Audrey Hepburn might be the world’s biggest Hollywood star, but what’s little-known is that she once took a day trip to Brighton. I know!
What a jaw dropping gem of major Hollywood gossip. I stumbled on it when research for my Secret Brighton book took me to The Grange, a gallery and museum in a whitewashed Georgian house in Rottingdean, a charming village next to Brighton. Wandering its creaky corridors in and out of rooms, I found a fascinating exhibition on ‘Brighton in the movies’ – including an entire cabinet dedicated to Audrey Hepburn. Wait a second…
What has the biggest, most iconic film star on earth got to do with our crumbling seaside town? Something pretty important as it happens. In 1951, Audrey Hepburn made a day trip to Brighton for her first-ever photoshoot.
Yes, people! The Hollywood icon – star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s – has been to Brighton!
Side note: Not convinced the sunny backdrop in the photos above is Brighton, and looks more like a Greek island? I can reassure you the photos were taken in Brighton, around the village of Rottingdean I mentioned above, known for its beautiful white cliffs and windmill.
At the time of her trip, Hepburn wasn’t well known. She was just a young dancer on the verge of stardom, with only a few bit parts to her name. She’d made her stage debut as a chorus girl in the musical High Button Shoes in London and had a few small parts on the British stage. She’d also made her feature film debut in One Wild Oat, in an uncredited role and had so far had little parts in other films, like Young Wives’ Tales (1951) and The Lavender Hill Mob, starring Alec Guiness, and appeared on the New York stage.
It was at this point, in 1951 – two years before her big break in Roman Holiday and 10 years before Breakfast at Tiffany’s – that a photo-story magazine called Illustrated (similar to the legendary LIFE Magazine) ran a profile of the 23-year-old “pretty showgirl”. The photos were taken by Joseph McKeown, who shot everything from the Suez crisis, to Grace Kelly’s wedding, to the glamour of the Swinging 60s in London and worked for LIFE.
Here are a some more photos from the shoot…
Make this gem of Hollywood gossip your next dinner party conversation starter!