For one who had leading roles in scarcely 20 features over 40 years, Miss Hepburn exerted a profound cultural influence:
* She inspired couturier Hubert de Givenchy to create his greatest designs.
* She was composer Henry Mancini's muse for his memorable scores to Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade and Two for the Road.
* In 1954, a political wife named Jacqueline Kennedy slavishly copied Miss Hepburn's high-fashion wardrobe.
* Miss Hepburn's casual look - black turtleneck and pedal pushers worn with white socks and black loafers - established a uniform that was aped by every would-be bohemian from Maynard G. Krebs to Michael Jackson.
* And, most important, there was Miss Hepburn's commitment to UNICEF. Not only did she raise money to feed starving children, she personally supervised food distribution.
Born Edda Kathleen Hepburn van Heemstra in Brussels in 1929, Audrey Hepburn frequently played princesses on screen, and why not? She was the daughter of landed royalty: Mother was Dutch Baroness Ella van Heemstra; Father was English banker John Hepburn-Ruston, who separated from the baroness when Audrey was 6. In 1939, the baroness removed Audrey and her half-brothers to the family's ancestral home in Arnhem, where they struggled through the war years.
In 1948, when she was 19, Edda received a scholarship to study ballet in England with Marie Rambert. After crossing the channel, the young pupil anglicized her first name and took her father's surname: thus Audrey Hepburn was born.
The aspiring ballerina was embarrassed by her "awkward height" (5-foot-7) and her "clown's feet" (size 10). Yet when scouts came to Mme. Rambert's looking for chorus girls, the bigfoot with the batwing brows was promptly drafted for the music-hall show High Button Shoes.
London audiences were instantly smitten. Miss Hepburn played a cigarette girl in the movie Laughter in Paradise and a B-girl who gladhands Alec
Guinness in The Lavender Hill Mob (both 1951). A smitten Guinness recommended her for a featured role in his next picture, which Miss Hepburn declined in favor of a nothing part in fluff called Monte Carlo Baby (1952). Who could turn down a month in the sun, wearing a Dior dress?
It was destiny. For while the spirited 23-year-old frolicked in a Riviera hostelry, a crusty, 78-year-old dame demanded an introduction. The elder was French novelist Colette, who explained that her book Gigi was being adapted for Broadway. "I have just cabled New York to tell them to stop looking for a Gigi," Colette pronounced. "I have just found her." Stammered Miss Hepburn, ''Madame, but I can't act."
Only days before the play previewed in Philadelphia in 1951, Gigi's producer, Gilbert Miller, considered firing the amateur. Instead, he worked with the untrained Miss Hepburn, and his efforts paid off. New York Times drama critic Walter Kerr gushed that Miss Hepburn was "as fresh and frisky as a pup out of a tub."
Hollywood didn't merely beckon Miss Hepburn, it kidnapped her. The second she finished Gigi, director William Wyler cast her opposite Gregory Peck in the uproarious Roman Holiday (1953), a film that fixed Miss Hepburn in the popular imagination as a cultured princess. In this story based on one of Princess Margaret's reported escapades, Miss Hepburn played a reverse Cinderella, a royal yearning to be a commoner.
Early in 1954, months before her 25th birthday, Miss Hepburn won an Oscar for this, her first American film. And three nights later, she received a Tony Award for her performance as the sprite in Ondine.
"How quickly these comets turn to ash," predicted a critic. What he could not have foreseen was that Miss Hepburn was not merely a star, but her own galaxy.
Miss Hepburn followed up Roman Holiday with another fairy tale, Sabrina (1954), in which the ugly-duckling chauffeur's daughter becomes a swan and marries the master of the house (Humphrey Bogart).
The archetypal Hepburn film of the '50s involved her seduction of father figures. After Bogart in Sabrina, she conquered Henry Fonda in War and Peace (1956), Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon (1957) and Fred Astaire in the delightful musical Funny Face (also 1957), perhaps the only film in which a Hollywood actress played a heroine with a high IQ and high style.
You can divide Hepburn movies between her '50s Hollywood period (mostly ingenues) and '60s Continental period (women of the world).
Though she memorably played female gigolo Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Miss Hepburn was the most virginal gigolo imaginable. More believable was her role as the clothes horse in Charade (1963), a stylish thriller co-starring Cary Grant and the city of Paris.
She was better as the fine lady Eliza than as the Cockney flowergirl in My Fair Lady (1964), though many couldn't forgive her for not being Julie Andrews, who originated the role on Broadway.
Miss Hepburn was best - and most convincing - opposite Albert Finney in Two for the Road (1967), Stanley Donen's brittle, episodic comedy about marriage. The public preferred the thriller Wait Until Dark (also 1967), in which she plays a blind girl who outwits her terrorist.
One might alternately characterize Miss Hepburn's career by the company she kept. In 1954, she married her Ondine co-star Mel Ferrer. They had one son, Sean, and divorced in 1967. In 1968, she married Italian psychoanalyst Andrea Dotti and had another son, Luca. For nine years, Miss Hepburn spurned all career offers and was happy as a Roman housewife. She and Dotti divorced in 1980.
She returned to the screen - memorably - opposite Sean Connery in the bittersweet Robin and Marian (1976), about an aging Maid Marian and Robin Hood. Less memorable was the melodrama Bloodline (1979), a Sidney Sheldon extravaganza set in Paris. Most recently, Miss Hepburn played a celestial spirit in Steven Spielberg's Always (1989).
For the past few years, during which Miss Hepburn kept company with Dutch actor Robert Wolders, she was stingy with screen appearances and generous with public service. In 1990, New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center honored Miss Hepburn with a career achievement award. And only weeks ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Miss Hepburn would receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar ceremony on March 29.
Miss Hepburn is survived by her two sons. A UNICEF spokesman announced that funeral services will be Sunday in Miss Hepburn's village of Tolochenaz, Switzerland.