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A rare glimpse of Audrey Hepburn's world

Cahal Milmo
Monday 01 November 2010 01:00 GMT

In 1953, a relatively unknown British actress going by the name of Audrey Hepburn arrived back in Hollywood after making Roman Holiday alongside Gregory Peck. After a tiring day of publicity shots for the film that would earn her an Oscar, she retired to a studio car where one more photograph was taken to capture her elfin beauty.

Nearly 60 years later, that picture has been offered up for sale in a limited edition by the estate of the man who took it – Bob Willoughby, whose candid yet glamorous images of several generations of Hollywood stars from Marilyn Monroe to Jane Fonda made him the photographer of choice for the big studios.

Willoughby, who died earlier this year aged 82, remained certain about his preferred subject in Hollywood's golden age, recalling how he had first met Hepburn on the day he took his photograph of her entering the car. He recalled: "She took my hand like, well, a princess, and dazzled me with that smile that God designed to melt mortal men's hearts."

The extent to which the charms of Hepburn retain their appeal was underlined last month when all 1,000 copies of a book cataloguing Willoughby's pictures of the star between 1953 and 1966, costing £450 each and signed and numbered by the photographer, sold out within hours of going on sale.

The limited edition of 50 prints, costing £1,250 each, is being sold as part of an exhibition of Willoughby's work in Brussels, the city of Hepburn's birth.

Willoughby is widely credited with inventing the photojournalistic genre of film stills. He retired in 1972 to live in a castle in southern Ireland where he translated early Irish poetry.

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