|Actress to Feature D.R. in TV Series
by Joe Harkins
Audrey Hepburn, one of the greatest movies stars from a time "when movies were movies," graced the Dominican Republic's North Coast last week.
She and a production crew spent more than three days working in the central city of Santiago de los Cabelleros, taping scenes for one of a series of eight half-hour shows which will premiere in January 1991 on the United States Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television network.
"The Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn" will examine examples of man's tender manipulation of God's flora. One such featured garden will be the estate of Gustavo Tavares. Ms. Hepburn also was a guest of the Tavares family during her visit.
To many movie fans, Audrey Hepburn has been the singular expression of charm, wit and classic beauty. Her films, through the nineteen-fifties and sixties, set standards that are still rarely approached. Her early training in classical ballet, in London, added grace and elegance to her screen presence.
Perhaps her best-known film is Roman Holiday for which she won an Academy Award as Best Actress. This was no flash in the pan. During the next ten years, her professional peers in the Academy nominated her as Best Actress four more times.
The list of her films might well be taken for a list of the best films of that period. They include Sabrina, where she created a powerful leading lady to both Humphrey Bogart and William Holden; Funny Face; Green Mansions; Paris When it Sizzles; Love Among Thieves;Breakfast at Tiffany's; My Fair Lady, in the Eliza Dolittle role originated onstage by Julie Andrews; Charade; Love in the Afternoon; The Nun's Story; Two for the Road; and Wait Until Dark. Some say her vivid performance as Natasha was the sole redeeming feature of that otherwise turgid monster War and Peace.
In recent years, Ms. Hepburn, born in Belgium of Irish-Dutch parents, has been an official ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nation's Children's Fund. In that capacity, she spent three years working on programs to serve the world's most precious resource, its children. She continues that work while completing the current PBS project.
In the airline reservation computer at Puerto Plata International Airport, she was tagged as a VIP (Very Important Passenger), entitled to all the perks of fame. A reporter and a helpful airline official looked in vain for her all through the carefully-guarded, air-conditioned back rooms where transient VIPs are shielded from the public and the discomforts of the main terminal.
She was eventually discovered sitting in one of those ugly, uncomfortable, plastic, clam-shell chairs, just like the rest of us who suffer the indignities of the hot and noisy main waiting room at the Puerto Plata Air Terminal. She was chatting with her host and professional colleagues, oblivious to the growing awareness, especially among older travelers, of her identity.
While time, that relentless thief, has visited her too, the long graceful neck and luminous eyes that became her trademark are intact. Her famous smile, combining the innocence of the ingenue with some secret private wisdom, still has the power to turn heads.
She introduced us to Tavares and explained why his Santiago gardens were chosen above all others in the lush Caribbean. "The gardens of Don Gustavo are the very embodiment of this most beautiful country. I've seen much of this world but few places are so impressive."
"The drive over the mountains was a great surprise. I'd not expected to see mountains. One naturally thinks of beaches and palm trees, but these mountains are superb." That is no faint praise, considering that Ms. Hepburn has called Switzerland her home for many years.
Some of the locations chosen for the Gardens of the World include the perfectly-manicured gardens of Kyoto, Japan's magnificent City of Shrines; Royal Gardens in England; fields of tulips in Holland; the gardens designed by George Washington around his beloved Mount Vernon home; and others throughout all the continents.
"Only man, of all the world's creatures, cultivates plants and flowers for the pleasure of sharing their beauties. The arts of the garden, like those of theater, literature, music, and painting, nurture and comfort the human spirit," she said.
As her flight was called, she commented, with a hint of wistfulness, looking beyond the airport to the mountains off to the south of us. "Such a lovely surprise; how lovely."
Those were one reporter's thoughts about her, exactly. -30-
This piece was first published May 18, 1990 in the Santo Domingo News (Dominican Republic) while I was a newspaper editor there. Ms. Hepburn died January 20, 1993.
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