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Sons battle Hollywood devil in Hepburn hometown

Tolochenaz (Switzerland), Nov. 3: The family of Audrey Hepburn has demanded the closure of a museum in her hometown which they say is cheapening her memory and attempting to cash in on her name.

The actress’ two sons claim an exhibition here, which was intended to highlight Hepburn’s international charity work and support good causes, has instead become a ghoulish shrine along the lines of Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley.

Sean Ferrer, Hepburn’s son by her marriage to actor Mel Ferrer, and his half-brother, Luca Dotti, say that the town — their mother’s home for the last 30 years of her life — has used the exhibition to boost its own tourist trade.

They have demanded the return of dozens of her personal belongings, including private letters, photographs and her Academy Award for Roman Holiday, which were on loan to the Pavilion museum.

Situated opposite La Paisible, the vine-covered house where Hepburn lived until her death in 1993, the museum has attracted about 25,000 visitors since it opened six years ago.

In addition to the items loaned by her children, it houses a collection of outfits, among them the famous black dress she wore as Holly Golightly in the 1962 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and items connected with her long-term work as a United Nations goodwill ambassador.

Ferrer, a film producer based in Los Angeles, said he and his brother had been supportive of the idea that an exhibition should be used to raise funds for causes his mother was passionate about, in particular, the UN.

He said, however, that in its eagerness to attract visitors, the town, which is in the foothills of the Alps and overlooks Lake Geneva, had lost sight of the original inspiration for the exhibition.

“This is not Graceland,” he said. “Tolochenaz was a place where my mother could be like everyone else, go to the market, go shopping and be treated like a normal person, not running from the paparazzi all the time.”

Ferrer, 43, added: “Our intention had nothing to do with promoting the village or promoting our mother. I think the celebrity aspect of being visited by thousands of people a year — the Hollywood devil — got to them.”

The family is furious about the sale of souvenirs, including greetings cards with prints of Hepburn’s childhood drawings and locally produced Audrey Hepburn jam.

Franca Price, the director of the Pavilion, said the museum had raised thousands of pounds for the children’s charities that Hepburn supported.

She said: “The bottomline is that we’re extremely disappointed by this decision. From all the comments in the visitors’ book and beautiful letters, I can only say that the Pavilion added greatly to the respect people feel fo r Audrey Hepburn.”

Residents say the Pavilion was created in response to demand after the star’s death at the age of 63 from cancer. They recall a stream of tourists, mostly busloads of Japanese, who would take photographs of La Paisible and leave flowers and notes on her grave.

Last year, Hepburn’s sons insisted that road signs pointing the way to a grave should be removed from a public highway. They also blocked a plan to name a local road in her honour after they made it known that it was not what she would have wanted.

Hepburn, who starred in such classic films as My Fair Lady and Charade, worked as a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s International Children’s Emergency Fund.

Her last film appearance was as an angel in Steven Spielberg’s 1989 film, Always.

The Daily Telegraph

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