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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Audrey Hepburn and Film Frodo: Two Beauties.

Posted on 2008.04.27 at 15:19
Tags: , ,
~*~


Here follows a picspam, preceded by a reflection.

As regular readers know, I’ve been thinking for a while about why I have responded so strongly to film-Frodo. I already discussed the amorous side to that response in a different entry. But there’s still the heart-pulling, cherishing sort of love that Frodo triggers, a love that is non-amorous. It’s the love I felt first for him. The images of Frodo I am thinking of come from scenes which bring out the combination in him of the rare and other-worldly, and that which is completely and recognizably human.

I’ve mentioned to some of you before how I would have chosen Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) to be my Lúthien, a heroine renowned for her beauty, but also for her passion, courage, honesty and resolve. (For an excellent article on Audrey Hepburn, my primary source for this post, read this in Wikipedia).

I knew Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium and lived in England. But I didn’t know she moved to Arnhem, in the Netherlands, with her mother and two half-brothers in 1939 (her parents divorced in 1935). She lived there during the Nazi occupation. She saw the town devastated by artillery fire. She saw Jews deported. She saw her uncle and her mother’s cousin, involved with the Dutch resistance, shot in front of her. With the rest of the Dutch she suffered privation in the form of hunger, even starvation, especially during the hard winter of 1944 (an experience that later influenced her to become in involved with UNICEF). She said later in her life, looking back,

“I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both ten when war broke out and fifteen when the war finished. I was given the book [Anne’s diary] in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend. I read it – and it destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life. I didn't know what I was going to read. I've never been the same again, it affected me so deeply."

Yet, like Anne, in spite of what she lived through, Audrey Hepburn seemed to burn with the spirit of life. Drawing parallels to Anne's life, Hepburn said,

“This spirit of survival is so strong in Anne Frank's words. One minute she says 'I'm so depressed'. The next she is longing to ride a bicycle. She is certainly a symbol of the child in very difficult circumstances, which is what I devote all my time to. She transcends her death."

Do I think Hepburn would make a great Lúthien because she is so beautiful? Being beautiful doesn’t hurt, but there are actresses past and present with more perfect faces. It’s her spirit, I think, which has come through the fire of her childhood experiences, that draws me: a soaring, transcendent spirit, paired with a scrappy will to live. She’s got qualities from both ends of the spectrum. It is the intense mix of these qualities—and her excellence at portraying them—that so moves and enchants me when I watch her on screen. That’s what makes me think of Lúthien. It also makes me think of Frodo.

Many have used the image of a young deer stepping into a clearing for the first time, in the morning of the world, to describe film Frodo’s special quality. I think the same quality is exhibited by Audrey Hepburn in many roles. For the purposes of this post, I am thinking primarily of the roles she played in her early twenties: “Roman Holiday” (1953), “Sabrina” (1954) and “Funny Face” (1956). Recently re-watching the first two films (I finally got the DVD’s for Christmas), it occurred to me how much my love for film-Frodo was, in a real way, prepared for by my prior love of Audrey Hepburn. I’ve loved watching her films since I was a child, and I’ve loved her in them. I think—in these films—she shares with film Frodo the ability to project opposite qualities superbly. They both have magic, exuding the sense that they are creatures stepped out of Faerie. Yet both are utterly, recognizably human: the screen almost vibrates with the intensity and liveliness of emotions deeply familiar to us—which they struggle to suppress, but which continually emerge or erupt on their faces. They both exude an honesty and a purity of spirit that makes them seem above this world, yet their infectious laughs and down-to-earth warmth make them seem completely familiar, people with whom we would feel at home at once. They both are light and graceful as gazelles, yet, depending on their mood or action in a scene, they can be as angular and gawky as 12-year-olds with an attitude.

Watching “Sabrina” last night, I thought how Audrey, dancing for the first time with the man she’s had a crush on all her life, seemed not to touch the ground. In a state of starry-eyed bliss, she floated. Even her arm around his neck seemed to float; elegant, sensitive, as if it were wired with tiny sensors, able to pick up every nuance of the person she loved, yet barely touching his dinner jacket. Later, disappointed and dejected, she trudged like a disconsolate adolescent across a room, stopped and stood. She looked like a scarecrow supported only by a clothes hanger thrust through its shoulders, ready to drop in a heap as soon as the hanger was let go.

