Roman Holiday opens, featuring Hepburn’s first starring role

On this day in 1953, Roman Holiday, featuring Audrey Hepburn in her first starring movie role, premieres in New York City. Hepburn’s performance in Roman Holiday, as a European princess who ditches her official duties and falls for an American journalist (played by Gregory Peck) while on tour in Rome, earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress and instantly established her as a leading Hollywood star.

Hepburn was born on May 4, 1929, in Belgium. Her father, an English businessman, left Hepburn and her mother, a Dutch baroness, when Hepburn was a young girl. She attended school in England, but when World War II broke out, her mother brought her to Holland, thinking her daughter would be safer there. During the war, the Nazis occupied Holland and Hepburn and her family endured hunger and other hardships.

After the war, Hepburn studied ballet in Amsterdam and London and played bit parts on stage and screen until she met the French writer Colette, who insisted that Hepburn be cast as the lead in the Broadway version of her novel Gigi. Hepburn’s Broadway debut brought her enormous attention and led to her role in Roman Holiday. Moviegoers were enchanted by the slender, elegant beauty and she went on to star in a string of hit films, including Sabrina (1954), opposite Humphrey Bogart; Funny Face (1957), with Fred Astaire; Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), in which she played Holly Golightly; and My Fair Lady (1964), in which she starred as Eliza Dolittle.

Hepburn married the actor and director Mel Ferrer in 1954, and he produced her 1967 film Wait Until Dark, which earned her another Academy Award nomination. (Hepburn also received Best Actress Oscar nominations for Sabrina, 1959’s The Nun’s Story and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.) Ferrer and Hepburn divorced in 1968 (they had two sons together) and the actress married the Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti in 1969. The couple moved to Europe and Hepburn largely retired from Hollywood, devoting her time to charitable causes. She became a special ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the 1970s. Hepburn’s marriage to Dotti produced another son, and lasted until 1982.

In 1976, after a nine-year hiatus from Hollywood, Hepburn appeared as a middle-aged Maid Marian in Robin and Marian, opposite Sean Connery. She made a handful of film appearances after that, including her final movie role as an angel in Always (1989), directed by Steven Spielberg. Hepburn continued to work for charitable causes until her death from cancer at age 63 on January 20, 1993, in Switzerland.


“The Guinness Book of Records” debuts

On this day in 1955, the first edition of “The Guinness Book of Records” is published in Great Britain; it quickly proves to be a hit. Now known as the “Guinness World Records” book, the annual publication features a wide range of feats related to humans and animals. To date, the more

Mountbatten killed by IRA

On August 27, 1979, Lord Louis Mountbatten is killed when Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorists detonate a 50-pound bomb hidden on his fishing vessel Shadow V. Mountbatten, a war hero, elder statesman, and second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was spending the day with his family more

The Battle of Brooklyn

During the American Revolution, British forces under General William Howe defeat Patriot forces under General George Washington at the Battle of Brooklyn in New York. On August 22, Howe’s large army landed on Long Island, hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the more

Krakatau explodes

The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into more

Romania enters World War I

On this day in 1916, after Romania declares war on Austria-Hungary, formally entering World War I, Romanian troops cross the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the much-contested province of Transylvania. By the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, Romania had long been at more

Agnew meets with President Thieu in Saigon

Vice President Spiro Agnew meets with South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu in Saigon. In a speech at Ton Son Nhut air base, Agnew praised the South Vietnamese people for suffering “so much in freedom’s cause” and promised that “there will no lessening of U.S. support.” more

Henderson steals his way to a record

Oakland Athletics outfielder Rickey Henderson steals his 119th base of the year, breaking Hall of Famer Lou Brock’s 1979 record for stolen bases in a season. Rickey Henley Henderson was born on Christmas Day, 1958. When he was seven years old, his family moved to Oakland, where more

LBJ is born

On this day in 1908, future President Lyndon Baines Johnson is born on a farm near Stonewall, Texas. The brash, outspoken Johnson grew up in an impoverished rural area and worked his way through a teachers’ training college before entering politics. In 1937, Johnson won a seat in more

Tycoon William Ralston drowns

Hours after being asked to resign as president of the Bank of California, the powerful western capitalist William Ralston is found drowned in San Francisco Bay. One of the first men to build a major financial empire in the Far West, Ralston was born in Ohio in 1826. In 1854, he more

Theodore Dreiser is born

Theodore Dreiser, whose book Sister Carrie helped change the direction of American literature, is born on this day in Terre Haute, Indiana. Dreiser was the 12th of 13 children born to a poor, unhappy family. Except for one brother who became a songwriter, most of the Dreiser more

Beatles manager Brian Epstein dies

On August 27, 1967, Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, was found dead of an accidental drug overdose in his Sussex, England, home. The following day, the headline in the London Daily Mirror read “EPSTEIN (The Beatle-Making Prince of Pop) DIES AT 32.” Brian Epstein was, by all more

Krakatoa erupts

The volcanic island of Krakatoa near Indonesia erupts on this day in 1883, killing thousands in one of the worst geologic disasters of modern times. The beginning of the amazing events at Krakatoa in 1883 date to May 20 when there were initial rumblings and venting from the more

Red Scare dominates American politics

As the presidential election of 1952 begins to heat up, so do accusations and counteraccusations concerning communism in America. The “Red Scare”—the widespread belief that international communism was operating in the United States—came to dominate much of the debate between more

The attack on Cape Hatteras begins

Union ships sail into North Carolina’s Hatteras Inlet, beginning a two-day operation that secures the area for the Federals and denies the Confederates an important outlet to the Atlantic. The Outer Banks is a series of long, narrow islands that separate Pamlico Sound from the more