hepburn made the best film for the same film. That year, Anna Magnani won the award for best actress for The Rose Tattoo, and Jo Van Fleet won the award for best supporting actress for East of Eden. Grace Kelly won the Oscar for best actress last year for her role in The Country Girl , and the year before that Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for best actress in Roman Holiday (1954). Although you can feel the tension in the photograph above by Allan Grant, two protagonists got along perfectly in real life. In a month’s time, Kelly will marry Prince Rainier of Monaco and become Princess Grace.
FIRST LOOK: What Is Vanessa Hudgens Doing in 1900s Paris?
It’s the role that catapulted a newcomer named Audrey Hepburn to international stardom and later served as the centerpiece to one of the most Oscar-laden movie musicals in Hollywood history.
Now, Vanessa Hudgens – exclusively seen here for the first time in character – is stepping into the enviable shoes of French novelist Colette’s irresistible gamine in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris, Gigi, for the splashy stage musical of the same name.
“Excited isn’t a strong enough word!” the actress, who rose to fame as Gabriella Montez on the Disney Channel’s High School Musical, tells PEOPLE about landing the title role in the Broadway-bound adaptation.
“I’ve been waiting for the right role to come along, and she appeared to me when I was least expecting it,” says Hudgens, 25. “It’s been a lot of fun prepping for Gigi … allowing myself to be as free as possible. I love this character, the music and play so much.”
The show goes into rehearsal Dec. 8 and will play at the Eisenhower Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., from Jan. 16 to Feb. 12, prior to opening on Broadway in 2015 – although already Gigi has had quite a history, ever since her birth in Colette’s 1944 novella.
Adapted in 1951 by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes author Anita Loos, the Broadway stage version starred Colette’s personal pick in the title role, the very young Hepburn – who was then snapped up by Paramount Pictures to play the princess in the movie Roman Holiday, which won her the Best Actress Oscar.
MGM secured the rights to the play, with the hopes of turning it into a movie musical, which it did in 1958, assembled by the top-tier team of director Vincente Minnelli, producer Arthur Freed, lyricist-screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, the last two fresh off their unparalleled Broadway success with My Fair Lady.
Starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier, Gigi won nine Oscars, including Best Picture.
Lerner and Loewe then adapted the movie for Broadway in 1973, and while that incarnation could not match the success of its predecessors, the Hudgens version – directed by Eric Schaeffer (Follies, Million Dollar Quartet) from a new book by British playwright and screenwriter Heidi Thomas – will incorporate songs dropped from the movie score.
As for the star, “Making my Broadway debut with Gigi feels like a dream come true,” says Hudgens. “I couldn’t have planned it better myself.”