- Katharine Hepburn
Studio publicity photo, circa 1940
Born Katharine Houghton Hepburn
May 12, 1907
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Died June 29, 2003(aged 96)
Fenwick, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, U.S.
Alma mater Bryn Mawr College Occupation Actor Years active 1928–1994 Spouse Ludlow Ogden Smith
Partner Spencer Tracy
(1941–67, his death)
Parents Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn
Thomas Norval Hepburn
Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. In a career that spanned more than sixty years as a leading lady, she was best known for playing strong-willed, sophisticated women in both dramas and comedies. The winner of a record four Academy Awards for Best Actress, Hepburn also became a cultural icon through her independent lifestyle and spirited personality, and is acknowledged as an influential figure in the public's changing perception of women over the course of the 20th century. She was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.
Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn turned to acting after graduation from Bryn Mawr College. After four years struggling in the theatre, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Her feature debut, 1932's A Bill of Divorcement, was a success and turned her into an instant star. Within 18 months, she had won an Academy Award for Morning Glory. This initial success was followed by a series of commercial failures. Her brash personality and unconventional behavior, such as wearing trousers, began to turn audiences away, and in time she was labeled "box office poison". Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying herself out of her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star. The movie was a hit, and Hepburn's career was successfully revived.
Her career during the 1940s leant mostly on an alliance with Spencer Tracy, one which would last until his death in 1967. The pair made nine pictures together, and also had an enduring love affair. In the 1950s she found a niche in playing middle-aged spinsters and the public embraced Hepburn in these roles. After being viewed in the early years of her career as arrogant and abnormal, she became a popular figure admired for her strong individuality. She enjoyed a great level of success in the latter half of her life, winning three more Oscars for her work in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981). Alongside her movie career, Hepburn regularly appeared on the stage, including numerous Shakespeare performances. She maintained an active career into old age, mostly in television movies, and made her final screen appearance in 1994 at the age of 87.
Katharine Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the second of six children born to Katharine Martha Houghton (1878–1951), and Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879–1962), a successful urologist and surgeon from Virginia. Her mother was an active feminist who headed the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association and later fought for birth control with the feminist pioneer Margaret Sanger. Katharine Martha instilled in her young daughter the virtues of perseverance, independence and fortitude, teaching that women were equal to men, and as a child, Hepburn joined her mother on several "Votes For Women" demonstrations. Her father was pivotal in establishing the New England Social Hygiene Association, which aimed to educate the public about venereal disease. The Hepburn children were raised to exercise freedom of speech, and encouraged to think and debate on any topic they wished. Her parents were criticized by the community for their progressive views, which only stimulated Hepburn to fight against any barriers she encountered in life. Hepburn said she realized from a young age that she was the product of "two very remarkable parents", and felt she was lucky to have been "born out of love and to live in an atmosphere of warmth and interest." She was close with her siblings throughout her life, and said "I could not have been me without them."
The young Hepburn was a tomboy who liked to call herself Jimmy and cut her hair short like a boy's. Her father was a fine athlete, and taught and encouraged the children to swim, run, dive, ride, wrestle, golf and play tennis. Golf became a passion. She took daily lessons and became very good, reaching the semi-final of the Connecticut Young Women's Golf Championship. She loved swimming, and took daily dips in the cold waters that fronted her bay-front home, generally believing that "the bitterer the medicine, the better it was for you." She was a fan of movies from a young age, and went to see one every Saturday night. With her friends and siblings, she would put on plays and perform to her neighbors for 50 cents a ticket to raise money for the Navajo people.
On April 3, 1921, while visiting friends in Greenwich Village, Hepburn discovered the body of her older brother Tom, whom she adored, dead from an apparent suicide. He had tied a sheet around a beam and hanged himself. The Hepburn family denied it was suicide and maintained that Tom's death must have been an experiment that had gone wrong. The incident made the teenage Hepburn nervous and moody, suspicious of people, arrogant, disrespectful, and contemptuous of religion. She shied away from other children, dropped out of Oxford School, and began receiving private tutoring. For many years, she used Tom's birthday (November 8) as her own. It was not until her 1991 autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life, that Hepburn revealed her true birth date.
Hepburn gained a place at Bryn Mawr College, her mother's alma mater. It was the first time she had been in school in several years, and she was self-conscious and uncomfortable with her classmates. She would purposely wake up early to avoid them and never went to the dinner hall. She was once suspended for smoking in her room. Hepburn was drawn to acting but roles in plays were conditional on good grades. After initial struggles with her studies, she achieved her goals. She began acting, most notably playing the lead in a big production of The Woman in the Moon. The positive response she received in this role cemented Hepburn's plans to pursue a theatrical career. She received a degree in history and philosophy in 1928.
