Audrey Hepburn was the princess of Hollywood thanks to such hits as Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
But before the beauty rolled west, she had harrowing experiences in Nazi occupied Holland during World War II.
And in the new book Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn And World War II – which shared an excerpt in People this week – historian and biographer Robert Matzen wrote about how she helped the resistance in her native country.
Tough childhood: Audrey Hepburn had harrowing experiences in Nazi occupied Holland during World War II. Seen in 1952
‘When my mother told us about her life, she never talked about Hollywood or her films,’ said her son Luca Dotti, 49.
‘She would tell us stories about the war. And she spoke about good and evil.’
And recalling the horrific experience of war-torn Holland run by Nazis obviously shook the former ballet dancer.
‘I knew from her eyes, her expressions, and her shaky hands that there was more to the story,’ added her son.
At one point she came face to face with Nazis who could have killed her on the spot.
A troubling start to life: Hepburn as a teenager with her mother, Dutch baroness Ella Van Heemstra in 1946
She loved to dance: The star with dancer Babs Johnston as they got ready to audition for music impresario Jack Hylton, for his new musical High Button Shoes, circa 1948
But the brunette, born born Audrey Kathleen Ruston, kept her cool by picking wildflowers.
‘When the Germans…reached her she remained silent and sweetly presented her flowers to them,’ said the author.
‘After a check of her identity card, she was allowed to pass.’
The war was very personal for the screen idol as it claimed the live of her uncle Otto van Limburg Stirum, who was executed by the Nazis when he refused to support them in 1942.
Early fame: She was cast in the 1953 film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck. Her looks and personality were an instant hit and she won an Oscar
Dotti wrote the forward to Dutch Girl.
‘It’s a good time to tell my mother’s story and to know her as more than just an icon of beauty and style,’ he said.
‘There were times reading this book that I was crying. I imagine how brave she was, working for the Resistance and also how easily she could have died from lack of food, or from a bomb or a bullet.
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‘To imagine my mother in these conditions was a shock. You can feel her trauma but also her strength.
‘My mother always said that there is no greater evil than war because it affects the children.’
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Holland was occupied for five years under the Nazis and Audrey struggled to survive with constant threats, one of the worst being starvation.
But the young Audrey still worked for the Dutch Resistance to help fight the Nazis.
According to Matzen, she was only 14-years-old when she let a helping hand.
‘Audrey once said that one of her jobs was “running around with food for the pilots,” he said.
Those pilots were the American and British fly boys who ended up on Holland soil after being gunned down by the Germans.
‘As a fluent English speaker, she could communicate with the pilots, tell them where to go and who would help them,’ he said.
Hepburn also was asked to deliver the local Resistance newspaper, a forbidden publication in Nazi occupied Holland, People reported after reading the book.
According to Matzen, she talking about having to ‘step in and deliver our tiny underground newspaper. I stuffed them in my woolen socks in my wooden shoes, got on my bike, and delivered them.’
What a life: She died in 1993 in Switzerland at the age of 63 after battling colon cancer. Seen in 1955
She danced in ‘black evenings,’ which were illegal performance nights. They had to cover the windows so the Germans could not see in. The money that was collected was given to the Dutch Underground, the author said.
‘Guards were posted outside to let us know when Germans approached,’ Audrey once said.
‘The best audiences I ever had made not a single sound at the end of the performance.’
Those early days of performing gave her a love for being on stage.
After the war she studied ballet with Sonia Gaskell in Amsterdam before moving to London in 1948.
There she continued her ballet training with Marie Rambert, and then performing as a chorus girl in West End musical theatre productions.
Following minor appearances in several films, Hepburn starred in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi, after being spotted by French novelist Colette, on whose work the play was based.
She was then cast in the 1953 film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck. Her looks and personality were an instant hit and she won an Oscar.
Next came Sabrina, A Nun’s Story, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Charade, My Fair Lady and Wait Until Dark.