Thursday, June 4, 2009

Poll Results: Audrey Hepburn

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

~Audrey Hepburn

The May poll results (82 total votes):

Audrey Hepburn- 26 (32%)
Marilyn Monroe- 19 (23%)
Grace Kelly- 18 (22%)
Doris Day- 11 (13%)
Elizabeth Taylor- 8 (9%)

I’ll admit that these polls are merely an excuse for me to ramble on about whoever the winner is. I always hope that someone reading might agree with what I say, or, even better, provide an eye-opening point of view that I hadn’t previously considered. I know very little about these actresses, and what I believe is largely based on my perceptions of them onscreen. So feel free to jump in and share what it is you like about them (or dislike; just be nice) I’m also willing to welcome someone passionate enough about their choice to invite them as a guest blogger here. Okay? Great!

I thought that the May poll question, “Who do you think is the quintessential 1950s actress?” would be handily won by that ever-popular cultural icon, Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn has all the snapshot images: the white dress blowing up, the kiss from the window, entertaining the troops in that slinky black dress in Korea, the bleach-blonde hair and the endless commercialization of said images.

Perhaps Doris Day might have emerged victorious, given her status as the prototypically 1950s “Girl Next Door.” But Day is a polarizing figure and has as many detractors as she does admirers, though she performed respectably in the poll.

Grace Kelly had a stellar year in 1954, even winning an Oscar (and beating out Audrey). But she beat it out of Hollywood in 1956 and married that schlubby prince.

Elizabeth Taylor had the movie star pedigree: the child star that came of age in the 1950s and was also the one with all the Oscar nominations earning consecutive nods in 1957 through 1960.

However, the clear winner is Audrey Hepburn, who, despite trailing early in the voting, emerged as the majority’s choice as the quintessential 1950s actress. I still believe that she won because in the view of many classic movie lovers, Audrey has more substance than Marilyn, even if we know virtually every detail of the latter’s perpetual unhappiness and early death. Marilyn longed to be considered a “serious” actress and an intellectual. That never happened. It would also seem that the Audrey fans out there stuffed the Hollywood Dreamland ballot box! Her fans are legion; just look at the amount of blogger profile pictures that use Hepburn as their avatar.

I have a theory about Audrey’s popularity, and I’ve commented on it before when her role as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday won March’s poll:

Audrey isn’t the sex goddess Marilyn is, she’s not the goody-goody Doris’ public image made her out to be, she didn’t have Grace Kelly’s royal, icy aloofness, and she wasn’t shrill and mean as Liz Taylor could be in her films. Audrey happened to just happened to carry herself like a princess, was beautiful like a porcelain doll, but emotional, sensitive, and above all—accessible. This is speculation, but I think that Audrey, regardless of her beauty and ability, had whatever the heck it was that most any girl out there understood: uncertainty, the feeling of being alone in the world. Marilyn Monroe, who obviously felt that way in her personal life, never conveyed those feelings onscreen. Audrey was able to show happiness tinged with an ever-present sadness. It was often seen in her movies as a moment of joy quickly replaced by her sad knowledge of the world, and of her own condition. This isn't present with any other actress and Audrey used that and made it her—I use this word too much---persona.

Of course, there's not a single, definitive reason that Audrey has become as popular as she has. When I was growing up, Marilyn Monroe was the star that girls idolized. MM’s popularity has dimmed since that time, but clearly a new awareness of Audrey Hepburn’s appeal has made itself known. Whatever it is, there wasn’t anything in the popular culture to catapult Audrey above these other actresses, so I’d be interested in knowing what makes Audrey so special to you. As for those that didn’t win, do chime in on what it was that made you vote the way you did.


  1. Interesting results C.K. Looking at it from a perspective of the 1950’s the winner should have been Monroe or Kelly. Doris though popular in the 1950’s really did not became a superstar until the 1960’s with her so-called sex comedies. Taylor’s career spanned the 1940’s through the 1980’s (even longer). Hepburn also lasted into the 1970’s and had equally big successes in both the 1950’s and 1960’s. The two true 1950’s icons are Monroe and Kelly. Monroe’s career and her best work were all in the 1950’s and Kelly’s work began and ended in the same decade. I don’t begrudge Hepburn her win here, and I understand it, she had some major successes in that decade and she had class, but no female actress was as popular and as iconic as Marilyn at that time. The Monroe/DiMaggio marriage was a major new event equal to Brad and Jolie today, even more so. The biggest movie star of the day and the greatest ballplayer!