Breaking into theatre (1928–1932)
Hepburn left Bryn Mawr driven by ambition, determined to become an actress. A friend put her in touch with Edwin Knopf, who ran a successful theatre company in Baltimore. She went to see Knopf in person, taking her father's advice that "if you want to get something – don't write, don't telephone, be there yourself". Affected by her eagerness, Knopf cast Hepburn in The Czarina. She received good notices for her small role, with the Printed Word describing her as "arresting." She was given a part in the following week's show, but here Hepburn was less accomplished. She was criticized for her shrill voice, and so left Baltimore to study with an acclaimed voice tutor in New York City.
The Knopf Stock Company decided to produce The Big Pond in New York and called for Hepburn to be the understudy to the leading lady. She had only been in the theatre for four weeks. The leading lady was fired and replaced with Hepburn. On opening night, Hepburn turned up late, mixed her lines, tripped over her feet, and spoke too high and fast to be comprehensible. She was promptly fired, and the original leading lady rehired. Undeterred, Hepburn joined forces with producer Arthur Hopkins, and accepted the role of a schoolgirl in These Days. It played at the Cort Theatre on Broadway, where reviews for the show were poor and it closed after only eight nights. Hopkins hired Hepburn as the understudy to Hope Williams in Philip Barry's play Holiday. After only two weeks, she quit to marry Ludlow Ogden Smith, a friend she had known since college. She planned to leave the theatre behind, but began to miss the work and quickly resumed her understudy role in Holiday.
In 1929, Hepburn turned down a role with the Theatre Guild to play the lead in Death Takes a Holiday. She felt the role was perfect, but again she was fired for voice problems. Hepburn went back to the Guild and took an understudy role for minimum pay in A Month in the Country. In the spring of 1930, Hepburn joined the Alexander Kirkland & Strickland Stock Company in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She left half-way through the summer season, and continued seeing a tutor to improve her voice. In early 1931, she was cast in Art and Mrs. Bottle. She was released from the role after the playwright took a dislike to her, saying "She looks a fright, her manner is objectionable, and she has no talent", but then rehired when no other actress could be found. It went on to be a small success.
Hepburn appeared in a number of plays with a summer stock company in Ivoryton, Connecticut, and she proved to be a great hit. During the summer of 1931, Philip Barry asked her to appear in his new play, The Animal Kingdom, alongside Leslie Howard. They began rehearsals in November, Hepburn feeling sure this was the role to make her a star, but Howard disliked the actress and she was again fired. When asking Barry why this was, he responded, "Well, to be brutally frank, you weren't very good." This unsettled the self-assured Hepburn, but she continued to look for work. She took a small role in an uncoming play, but as rehearsals began she received an offer to read for the lead role in the Greek fable The Warrior's Husband.
The Warrior's Husband proved to be Hepburn's break-out role. She was ideal for the part, which called for an aggressive energy and athleticism, and she enthusiastically involved herself with its production, bombarding the director with suggestions. It opened in March 1932 at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway. Hepburn's stage entrance called for her to leap down a narrow stairway with a stag over her shoulder, wearing a short silver tunic. The show ran for three months, and Hepburn received strong reviews.
Instant success in Hollywood (1932–1934)
A scout for Leland Hayward spotted Hepburn's appearance in The Warrior's Husband, and asked her to test for the part of Sydney Fairfield in the upcoming RKO film A Bill of Divorcement. Hepburn was unhappy with her test scene, and sent material from her performance in Holiday instead. Knowing that she was popular, she demanded $1,500 per week for the work. This was a large amount for a first role, but after seeing her screen test, director George Cukor encouraged the studio to accept her demands and they signed Hepburn to a temporary contract with a three week guarantee. RKO head David O. Selznick recounted that he took a "tremendous chance" in casting the unusual actress.
In July 1932, aged 25, Hepburn arrived in California. She starred in A Bill of Divorcement opposite legendary actor John Barrymore, showing no sign of intimidation. Although she struggled to adapt to the nature of film acting, Hepburn was fascinated by the industry from the start. The picture was a success and Hepburn received rave reviews. The New York Times described her performance as "exceptionally fine … Miss Hepburn's characterization is one of the finest seen on the screen". Variety wrote, "Standout here is the smash impression made by Katharine Hepburn in her first picture assignment. She has a vital something that sets her apart from the picture galaxy." With a promising future seemingly ahead, RKO signed the actress to a long-term contract. George Cukor became a lifetime friend and colleague and they proceeded to make a total of 10 films together.