I see a similar range of movement in film-Frodo. He can leap like a stag, or, merely standing still, seem poised to levitate. He is that sprightly and airy. Or, feeling despondent, his body language becomes as heavy and lumpish as dough left too long to rise. Both of these actors—Audrey Hepburn in roles like these, and Elijah Wood in LotR—are good with language, delivering spoken lines well, but it’s their faces and body language that make their characters live so vividly and make such an impact. Which is why they are so easy to appreciate in pictures, I guess.



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For the purposes of this entry I converted all the colour images of Frodo to black and white, using screencaps as well as behind the scenes shots of Elijah Wood in costume. The photos of Audrey Hepburn come from screen caps from her films, behind the scenes shots, and publicity stills.











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Just for the pleasure of looking at the caps, below are some screencaps of Audrey Hepburn acting in Sabrina. In the first six caps she’s just arrived at the Larrabee’s party. Just off the outdoor dance floor, she is listening to the romantic music, looking expectantly for David, the Larrabee son she’s had a crush on since she was little (William Holden). In the seventh cap, waiting for David in the tennis courts, it is the older brother, Linus, who actually appears (Humphrey Bogart). He dances with her in his brother’s place, making Sabrina wonder. The eighth and ninth caps are from a scene in Linus’ office.











































~*~







Selected Tables of Links:


~ Miscellaneous LJ entries here.


~ Frodo Art Travesty entries here.


~ Frodo and Elijah Wood screencaps here.



~ Mechtild

Comments:


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Shirebound
shirebound at 2008-04-27 20:31 (UTC) (Link)
That's a fascinating comparison between these two, and I'm impressed with the pictures you found to illustrate it.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-27 20:45 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Shirebound. It was demanding but fun to go through the image sources (the internet's and mine) to find evocative sets.
lijahlover
lijahlover at 2008-04-27 20:38 (UTC) (Link)
What wonderful and perfect pictures you found of these two beautiful people. I adore the both of them so much thanks!
They both have inner and outer beauty that shows through. *hugs*
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-27 20:46 (UTC) (Link)
They both have inner and outer beauty that shows through.

That is surely true, Lijahlover!
Estelanui - Francesca
estelanui at 2008-04-27 22:09 (UTC) (Link)
I loved and appreciate Audrey Hepburn and her movies, but I never saw the analogy until your post. I think you are right and there are strong similarities between the two acting. Both Audrey and Elijah are natural and can convey feelings and frame of mind not only with the words but most of all with body language and with their eyes. I didn't noted that Audrey's eyes show so intensely her emotions.
In your well chosen pictures of these two elegant actors the most impressing similarity are the look in their eyes.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-27 22:30 (UTC) (Link)
I didn't think of it, either, Estelanui, until I began to think see some Audrey Hepburn movies again, and thinking of her because of thinking of Luthien.

the most impressing similarity are the look in their eyes.

Yes, it's the "look". They don't have identical features by any means. What they share is a quality; their type of expressiveness, and, yes, "the look in their eyes".
(Anonymous) at 2008-04-27 22:37 (UTC) (Link)
I realise this is a very personal project for you, Mechtild, as an admirer of both actors and/or the characters they are portraying. The comparison pictures you have chosen are really terrific, and converting the Frodo/Frolijah photographs to black and white really serves to emphasize the similarities between these two. Some of the shots are uncannily alike in pose and expression.

I'm not at all familiar with Audrey Hepburn's work ~ although I'm sure I have seen some of her films over the years. I had no idea that she endured such an ordeal during WW2, or the lasting effect that reading Anne Frank's diary had on her.

Thank you for a fascinating and enlightening post.

~ Blossom.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-27 23:02 (UTC) (Link)
I don't know if you would like her films, Blossom. I should think so, if you can appreciate older films at all. People who like her tend to *really* like her.

She was 22 when she played Gigi in the Broadway play, which is, I guess, how she came to Hollywood notice. (I only know all this from reading the entries on her.) She played the lead in "Roman Holiday" (a film I loved when I was a young teenager, watching it on TV, and loved just as much last week, 40 years later), her film debut at 24, and won an Oscar for the performance. She was in quite a few good films during the fifties and sixties. She got nominated for an Oscar for "Nun's Story" (about a young woman who enters an order of nuns to be a medical missionary in the Belgian Congo, but ends up leaving the order), which came out when she was thirty.

Her most famous movie is probably "My Fair Lady". She also was lauded in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", based on a Truman Capote story, and in a suspense caper with Cary Grant called, "Charade". A movie I particularly remember liking was "The Unforgiven" (young pioneer woman discovers she has Indian blood in an intolerant 19th century American West). I liked "Green Mansions" because it had a fantasy aspect, but it is not considered a good movie.

