Picks and Pans Review: Audrey Hepburn

updated 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Warren G. Harris

The uncommonly graceful and alluring star of Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady, Hepburn was not likely to escape a spot on the celebrity bio bookshelf. But it doesn't seem fair after her death from colon cancer last year that any Hepburn bio be quite this bovine. Harris, author of 1990's Lucy & Desi, laboriously and charmlessly traces Hepburn's life from her birth in Brussels and a horrific adolescence in Holland during the Nazi occupation to her discovery by French author Colette and subsequent decades of glory as a class act.

Perhaps because he has nothing to add to what is already known about Hepburn—the unsuccessful marriages to actor Mel Ferrer and Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, affairs with William Holden and Ben Gazzara, her work for UNICEF—Harris makes much of the fact that he's got the goods on her parents. Her father never worked for the Bank of England, Harris reports eagerly, noting with equal vigor the senior Hepburn's pre-World War II Fascist leanings. But having set forth such information, he never ponders the effect such unattractive political ties might have had on young Audrey.

Sometimes the book is merely baffling—as when Harris comments on Hepburn's refusal to portray Anne Frank on stage or screen because of painful memories of her own year in Arnhem. ("Was it a matter of choice or providence that the aspiring ballerina survived and the fledgling writer didn't?") Harris can also be offensive. "Though going on 18," he writes, "Audrey had yet to develop any romantic attachments. She had reached mating age during wartime when the only men around were young boys or old-timers, and it would have been easy to be attracted to someone of her own sex." Huh, again. Suffice it to say Audrey Hepburn is no Roman Holiday. (Simon & Schuster, $23)

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