Hepburn's second film was set to be Three Came Unarmed, based on E. Arnot Robertson's novel, but the project was shelved and she was cast in Christopher Strong (1933), the story of an aviatrix and her affair with a married man. The picture was not commercially successful, but Hepburn did receive strong reviews. Regina Crewe wrote in the Journal American that although her mannerisms were grating, "they compel attention, and they fascinate an audience. She is a distinct definite, positive personality – the first since [Greta] Garbo." Her third picture confirmed Hepburn as a major actress in Hollywood. For playing aspiring actress Eva Lovelace in Morning Glory, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She had seen the script on the desk of producer Pandro Berman and, convinced that she was born to play the part, insisted that the role be hers. Hepburn chose not to attend the awards ceremony, a choice she would follow for the duration of her career, but was thrilled with the win. Her success continued with the role of Jo in the screen adaptation of Little Women (1933). The movie was an enormous hit, one of the film industry's biggest successes to date, and Hepburn won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival. Little Women was one of Hepburn's personal favorites and she was proud of her performance, later saying "I defy anyone to be as good as I was in Little Women ... my personality was like hers ... this part suited my exaggerated sense of things."
By the end of 1933 Hepburn was at the top of her profession, but yearned to prove herself on Broadway. Jed Harris, one of the most successful theatre producers of the 1920s, was experiencing a slump in his career. He asked Hepburn to appear in the play The Lake and she agreed to do the play for a low salary as a favor. Before she was given leave, RKO asked that she film the movie Spitfire (1934). Here Hepburn played Trigger Hicks, an uneducated Ozark faith healer. She demanded $50,000 for four weeks of work, and the movie was a flop. Widely considered one of her worst films, Hepburn kept a picture of herself as Trigger in her bedroom as a reminder. She noted, "Hicks keeps me humble."
The Lake opened in Washington, D.C., at the end of 1933, where there was a large advance sale. Harris's poor direction had eroded Hepburn's confidence, and she struggled with the performance. Despite this, Harris moved the play to New York without further rehearsal. The play was another grand flop, and Hepburn was slated by the critics. Dorothy Parker quipped, "Katharine Hepburn runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." The actress had already signed a ten-week contract, and had to endure the embarrassment of rapidly declining box office sales. Harris decided to take the show to Chicago, saying to Hepburn, "My dear, the only interest I have in you is the money I can make out of you." Hepburn refused, and paid Harris $14,000 to close the production instead. She later referred to Harris as "hands-down the most diabolical person I have ever met", and claimed this experience was important in teaching her to take responsibility for her career.
Career struggles, "box office poison" (1934–1938)
In an attempt to replicate her triumph in Little Women, RKO cast Hepburn in The Little Minister (1934), based on a Victorian novel by James Barrie. It was not well received, and it seemed that Hepburn was only a hit in hit pictures; she could not save a flop. Her next film was the romantic drama Break of Hearts (1935) with Charles Boyer. It garnered Hepburn her worst reviews to date, and fared poorly at the box office. After three forgettable movies, success returned to Hepburn with Alice Adams (1935), the story of a girl's desperation to climb the social ladder. Hepburn loved the book and was delighted to be offered the role. The picture, directed by George Stevens, was a big hit, one of Hepburn's personal favorites, and gave the actress her second Oscar nomination.
With Hepburn back on top, Berman allowed her to pick her next feature. She chose George Cukor's new project, Sylvia Scarlett (1935), which paired her for the first time with Cary Grant. It was a showy role for Hepburn, whose hair was cut like a boy's for the part as her character masquerades as a boy for much of the film. Yet it was a commercial failure, and Hepburn and everyone else involved considered it awful. Her next three features were also unsuccessful. She played Mary Stuart in John Ford's Mary of Scotland (1936), but Ford quickly lost interest in the project and it flopped at the box office. A Woman Rebels (1937) followed, a Victorian costume drama in which Hepburn's character defies the conventions of the day and has a child out of wedlock. Her next film, Quality Street (1937), also had a period setting, this time a comedy. Neither movie was popular with the public, making, as Hepburn herself put it, "four skunks in a row."
Alongside a series of unpopular films, problems arose from Hepburn's attitude. She had a famously difficult relationship with the press, with whom she could be spiky and provocative. When asked if she had any children, she snapped back "Yes I have five, two white and three colored." She would not give interviews and denied requests for autographs, earning her the nickname "Katharine of Arrogance" (an allusion to Catherine of Aragon). The public were also baffled by her boyish behavior and fashion choices, and she became a largely unpopular figure. Hepburn sensed that she needed to leave Hollywood, so returned east to star in a theatrical adaptation of Jane Eyre. They played in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, where it was a popular and financial success, but feeling uncertain with the script and unwilling to risk failure after the disaster of The Lake, Hepburn decided against taking the show to Broadway. Around this time, Hepburn vied for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. Producer David O. Selznick refused to offer her the part because she had no sex appeal. He reportedly told Hepburn, "I can't see Rhett Butler chasing you for twelve years."