She seems to have stopped working full-time by the end of the sixties, so her main career was not long. The bio said she made the decision to quit while she was at the top of her career (she was not quite forty, old for those days), rather than waiting until no one wanted to see her work anymore.

Edited at 2008-04-27 11:04 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Belleferret
belleferret at 2008-04-27 22:38 (UTC) (Link)
They both have such expressive eyes, and an other-worldly type beauty to them, innocent and wise.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-27 23:06 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Belleferret. Estelanui pointed to the expressions in their eyes, too. "Innocent and wise". Yes, I see that. Thanks for posting!

Edited at 2008-04-27 11:06 pm (UTC)
telstar109
telstar_gold at 2008-04-27 23:25 (UTC) (Link)
What a fascinating entry! Audrey Hepburn is indeed exquisite, and if she is Luthien, then it's clear, from the pictures you've posted here, that Frodo must in some way be descended from her! I'm amazed at those "pair shots" you found, the similarities in the poses and facial expressions are uncanny. And doesn't Frodo look great in black and white!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-27 23:39 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, he does look great in black and white -- although I'd be hard-pressed to give him up in colour!

I have often thought of Luthien and Beren when I read the story of Frodo and Sam, but I have always thought of Sam as Luthien--using his wits and sheer bravado to help his dear master along in his mission, given courage by his love. And I've thought of Frodo as Beren: brave and true, but a mere mortal pitted against a Vala, charged with a task greater than he can perform on his own, succeeding only because of Luthien/Sam's aid.

But when I read of the otherworldly, delicate-yet-durable beauty of Luthien, and of her resilience and willingness to suffer anything in order to accomplish her goal, I can't help thinking of film-Frodo. Who is more beautiful and more durable, except Luthien herself? ;)
Tari
tariana at 2008-04-28 00:03 (UTC) (Link)
What a fascinating comparison! I can't believe how much work this must have been.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 00:11 (UTC) (Link)
In this case work was pleasure, Tariana. The pairs of images really are rather cool, don't you think?--better than I dared hope when I started out. :)
Mariole
mariole at 2008-04-28 00:12 (UTC) (Link)
*sigh* What truly beautiful people. Art!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 00:15 (UTC) (Link)
Yep, "People-art". I am sure JRRT would approve. :)
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2008-04-28 02:16 (UTC) (Link)
I like your comparisons.

I've long been genderswitch pairing Frodolijah with Judy Garland's Dorothy (and movie Frodo seems much more like movie Dorothy to me than book Frodo). I think it's the scared but determined and generous quest roles, the emotiveness (especially the pouts), and the big shiny eyes. (-:
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 02:47 (UTC) (Link)
Ha ha! Your post makes me laugh. Maybe the Wizard of Oz comparisons are prompted by the Minas Morgul scene. When they showed Gollum, Frodo and Sam peeping over the rock wall watching the Orcs emerge from the citadel, I kept thinking of Dorothy and her friends doing the same thing, while the Wicked Witch of West's guards marched out singing "Yo-ee-oh! Eee-oh-oh!"

But big shiny eyes, emotiveness, and determined and generous quest roles *are* something the characters have in common. Plus, they're supposed to represent "everyman" (or "every child") on their quests, even if they are actually quite unique. Thanks for commenting, Lavendertook!
julchen11
julchen11 at 2008-04-28 05:04 (UTC) (Link)
What a post! And so very true. I always loved (and always will love) Audrey Hepburn. A couple of weeks ago I watched "The King and I" and as you say it, it's the inner beauty that catches me all the time.
What wonderful pictures of two beauties you've posted. They have so much in common looking at those pictures, first of all - for me - there's the "light" that shines through. It's their eyes "talking" to me. Thanks so much, my dear. You made my morning!

Happy Monday and biggest hugs,
Julchen

Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 12:56 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Julchen! Yes she's very unique, and so is he. But are you thinking of the right film? I am sure A.H. is not in "The King and I". Or is there another version with her in it?
Map-Maker, Lighthouse-Keeper
marinshellstone at 2008-04-28 08:06 (UTC) (Link)
That was so cool...

