No amount of advertising, product placement, celebrity endorsement or scooter giveaway contests will ever impact the demand for scooters in America more than the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn. Directed by William Wyler and co-starring Gregory Peck, Roman Holiday forever etched the romantic idea of riding a scooter into the American national consciousness. How many scooter owners out there named their first scooter Audrey? Didn’t we all? Thought you were pretty clever, didn’t you?
Today we celebrate the birthday of romantic scooting’s first lady, Audrey Hepburn. Were Audrey as immortal in body as she is in memory, she’d be 84 years-old today. Her Academy Award Winning performance in Roman Holiday will likely forever be a part of scooter culture, just like the Mods, The Who and the very name of Vespa.
Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston; 4 May 1929 – 20 January 1993) was a British actress and humanitarian. Recognised as both a film and fashion icon, Hepburn was active during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She has since been ranked as the third greatest female screen legend in the history of American cinema and been placed in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
Born in Ixelles, a district of Brussels, Hepburn spent her childhood between Belgium, England and the Netherlands, including German-occupied Arnhem during the Second World War. In Amsterdam, she studied ballet with Sonia Gaskell before moving to London in 1948 to continue ballet training with Marie Rambert and perform as a chorus girl in West End musical theatre productions.
After appearing in several British films and starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi, Hepburn played the Academy Award-winning lead role in Roman Holiday (1953). Later performing in successful films like Sabrina (1954), The Nun’s Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967), Hepburn received Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations and accrued a Tony Award for her theatrical performance in the 1954 Broadway play Ondine. Hepburn remains one of few people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.
She appeared in fewer films as her life went on, devoting much of her later life to UNICEF. Although contributing to the organisation since 1954, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia between 1988 and 1992. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in late 1992. A month later, Hepburn died of appendiceal cancer at her home in Switzerland in early 1993 at the age of 63.