It’s not every day that the original script of a classic Hollywood movie, featuring handwritten scribbles and jottings by one of cinema’s most iconic actresses, comes up for sale. Yet, on September 27, fans of Audrey Hepburn will get a rare chance to bid for not just one, but two of her scripts – as well as other items of personal memorabilia from her private collection, at an auction at Christie’s London headquarters.
Hepburn, who was born in Belgium, captured the hearts of millions of film enthusiasts from the moment she first walked on the set to play the role of a runaway European princess in the hit 1953 film, Roman Holiday, which won her the Oscar for best actress.
Other eye-catching parts included that of the iconic New York call girl, Holly Golightly – seen wearing sunglasses and a stunning black Givenchy dress, in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The sale of Hepburn’s original film script to the film, complete with deleted scenes and her own notes written in her favourite turquoise ink, is one of the highlights of the auction, “Audrey Hepburn: The Personal Collection”.
The script is expected to fetch between £60,000 (HK$631,000) to £90,000.
“Without question, there are some things in this sale that are intrinsically interesting; an original Breakfast at Tiffany’s film script, whether it was Audrey Hepburn’s or not, would have a certain value,” says Adrian Hume-Sayer, director of private collections at Christie’s.
“But I think particularly with this sale, because she is so iconic, so beloved, it is definitely the story [combined with] that tangible connection with somebody everybody holds so dear that is where a real interest and value lies,” he says, explaining the overwhelming public interest in the forthcoming auction.
Hume-Sayer says overseeing the auction is also a significant achievement for Christie’s because “this sale completes [for us] the trilogy of the great 20th century actresses”.
He says: “We’ve sold Marilyn Monroe’s collection in the 1990s, we’ve sold the Elizabeth Taylor collection in 2011, and now we’ve got Audrey Hepburn, and for me, these are the three greatest names.”
Apart from selling some of Hollywood’s most prized collection of paraphernalia, the auction is also presented as a rare opportunity to take a closer look at the personal life of the actress.
As Sean Hepburn-Ferrer, Hepburn’s eldest son, says: “Her greatest creation was herself. She created the Audrey Hepburn that we see and know today, readily associated with a very simple look that is then carried on to other decisions in her life: the parts she plays [in film], the style that she represented, [her] elegance inside and out.”
Hepburn-Ferrer’s favourite lot is a painting of flowers his mother created while out in her garden, while resting during her pregnancy.
“It’s also the symbol of what this auction represents,” he says. “It’s not just things that have a great value, but it’s actually things that are delicate that [reflect her] choices – the choices of style, of everyday life, that created the person that we all know to be Audrey Hepburn.”
Hume-Sayer says: “What is unique about Audrey is that she’s got this growing fan base.”
Hepburn was one of those rare stars who possessed an uncanny ability to transcend time – a major contributing factor to her long-lasting appeal among her fans not only in past decades but also in the present day.
It is undeniable that Hepburn’s star continued to shine brightly in the imagination of filmgoers long after her premature retirement in 1988 and her death, from cancer, in 1993.
Hume-Sayer mentions her carefully curated wardrobe as an example of her uncanny ability to spot items of clothing that continue to appeal to her fans.
“A colleague walked past [the clothes on display at the exhibition], and said, “Any one of these, you could wear today”. I don’t think if you lifted Marilyn’s clothes and put them there, or lifted Elizabeth Taylor’s clothes and put them there, it would be the same,” Hume-Sayer says.
“They would be beautiful ... but you’d be looking at them more as an historical object, whereas any one of those [from Hepburn’s collection] somebody could wear and look amazing, right now.”
If the hundreds of memes floating around on the internet, dozens of Holly Golightly lookalikes wandering around the streets on Halloween and Breakfast at Tiffany film posters seen taped to university dorms are anything to by, it doesn’t look as if Hepburn’s popularity will be fading any time soon.
Perhaps Hepburn-Ferrer sums up his mother’s legacy best: “She now belongs to the public. She’s forever an icon ... she will continue on forever.”
The September 27 sale, Audrey Hepburn: The Personal Collection, features about 300 lots. An online auction will also run concurrently from September 19 to October 3. Estimates for lots start at £100 and go up to £80,000.
Other highlights of the sale include her script for The Nun’s Story (1959, which is expected to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000.
Also for sale are a selection of her clothes, including a pale blue cocktail dress by Givenchy, which she wore for an editorial shoot (£10,000 – £15,000), her selection of ballet pumps (starting from £1,500) and portraits of her (starting from £500), taken by renowned photographers including Cecil Beaton and Steven Meisel.