    Good stuff!

    Coincidently, I just posted a review at 24 Frames (a shameless plug) earlier today on the 1963 Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant film “Charade.”

  2. Audrey Hepburn is my favorite actress and has been so for over 10 years now. Although I don't remember if I voted in this poll I am glad she won even if it is not exactly accurate.

    However I expect she won not because of her popularity in the 50's but because of her popularity today. She definitely seems one of those actresses that introduce a lot of people into classic films, and I still feel like she is the quintessential romantic comedy actress. It also seems that she wasn't just a lovely person onscreen but everything I've read about her seems to indicate that she was just as lovely of a person off screen.

  3. A sweet post on Audrey! I have the same idea about her as you - accessibility. She's more real and down-to-earth than the other contestants. She has a little bit of all of the other women, and yet something real and genuine about her.
    And it's also true what you say about the ongoing awareness of Audrey that wasn't here some years ago in the same way - it's interesting!

  4. Audrey Hepburn has always been my favorite because in spite of being exquisitely beautiful she always came across as a genuinely good, decent, kind, appreciative person who realized fame wasn't IT. There was so much more to her than just beauty.

  5. The last lines were meant to read : There was so much more to her than just beauty and talent. She was a great person who did a lot for others. (*the dog barked and scared me into posting early)

  6. I gave my vote to Audrey. (Close behind was Princess Grace.)

    Audrey's my second favorite actress, and there is something spectacularly special about her! It's her overall persona and life that I can't help adoring.

    She was also so nice in real life and seemed like someone it would be really cool to know!

    You should (hopefully) be getting a little feedback from my fellow Audrey fans: Harley and Sarah (Sarah even started a message board just for Audrey). And they can explain the Audrey-love so much better that I!

  7. Great Audrey Hepburn quote. I may use it for my Quote of the Day.

    You are definitely in my blog roll.


  8. I also voted for Audrey, and her win was no surprise to me. When I was growing up, all the girls I knew wanted to be Audrey Hepburn! I think it must have been for one thing her tall, slender model's build; clothes just looked better on her than on any of the other nominees (who were superlatively chosen, by the way). And she combined sophistication and innocence in a way none of those others did. In comparison, Marilyn' appeal was much more openly sexual, and of more interest to men than to women. Doris Day was too cutesy. Grace Kelly simply had too short a career. And Liz was certainly a beauty, particularly early in the decade, but never really had a consistent screen image. Audrey projected the most consistent persona of the five and projected intelligence in a way none of the others did. I've always thought of Audrey as the quintessential 50s actress in the way that Marlon Brando was the quintessential 50s actor.

    C.K., I just love your monthly polls and look forward to every one of them. So far every one has been a classic movie lover's dream question. I've already voted in the latest one!

  9. I love Audrey. It's cool to see her win. She's never been my favorite actress, but she's one I've always loved. I've enjoyed quite a few of her films over the years.

  10. I would have voted for Doris as despite the girl-next-door image, in reality she turned her hand to many dramatic roles as well. However, I'm a big fan of all the actresses on the list, including the winner, Audrey Hepburn, a charming unique actress. Marilyn Monroe had more than just sex appeal, she had a child-like innocence as well and I think, despite the comment above, appealed to women as much as men. Liz was a fantastic actress but probably the most controversial on the list and hated at times because of her private life. Kelly had the air of a slightly remote beauty that you could admire but not fall in love with.
    Nice blog and website.

  11. It's rather late in the game and I didn't get to vote but if I had Audrey would have been my choice just as she has been for the past 50 years, ever since I saw her in "Sabrina" when I was eleven. Throughout the '50s, she was an enchanting child-woman, with enormous doe eyes, a disarming smile and a most unique and fey speech pattern. Add to this, charm and poise and elegance and niceness and you have an icon not only for the '50s but for the ages.


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