My god, she was flawlessly beautiful...
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 12:55 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Hadara! Thanks for commenting. She was utterly charming. But not flawless, do you think? She had imperfect teeth, for instance, teeth any modern actress would have got fixed--or her parents would have done it for her as a child--but I think they add to her charm. I have been glad EW didn't get his teeth fixed for the same reason. It adds complexity and interest to his loveliness, that he has this "imperfection".
Whiteling
whiteling at 2008-04-28 17:24 (UTC) (Link)
Oh Mechtild, I love this post. Those comparison shots are striking! And I whole-heartedly agree with you: it is the expressiveness of their eyes which makes both of them exude this mix of other-worldly beauty and humanity at the same time. Looking in the eyes of Audrey and Frolijah, I can see their souls... they know pain and happiness and... and...

To me, true beauty is not only the regularity of features or pretty shaped eyes, nose and mouth... if there is no soul behind the features, the beauty remains outwardly and shallow.
I've read about Audrey Hepburn's hard childhood and young days; it must have been hell. It might sound merciless, but for an artist such traumatic experiences *can* be enriching (in the sense of deepening their art) and I think the intensity in her portrayals speak volumes of how she managed to transform her horrible impressions and experiences (I absolutely adored her in "A Nun's Story". Her Sister Luke will stay with me forever), as well as those tough times enhanced her awareness for the gift of life itself for sure.
I still don't know how Elijah Wood, being mere 18, 19 years old, could capture Frodo's character that deeply as he did. He really must be an old soul.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 19:49 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Whiteling! I love her in The Nun's Story, too. The first time I saw it I was so young I was terribly upset when they cut her hair off. That seemed so tramatic to me, then--the waste of all that beautiful hair. I almost stopped watching the film (it was on TV). But I re-watched it a few years ago, when I was old enough to know there are a lot of worse things one can lose than one's hair, and that people sometimes need to make ritual sacrifices to mark important changes in their lives. But what a film--and what performances!

I agree that it's kind of mind-boggling to think that EW, a comparative youngster, and having had a relatively happy, normal childhood, could have produced such a performance. I do think suffering adds depth to the work of most artists, but perhaps a person's suffering needn't be extreme to have empathy for characters and subjects. Some actor, being praised in the role of an insane person said that no, he hadn't had any serious psychological problems in his life. But he had an imagination and emotions. "I could play a murderer well, too," he pointed out, "even though I haven't murdered anybody." So perhaps one need only have experienced a taste, or a whiff of very dark times to be able to take it from there via an empathetic imagination.

Edited at 2008-04-28 07:50 pm (UTC)
aliensouldream
aliensouldream at 2008-04-28 18:49 (UTC) (Link)
Dear Mechtild, I enjoyed your elegant celebration of both your screen loves. I think Audrey does possess a luminous grace and so your 'casting' of Luthien makes perfect sense. Those pictures of Frodo in beautiful black and white made me think of LOTR in terms of the classics of the past. I think the films themselves would be amazing in black and white!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 19:53 (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps PJ will provide an option for a "classics" version on the tenth or twentieth DVD set of the LotR films? ;)

Black and white photography really does bring out the structure of a face, its planes and lines, the highlights and shadows, revealing the expressions of an actor that much more, perhaps.
magpie_2
magpie_2 at 2008-04-28 21:46 (UTC) (Link)
What a lovely entry, and you must of done so much work for this!
There is something so captivating in their faces that goes beyond beauty, I love the way you phrase it " emotions deeply familiar to us—which they struggle to suppress, but which continually emerge or erupt on their faces."

Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 23:25 (UTC) (Link)
Magpie, I'm so pleased you could warm to this comparison. It's not what I would have expected, they are so far apart in eras as actors, not to mention being members of the opposite sex. I've said above it's not as though their actual features are identical. It's more an aura, a "look", a sharing of qualities.
earths_daughter
earths_daughter at 2008-04-28 22:38 (UTC) (Link)
I would never have thought of comparing the two, but the similarities are striking.

As Estelanui said "Both Audrey and Elijah are natural and can convey feelings and frame of mind not only with the words but most of all with body language and with their eyes." I long for another role for Elijah which will use that ability. Jonathan is the only one since Frodo that has come anywhere near.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2008-04-28 23:28 (UTC) (Link)
I long for another role for Elijah which will use that ability.

Me, too! Although Audrey Hepburn's career was not a long one, since she decided to retire while she was still good box office rather than wait until studios stopped hiring her, she made quite a lot of films that were good or very good, and in which she had a chance to shine. I would love EW to be in films I could admire more, films that gave him a chance to shine. Perhaps he will, or perhaps he will involve himself more in more in projects as a behind-the-scenes person, or move solely into music. I hope not. He really has something special--if it is properly tapped.
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