Berman convinced RKO to make one more attempt at reviving Hepburn's movie career. Stage Door (1937) paired Hepburn with Ginger Rogers in a role that mirrored her own life—that of a wealthy society girl trying to make it as an actress. Director Gregory La Cava chose to take lines from The Lake for the play featured in the film, allowing Hepburn to confront her career frustrations and make fun of her biggest failure. Hepburn was praised for her work at early previews, which gave her top-billing over Rogers, but the film was a box office disappointment. Industry pundits blamed Hepburn for the small profit margin, but RKO, happy that she was at least back from intense unpopularity, continued its effort to reverse the trend. The studio cast her in the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938). Howard Hawks directed and Cary Grant was again her co-star, now Hollywood's number one romantic-comedy actor after the success of The Awful Truth. Hepburn's strong body allowed her to play the physical comedy of the film with confidence, and the actress took tips on comedic timing from her experienced co-star Walter Catlett. Critics liked the film, but it was nevertheless unsuccessful at the box office. With the genre and Grant both hugely popular at the time, blame lay with Hepburn.
Bringing up Baby was the last picture Hepburn did at RKO. By this point, the Independent Theatre Owners of America included Hepburn on a list of actors considered "Box Office Poison". The next film RKO offered her was Mother Carey's Chickens, an obviously inferior "B Movie" that signified that the studio had lost interest in the actress. Hepburn turned it down, and instead opted to buy herself out of her contract for $75,000. Many actors of the time were afraid to leave the stability of the studio system, but Hepburn's personal wealth meant she could afford to be independent. She signed on to do the film version of Holiday (1938) with Columbia Pictures, another comedy with Grant. The character of Linda Seton, the same role she had understudied on Broadway ten years earlier, suited Hepburn perfectly, a liberated society girl who rebels against convention, and the film was well received by critics. Even so, it was too late to compensate for the previous flops and overcome the negative publicity, and it flopped at the box office. The next script she received offered a salary of only $10,000—less than she had been receiving at the start of her film career. Her career trajectory in the 1930s was dramatic, with Britton writing: "No other star has emerged with greater rapidity or with more ecstatic acclaim. No other star, either, has become so unpopular so quickly for so long a time."
Following this decline in her career, Hepburn took action to create her own comeback vehicle. She signed on to star in friend Philip Barry's new play, The Philadelphia Story, which was tailored to showcase the actress. Howard Hughes, with whom she was in a relationship, bought the film rights for Hepburn before the play had even opened, knowing it could be her ticket back to Hollywood stardom. The pair also contributed a quarter of its production costs. The play first toured the United States, to rave reviews, and then opened in New York at the Schubert Theatre on March 29, 1939. It was a big hit, critically and financially, running for 417 performances and then going on a second successful tour.
All the major film studios approached Hepburn to produce the movie version of Barry's play. She chose to sell the rights to MGM, Hollywood's number one studio, on the condition that she be the star. As part of the deal she also received the director of her choice, George Cukor, but the co-stars she wanted, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, were both unavailable. Louis B. Mayer promised her James Stewart and $150,000 "for anyone else you want or can get." Hepburn chose her friend and previous co-star, Cary Grant. Before filming began, Hepburn shrewdly noted, "I don't want to make a grand entrance in this picture. Moviegoers ... think I'm too la-di-da or something. A lot of people want to see me fall flat on my face." Thus the film began with the actress being knocked flat onto her backside by Cary Grant. The movie also came with the highest production values available, including gowns by top designer Adrian that made Hepburn look more glamorous than she had before. The effect was to "recreate Katharine Hepburn" in the eyes of her audience. The resulting film was one of the biggest hits of 1940, breaking records at the Radio City Music Hall. Hepburn's career was revived almost overnight: Time wrote "Come on back, Katie, all is forgiven." Variety stated in their review, "It's Katharine Hepburn's picture ... The perfect conception of all flighty but characterful Main Line socialite gals rolled into one, the story without her is almost inconceivable ... it's no one but Hepburn." For her role as spoiled but misunderstood socialite Tracy Lord, Hepburn was nominated for her third Academy Award for Best Actress and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
Hepburn was also responsible for the development of her next project, the romantic comedy Woman of the Year (1942). The idea for the film was proposed to her by friend Garson Kanin. Hepburn then passed the outline for the film to Joseph L. Mankiewicz at MGM, asking for $250,000, half for her, half for the script—a record at that time. He liked it and agreed to produce the movie. Hepburn contributed significantly to the script, reading it, suggesting cuts and word changes, and generally providing helpful enthusiasm for the project. In line with Hepburn's request, George Stevens was loaned from RKO to direct and Spencer Tracy, Hollywood's most admired actor after winning two consecutive Academy Awards, was cast as her co-star. Tracy and Hepburn studied each other's films in preparation, and soon established a strong connection. Woman of the Year was another huge success, as critics praised the chemistry between the stars and noted Hepburn's increasing maturity and polish. The World-Telegram commended two "brilliant performances", and Hepburn received her fourth Academy Award nomination for her role as independent career-woman Tess Harding.
