For Attractive Lips, Speak Words of Kindness

Audrey Hepburn? Sam Levenson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Audrey Hepburn was a magnificent movie star, and she was also a well-known worker for humanitarian causes. On various websites I have seen a collection of sayings called “Time Tested Beauty Tips” that have been attributed to her. The first tip says:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

I have never seen a proper reference to an interview or a book showing that Hepburn created these tips. Could you examine the provenance of this set of statements?

Quote Investigator: The best evidence suggests that Audrey Hepburn read these words to family members, but she did not claim credit for them.

A version of the “Time Tested Beauty Tips” was printed in a 2005 memoir written by Sean Hepburn Ferrer about his mother Audrey Hepburn. A very similar version was printed in a 1996 biography titled “Audrey Hepburn” by Barry Paris. Both of these works stated that the tips were originally created by Sam Levenson who was a prominent television personality, humorist, and bestselling author.

In fact, there were two distinct passages from the 1973 book “In One Era and Out the Other” by Levenson that were combined to yield the modern set of tips. When Levenson’s daughter Emily started to date he discussed with her different concepts of beauty: 1

I even suggested several time-tested inexpensive beauty hints:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you will never walk alone.

When his first grandchild, Georgia, was born Levenson composed a short letter addressed to her: 2

We leave you a tradition with a future. The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed, and redeemed, and redeemed . . . Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. …

Your good old days are still ahead of you. May you have many of them.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1989 a collection of quotations titled “Words of Wisdom: More Good Advice” compiled and edited by William Safire and Leonard Safir included the five tips beginning with the word “For” listed previously. The compilation was credited to Sam Levenson and used the following description: 3

Advice for a teenage daughter — five inexpensive beauty hints

Audrey Hepburn died in January 1993 and shortly afterward a funeral service was held. The memoir of Hepburn’s son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, described a passage that he read at the service. As noted previously the text combined two sections from Levenson’s book “In One Era and Out the Other”. Originally, the two sections were composed for his daughter Emily and his granddaughter Georgia: 4

The service was lovely and short. I spoke last, and this is what I read:

Sam Levenson, the teacher, author, and famed humorist, wrote a letter to his granddaughter when she was born. Mummy loved it so, she read selections from it this last Christmas Eve. From a line in the letter she entitled it:

TIME-TESTED BEAUTY TIPS

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.

We leave you a tradition with a future.
The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete.
People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed.
Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Your “good old days” are still ahead of you, may you have many of them.

In 2001 the biographer Barry Paris published “Audrey Hepburn”, and he also described the reading of Levenson’s words performed by Hepburn for her family shortly before her death. 5

In conclusion, the “Time Tested Beauty Tips” attributed to Audrey Hepburn were spoken by her, but she did not claim credit for them. Her family members knew that Sam Levenson crafted the text. The words were printed in two sections of a popular 1973 book by Levenson.

Image Notes: Publicity photo of Audrey Hepburn circa 1956. Lips from ClkerFreeVectorImages at Pixabay. Publicity photo of Sam Levenson. Eyes from ClkerFreeVectorImages at Pixabay.

(Thanks to Dr. Douglas A. Reid who pointed to a typo which has been removed from this article.)

Notes:

  1. 1973 Copyright, In One Era and Out the Other by Sam Levenson, Quote Page 177, Pocket Books: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (First Simon and Schuster edition published in 1973; Pocket Books edition published in November 1974) (Verified with scans of Pocket Books edition)
  2. 1973 Copyright, In One Era and Out the Other by Sam Levenson, Quote Page 190, Pocket Books: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (First Simon and Schuster edition published in 1973; Pocket Books edition published in November 1974) (Verified with scans of Pocket Books edition)
  3. 1990 (Copyright 1989), Words of Wisdom: More Good Advice, Compiled and Edited by William Safire and Leonard Safir, Section: Beauty, Quote Page 42, Fireside: Simon & Schuster, New York. (Amazon Look Inside)
  4. 2005, Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer, Quote Page 16 and 17, Atria Books: A trademark of Simon and Schuster, New York. (Google Books Preview)
  5. 2001 (1996 Copyright), Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris, Quote Page 364, Berkley Books Trade Paperback, New York. (Originally published in 1996 as hardcover by G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Google Books Preview of 2001 edition)