Audrey Hepburn's Affair With William Holden Was The Definition Of 'Painful Love'

Date April 25, 2018

If the world ever needed proof that Hollywood women were not just pretty faces, they had all the evidence in Audrey Hepburn. This talented actress and dancer was a beauty inside and out. Her passion for humanitarian work also endeared her to millions not only in America but around the world.


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However, it seemed she was unlucky in love as her list of relationships seemed continually growing. She got engaged to the first man she ever loved, James Hanson, in 1952. But she got cold feet after realizing her career as an artist and his as a businessman would require months apart. Consequently, Hepburn called off the wedding.


Soon after she dated theater producer, Michael Butler. By 1954 she had moved on to American actor Mel Ferrer. They met at a cocktail party hosted by her friend, Gregory Peck. Hepburn and Ferrer eventually got married in Bürgenstock, Switzerland the same year.


Her marriage to Ferrer was perhaps the most troubling of all. During the marriage, there were rumors of infidelity on both sides. Furthermore, Hepburn was famously associated with her co-star, Albert Finney.


The actress also suffered four miscarriages. Her only child from the marriage, Sean Hepburn Ferrer was born in 1960. And after 14 years of marriage, Hepburn got a divorce from Ferrer. This was in December of 1968.


While on a trip to Greece with Princess Olimpia Emmanuela Torlonia di Civitella-Cesi, Hepburn met Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti. She said she fell in love with him as they explored the Greek ruins. Eventually, the couple was married in January 1969.


Their son, Audrey Dotti Luca was born in February 1970. But infidelity again reared its ugly head in her marriage. Hepburn had an affair with actor Ben Gazzara. By 1982, she was again divorced. Before her divorce, she began a relationship with Dutch actor Robert Wolders. She spent nine years with him until her death in 1993.

Her affair with William Holden

While on set shooting the romantic comedy Sabrina in 1954, actor William Holden and Audrey Hepburn began what would be one of the most talked about affairs in Hollywood. Both actors were married at the time but neither seemed to care much about the backlash.

Audrey was the love of my life. I fell in love. She wanted to get married. – William Holden


Hepburn was at the height of her career. In many ways, she was considered Hollywood royalty. She was a Belgian born, British-raised, Dutch baroness’s daughter. Holden was an Oscar winner and absolutely besotted by Hepburn. He was more than willing to leave his wife and children to be with her.

Hepburn was really eager about having children. She said she was willing to end her career so she can have children and take care of them.

She told him she wanted three, maybe four, and would retire from the screen to raise them.

Sadly, this romance was not to end happily. When Holden revealed to Hepburn that he had undergone a mastectomy and could no longer have children, she called off the affair.

READ ALSO: Audrey Hepburn Had Her Personal Reasons To Help Starving Children

Author Edward Z. Epstein shared these details in his book, Audrey And Bill.

They were everything to each other, crazy in love, and if Bill had been able to have children they would have married in an instant. But her desire for children was overwhelming and though it broke her heart to leave Bill she knew she wanted children of her own.

He tried to win her back

Holden did not take rejection well. He hatched a plan to win back Hepburn by all means. Holden traveled the world and got involved in several affairs. On his return to America, he regaled Hepburn with tales of his affairs, hoping she would agree to marry him


Sadly, his plan did not work. Hepburn laughed his actions away as mere child’s play. This infuriated Holden who resorted to drinking to drown his sorrows.

They met again in 1961 for the movie Paris When It Sizzles. But the magic of the movies was not enough to rekindle their love. Hepburn had moved on.

Holden’s tragic end

On November 12, 1981, Holden was alone in his apartment in Santa Monica. He was drunk and lost his footing, hitting his head on a teak table.

Holden bled to death alone in his apartment. It was not until four days later that his body was found.

According to the autopsy, Holden was still alive at least 30 minutes after the fall. He either was unable to call for help or chose not to, believing the injury was superficial.

Eventually, Holden was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean as he dictated in his will.

Many fans still believe that both stars may have had a better chance in life if they remained together. Sadly, that is one fairytale ending that never was.

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