Ranking Audrey Hepburn's Most Iconic Characters, From Eliza Doolittle To Holly Golightly
A few nights ago, my soon-to-be-roommate and I were waxing adorably about our plans to move to New York, and in that mindset I put on Breakfast at Tiffany's. We passed out on the couch around "Moon River" — too many bellinis, I feel like Holly would approve — but the fact remains that Audrey Hepburn left some iconic characters in her wake, ones that we love to check in on time and time again. And as her birthday is upon us, I think it's time we sift through some of her most identifiable roles and rank them accordingly.
Of course, I'm probably the one best suited for this task, because I've watched and re-watched so many of her films before they were cruelly ripped off Netflix... and I know their common tie. Quite often, Hepburn characters are clothed in high fashion (Givenchy, Edith Head, et cetera) and at some point undergo a transformation. Depending on how the character handles this transformation usually determines how I view them. So as I use the term "definitive" here, feel free to use it as "entirely subjective." Just throwing it out there.
In any case, please join me, darling, as we revisit and rank some of Hepburn's greatest characters from worst to best.
Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady
Ugh, god. While My Fair Lady — a musical adaptation of Pygmalion — is considered a classic, and has the kind of costuming you cry over, I could never get behind it. Transformation is a recurring theme in Hepburn films, but here we see it at its most sexist... and classist, really. Eliza Doolittle becomes the subject of a bet, schooled in dictation lessons that washes away her (admittedly horrible) accent. While she's merely the victim here, and the misogynistic Higgins is inevitably The Worst, she's still a lot harder to love than other Audrey protagonists.
She's All That sucks, too.
Nicole Bonnet, How to Steal a Million
How to Steal a Million is a great film and Audrey sports a brilliant bouffant the entire time. She has more of a take-charge attitude compared to earlier Hepburn roles, planning to steal statues, bathed in Givenchy and lace, and I appreciate that. But at the end of the day, as a character, Nicole doesn't really stand out in my memory. That could be just me, but I can remember the last time someone said, "'How to Steal a Million' is my favorite Hepburn film."
Incidentally it has a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, so who knows.
Reggie Lampert, Charade
Blair Waldorf hates Charade, which is a shame because it's a delightful funny thriller (I know right), and I like seeing Hepburn wrapped up in the throws of the mystery. But like How to Steal a Million, Reggie Lampert the charming widow in the glamorous eyewear, doesn't speak to me in any significant way. Again, I think I just like a pro-transformation Hepburn film.
Jo Stockton, Funny Face
Essentially, what makes Jo endearing is what also makes her a tad unsufferable. She's educated, sensible, and has a love of philosophy. She's also snobby, pretentious, and would definitely work at a vegan bakery if she existed today. Incidentally the proto-hipster becomes more likable when she gets dolled up in fine garments and learns how to channel her creativity into modeling, but then she proceeds to talk smack about it, and it's all. very. frustrating. Though Funny Face is arguably the most beautiful Hepburn film (and lord knows I love anything about the fashion magazine industry), Jo is easily of the most divisive characters.
In short, two points for her weird interpretative dance, minus two points for shacking up with an elderly Fred Estaire... unless you're into that kind of thing.
Sabrina Fairchild, Sabrina
The problem with Sabrina is that she's not a very strong character, especially early on in the film where she tries to off herself in the garage. Over a BOY. Come on, dude.
But I thoroughly love when she comes back from Paris in sleek black separates, a chic short haircut, and big-ass earrings. It's important that of all the transformations we see, Sabrina's is definitively one that's done for herself... although it's a great "fuck you" to the man that ignored her. Though the literal plot of Sabrina is more reliant on the love triangle between her and the two Larrabee brothers, that kind of spiteful duck-to-a-swan transition wins me over every time.
Princess Ann, Roman Holiday
Already a front runner because of her status as the bona fide princess of Somewhere, but that's not why she's great. Princess Ann is a winner is because she reclaims her power, if only for a day, by symbolically chopping off her hair and taking Rome by storm. This chick is equal parts feisty and adorable, and absolutely deserves her time in the sun. All this and she snags Gregory Peck, my personal pick for the swooniest of Hepburn love interests, and they don't force their relationship at the end of the film in a gross way. Bless.
Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's
Original? No. And is the film's varicolored heroine perfect? Double no. Generally speaking, she's sort of a glamorous call girl who wants to earn power the old fashioned way, by marrying rich. But she shines in spite of this reality, because Holly Golightly is vivacious, charming, and knows how to scheme her way into getting whatever she wants, in the most good-natured way possible. Whereas other Hepburn characters are given makeovers inspired by men, Lula Mae Barnes evolves into Holly out of necessity, as a way to rebrand. Of note, Hepburn wears the same little black dress several times in the film, showing how resourceful the character could be, how convincing she can make the illusion.
Yes, it's the expected pick, but only because iconic figures are characterized by their lasting impact. And thanks to Hepburn, Holly is a character we can never forget.
Images: Paramount Pictures, Giphy (7)