After small parts in European productions, Hepburn scored a key break when she was chosen by no less than Colette herself to star onstage in the author's "Gigi" (1951).
Shortly thereafter, the radiant young actress gained immediate prominence in Hollywood with the leading role in the feature romantic comedy, "Roman Holiday" (1953), which was followed by similarly enchanting performances in films such as the inspired fashion musical "Funny Face" (1957) and, as Holly Golightly, the warmly romantic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961).A spirited, incredibly chic gamine type famous for her waifish yet slightly tomboyish manner, thick eyebrows, bouncy bangs and Givenchy fashion flair, Hepburn proved a beautiful, elegant foil to fatherly older men Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda and Fred Astaire, as well as young leads George Peppard and Albert Finney.
One of the most lovely and photographed of stars, the wistful, gentle-mannered Hepburn helped define one type of feminine beauty in her era (as opposed to the full-figured Marilyn Monroe-Jane Russell look at the opposite end of the spectrum).
Her incredibly influential look also helped set the style for the slender, reed-like fashion model whose offshoots are still popular today.Though not a prolific film actor, Hepburn had an extremely impressive string of fine movies and roles through the late 1950s, including Billy Wilder's romantic comedy "Love in the Afternoon" (1957) and the absorbing drama "The Nun's Story" (1959).
The 1960s proved a thinner period, but besides "Tiffany's", Hepburn enjoyed notable success opposite Cary Grant in the light romantic mystery, "Charade" (1963).
She had less success, however, in the title role of the ugly duckling turned beautiful swan in "My Fair Lady." Her radiance was evident in the latter half of the film but Hepburn, the daughter of a Dutch baroness and an English banker, was unable to pull off the raffish guttersnipe of the film's early sequences.
She did rebound, however, as the blind heroine of the suspenseful thriller "Wait Until Dark" (1967), which netted Hepburn her fifth and final Oscar nomination.After a nine-year absence from the screen Hepburn turned in a luminous "middle-aged" performance in "Robin and Marian" (1976), and continued to make occasional feature film appearances, such as her last, in Steven Spielberg's "Always" (1989).
From 1988 Hepburn served as a special ambassador for the UN Children's Fund.
Her untiring charitable work in this capacity, much of it in the field, had begun earning her worldwide admiration anew when she succumbed to colon cancer in 1993 at age 63.
Her Jean Hersholt Award for humanitarian work was awarded posthumously by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.