“Paris isn’t for changing planes,” Audrey Hepburn says to Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina, “it’s for changing your outlook! For throwing open the windows and letting in…letting in la vie en rose.” Watching Hepburn’s films is one way to get a taste of the sweet life in Paris. An even better way is to throw open your door and experience the city for yourself. Follow the Untapped guide to Audrey Hepburn’s Paris and discover the sites featured in Funny Face, Sabrina, Charade, How to Steal a Million and Paris When it Sizzles.
In How to Steal A Million, Audrey Hepburn plays Nicole, the daughter of an art forger who sells his fake Cellini sculpture to a museum in Paris. Nicole has to steal the sculpture back before authenticity tests reveal that it is a fake, and she enlists the high-society burglar, Simon (played by Peter O’Toole) to help her. Little does she know that Simon is not really a burglar—he’s a private investigator specializing in art forgery!
The interior of the fictitious Musée Kléber-Lafayette was constructed in a studio, but scenes on the street outside the museum were shot in front of the real and wonderful Musée Jacquemart-André. In one scene, Nicole leaves the museum and speeds down the Boulevard Haussmann in her little red convertible. Apparently, before shooting the scene, Peter O’Toole had given Hepburn a few sips of Brandy to help her cope with the cold; she was so tipsy that she knocked over several large lamps on the set with her car.
Other landmarks featured in How to Steal a Million include the Cathédrale de Notre Dame and the Hôtel Ritz. The Cathedral looms behind Hepburn as she drives along the Pont de la Tournelle, decked out in white driving hat and shades. Her outfit is slightly less chic, later, when she gives Peter O’Toole’s character a ride to the Ritz (she has her night gown on underneath her jacket).
Audrey Hepburn starred alongside Fred Astaire in the 1957 musical, Funny Face. She plays Jo, a shy salesgirl in a Greenwich Village bookstore whose “funny face” captures the attention of the photographer Dick Avery (played by Fred Astaire). He whisks her off to Paris, where she becomes a model for a high-end fashion magazine. Astaire’s character is based on the real-life photographer, Richard Avedon. Avedon is the artist behind some of the most famous photographs of Hepburn from the 1950s and 60s. “I am, and forever will be, devastated by the gift of Audrey Hepburn before my camera,” he once said; “I cannot lift her to greater heights.”
In Funny Face, the characters sing and dance their way around some of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Hepburn looks especially striking in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Musée du Louvre; the two figures mirror each other, with their flowing gowns and outstretched wings.
“Bonjour Paris,” one of the most famous numbers in the movie, ends on top of the Eiffel Tower. (To learn about the Eiffel Tower’s hidden secrets, check out the Untapped guide here).
Charade, which one critic called “the best Hitchock film that Hitchock never made,” is a romantic comedy/thriller starring Hepburn and Cary Grant. Hepburn plays the role of Reggie, a newly-widowed woman trying to solve the mystery behind her husband’s death. Along the way, she falls in love with Cary Grant’s character, Peter (a bit scandalous for a new widow, perhaps, but she was going to divorce her husband anyway). Here’s the catch: is Peter really a friend or is he after the $250,000 that Reggie’s husband left behind?
Reggie and Peter travel all over Paris in their search for the truth. At one point, they meet up in front of the marionette theater in the Jardin des Champs-Elysées. The marionette show has been running in Paris since 1818, and you can still go see it today.
In Charade, the characters also go for a stroll by the Seine in front of the Pont au Double, near Notre Dame. It is in this spot, they remember, that Gene Kelly danced in An American in Paris.
Charade concludes with a chase scene that begins in the metro and ends in the darkened theater of La Comédie Française.
Audrey Hepburn won an academy award for her role in Sabrina. The film also marked the start of her partnership with the French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, whose outfits turned Hepburn into a fashion icon. It was in Paris, during the making of Sabrina, that the two met for the first time. Givenchy hadn’t heard of Audrey and thought that he was going to be working with Katherine Hepburn; he snubbed her at first, saying that he wasn’t sure he would be able to give her much of his time, but his disappointment didn’t last for long.
In Sabrina, Hepburn plays the daughter of a chauffeur who works for a wealthy American family. She is in love with the playboy of the family, David Larrabee (William Holden), but she doesn’t catch his eye until she returns after spending two years in culinary school in Paris, looking all grown up and sophisticated. And once she’s back, she starts to fall in love with someone else.
In Paris, Sabrina attends Le Cordon Bleu, one of the most famous culinary schools in the world.
Paris When it Sizzles was greeted with mediocre reviews when it came out in 1964 (some people chalk it up to the bad chemistry between Hepburn and William Holden, a former flame and apparently a bit of an alcoholic). Holden plays a Hollywood screenwriter who has been so busy drinking and partying in Paris that he has yet to start writing a script due in two days’ time. Hepburn plays his assistant, Gaby, and together they dream up a wild and crazy Parisian adventure.
One of the scenes in the film-within-a-film takes place at the Chalet de la Grande Cascade, a ritzy outdoor restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne.
The characters leave the Chalet and dash into a grotto in the Bois de Boulogne (there actually is a grotto in the Bois, but it’s not the one we see in the film).