"Paramount's new star sparkles and glows with the fire of a finely cut diamond," wrote TIME magazine of a 24-year-old actress who charmed moviegoers in 1953's "Roman Holiday." Yes, Audrey Hepburn, in her first time at bat in a leading role, had already been crowned a Hollywood royal. She made it official one magical evening in New York the following year, by picking up the Best Actress Academy Award — but not before finishing that night's performance in Broadway's "Ondine." (Here: the actress meets the press before the big show.)
Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesQuick ChangeAudrey comes out of the blond wig she wore onstage in "Ondine." Soon she'd have a Tony for that role, to add to the "Roman Holiday" Oscar.
Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesGlam TeamBackstage at the NBC Century Theatre, dressers help Audrey prepare for the show.
Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesJitters Much?Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra, is serene, but Audrey nibbles on her index finger, waiting to hear the winner in her category. The competition for Best Actress that year included Leslie Caron, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Maggie McNamara.
Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesThe Anticipation Builds...
Bettmann/Bettmann ArchiveIt's Audrey!Her speech was short but heartfelt: "It's too much.... I want to say thank you, to everybody, who through these past months and years has helped, guided, and given me so much. I am truly, truly grateful and terribly happy."
New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty ImagesThe Jean Hersholt ConnectionAccompanied by actor Jean Hersholt, who presented her with the award, Audrey kisses her Oscar. The image is bittersweet: In 1993, shortly after her death from cancer, Hepburn was named recipient of the honorary Oscar named after Hersholt, in recognition of her humanitarian work.
Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesHe'd Be So Cute With a Little Bow Tie...Maybe white, to match her Givenchy dress.
Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesCheek to Cheek
Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesHoisting Him High
NBC/NBC via Getty ImagesIs He Getting Heavy Yet?
Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesCinderella StoryOn her way out of the theater, Audrey stops to fix her shoe. "It was another remarkable moment in a short but remarkable career," wrote LIFE magazine.
Bettmann/Bettmann ArchiveWhat Was to Come...Fan mail, of course! Backstage at "Ondine," Audrey shows off telegrams congratulating her on the Oscar win. Still on the horizon: more classics including "Sabrina," "Funny Face," "My Fair Lady," "Charade," and "Breakfast at Tiffany's."