1993 Actress Audrey Hepburn dies One of America’s most beloved actresses, Audrey Hepburn, dies on this day in 1993, near her home in Lausanne, Switzerland. The 63-year-old Hepburn had undergone surgery for colon cancer the previous November. The daughter of an aristocratic Dutch mother and an English businessman father, Hepburn was born in Brussels, Belgium, and educated mostly in England. During World War II, the young Audrey and her mother were in the Netherlands when the Nazis invaded that country. The war left a permanent mark on Hepburn’s family: An uncle and a cousin were executed, and one of her brothers was interned in a Nazi labor camp. At war’s end, Hepburn was finally able to return to England, where she modeled and began landing parts in movies as a chorus girl and dancer. While shooting one of these films in Monaco, the lithe and graceful Hepburn was spotted by the French author Colette, who recommended her for the starring role in the upcoming theatrical adaptation of her novel Gigi. Gigi opened in November 1951 at New York City’s Fulton Theater, and Hepburn received glowing reviews for her performance. Impressed with her screen test, the director William Wyler held production on his film Roman Holiday while Hepburn finished her run on Broadway. “That girl,” Wyler is said to have remarked after filming was completed, “is going to be the biggest star in Hollywood.” After the release of Roman Holiday in 1953, his prediction seemed well on its way to coming true: Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a princess on the loose in Rome who falls in love with a journalist (Gregory Peck). The same year, she won a Tony Award for her starring turn in Broadway’s Ondine. Slim, elegant and unfailingly stylish, Hepburn turned the image of the bosomy blonde Hollywood starlet on its head, presenting a new ideal of beauty for millions of moviegoers. In Sabrina (1954), Funny Face (1957) and Love in the Afternoon (1957), she matched off with Hollywood’s leading men (William Holden and Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, and Gary Cooper, respectively). Hepburn’s embodiment of Holly Golightly, the ultimate free spirit, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) was one of her most enduringly popular roles, and earned her a fourth Oscar nomination for Best Actress. (She was also nominated for Sabrina and 1959’s A Nun’s Story). In 1964, controversy flared when Hepburn was chosen to play Eliza Doolittle in the film version of the musical My Fair Lady, beating out Julie Andrews, who had originated the role on Broadway. Playing opposite Rex Harrison, Hepburn acquitted herself well, although her singing was dubbed (by Marni Nixon). In 1967, Hepburn got her fifth Academy Award nomination for her performance as a blind woman whose house is burglarized in Wait UntilDark. Soon after that, she left full-time acting and lived mostly in Switzerland, appearing infrequently in movies that were both praised (1976’s Robin and Marian with Sean Connery) and panned (1979’s Bloodline and 1981’s They All Laughed). Married to the actor Mel Ferrer in 1954, Hepburn had two sons with him before they divorced in 1968; the following year she married Andrea Dotti, an Italian psychiatrist, with whom she had one son. They later divorced, and she began a relationship with Robert Wolders, a Dutch actor, in 1980. Hepburn’s most significant work over the last two decades of her life was not captured on film. Named a special ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s fund, in 1988, Hepburn traveled extensively raising money and awareness for the organization. Her UNICEF field trips spanned the globe, from Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and El Salvador, to Turkey, Thailand, Bangladesh and Sudan. In addition to field work, Hepburn was an eloquent public voice for the organization, testifying before the U.S. Congress, participating in the World Summit for Children and giving numerous speeches and interviews about UNICEF’s work. In 1992, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Even after she was diagnosed with cancer, Hepburn continued her travel and work for UNICEF. Mourned by countless fans, she was posthumously given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1993 Academy Awards, which her son accepted on her behalf. In her last screen appearance–Steven Spielberg’s Always (1989)–Hepburn played an angel guiding the movie’s protagonist to heaven, and the role served as a fitting reflection of the screen goddess’s public image during the last years of her life. 1942 The Wannsee Conference On this day, Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.” In July 1941, Herman Goering, writing under instructions from Hitler, had ordered Reinhard Heydrich, SS general and Heinrich Himmler’s number-two man, to submit “as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative, material, and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question.” Heydrich met with Adolf Eichmann, chief of the Central Office of Jewish Emigration, and 15 other officials from various Nazi ministries and organizations at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin. The agenda was simple and focused: to devise a plan that would render a “final solution to the Jewish question” in Europe. Various gruesome proposals were discussed, including mass sterilization and deportation to the island of Madagascar. Heydrich proposed simply transporting Jews from every corner Europe to concentration camps in Poland and working them to death. Objections to this plan included the belief that this was simply too time-consuming. What about the strong ones who took longer to die? What about the millions of Jews who were already in Poland? Although the word “extermination” was never uttered during the meeting, the implication was clear: anyone who survived the egregious conditions of a work camp would be “treated accordingly.” Months later, the “gas vans” in Chelmno, Poland, which were killing 1,000 people a day, proved to be the “solution” they were looking for–the most efficient means of killing large groups of people at one time. The minutes of this conference were kept with meticulous care, which later provided key evidence during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. 1909 GM takes an interest in Oakland Motor Car Corp. On January 20, 1909, newly formed automaker General Motors (GM) buys into the Oakland Motor Car Corporation, which later becomes GM’s long-running Pontiac division. Oakland Motor Car was founded in 1907 in Pontiac, Michigan, by Edward Murphy, a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. The following year, another former buggy company executive, William Durant, founded General Motors in Flint, Michigan, as a holding company for the Buick Motor Company. GM soon bought other automakers, including Oldsmobile and Cadillac. In 1909, Oakland became part of GM. The first Pontiac model made its debut as part of the Oakland line in the 1920s. The car, which featured a six-cylinder engine, proved so popular that the Oakland name was eventually dropped and Pontiac became its own GM division by the early 1930s. Pontiac was initially known for making sedans; however, by the 1960s, it gained acclaim for its fast, sporty muscle cars, including the GTO and the Firebird. The GTO, which was developed by auto industry maverick John DeLorean, was named after a Ferarri coupe–the Gran Turismo Omologato–and is considered the first classic muscle car. According to The New York Times: “More than any other G.M. brand, Pontiac stood for performance, speed and sex appeal.” Pontiac’s sales reached their peak in 1984, with approximately 850,000 vehicles sold (about four times as many as 2008), according to the Times, which noted that experts believe GM hurt the Pontiac brand in the 1970s and 1980s by opting for a money-saving strategy requiring Pontiacs to share platforms with cars from other divisions. In 2008, GM, which since the early 1930s had sold more vehicles than any other automaker, lost its sales crown to Toyota. That same year, the American auto giant, hard hit by the global economic crisis and slumping auto sales, was forced to ask the federal government for a multi-billion-dollar loan in order to remain operational. On April 27, 2009, GM announced plans to phase out the Pontiac brand, which had become unprofitable, by 2010. A little over a month later, on June 1, GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and promised to emerge as a leaner, more efficient company.