Slowing in the 1940s (1942–1949)
In 1942, Hepburn returned to Broadway to appear in another Philip Barry play, Without Love, which was also written with the actress in mind. Critics were unenthusiastic about the production but with Hepburn's popularity at a high it ran for 16 sold-out weeks. MGM were eager to reunite Tracy and Hepburn for a new picture, and settled on Keeper of the Flame (1942). A dark mystery with a propaganda message on the dangers of fascism, it was of stark contrast to Woman of the Year, with none of the comedy and little of the romance of the previous hit. Hepburn saw it as an opportunity to make a worthwhile political statement, but it received poor notices. Despite the negativity from critics it was a financial success, confirming the popularity of the Tracy-Hepburn pairing.
Since Woman of the Year Hepburn had committed to a romantic relationship with Tracy and dedicated herself to helping the troubled star. Her career slowed as a result, and she worked less for the remainder of the decade than she had done in the 1930s, for instance not appearing on stage again in the 1940s. Her only appearance in 1943 was a brief appearance in the morale-building wartime film Stage Door Canteen, playing herself. She took on an atypical role in 1944, playing a Chinese peasant in the high-budget drama Dragon Seed. Hepburn was enthusiastic about the film, but it met with a tepid response and she was described as miscast. She then reunited with Tracy for the film version of Without Love (1945), after which she turned down a role in The Razor's Edge to support Tracy through his return to Broadway. Without Love received poor reviews, but a new Tracy-Hepburn picture was a big event and it was extremely popular on release, selling a record number of tickets over Easter weekend 1945.
Her next film, Undercurrent (1946), was a minor film noir with Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum. A fourth film with Tracy came in 1947, a drama set in the American Old West entitled The Sea of Grass. Similarly to Keeper of the Flame and Without Love, a lukewarm response from critics did not stop it from being a big financial success both at home and abroad. The same year, Hepburn portrayed Clara Wieck Schumann in Song of Love. She trained intensively with a pianist for the role. By the time of its release in October, Hepburn's career had been significantly affected by her public opposition to the anti-communist witch-hunt occurring in Hollywood. Viewed as dangerously progressive, she did not work for nine months and people were reportedly throwing things at screen showings of Song of Love. Her next film role came almost by luck, as she stepped in to replace Claudette Colbert only days before shooting began in Frank Capra's political drama State of the Union (1948). Tracy had long been signed to play the male lead, and so Hepburn was already familiar with the script and stepped up for the fifth Tracy-Hepburn picture. Critics responded positively to the film and it performed well at the box office.
Tracy and Hepburn appeared on screen together for the third year running in the 1949 film Adam's Rib. Like Woman of the Year, it was a "battle of the sexes" comedy, and was written specifically for the duo by close friends Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. A story of married lawyers who oppose each other in court, Hepburn described it as "perfect for [Tracy] and me". She was instrumental in getting Judy Holliday cast in the film, which kick-started the young actress's Hollywood career. Although Hepburn was still unpopular due to her political views, with scattered picketing at theatres around the country, Adam's Rib was a big hit, strongly reviewed and the most profitable Tracy-Hepburn picture to date. Critic Bosley Crowther was full of praise for the film, and noted the duo's "perfect compatibility".
Professional expansion (1950–1959)
The 1950s saw Hepburn take on a series of professional challenges and stretch herself further than at any other point in her life, while most actresses her age began to retreat. Friend and biographer Scott Berg describes the decade as "the heart of her vast legacy" and "the period in which she truly came into her own." In January 1950, Hepburn made her first venture into Shakespeare, playing Rosalind in As You Like It. She hoped to prove she could play already established material, and said "It's better to try something difficult and flop than to play it safe all the time." It opened at the Cort Theatre in New York to a capacity audience, with critics noting a "spirited but not particularly commanding" performance, and continued to be virtually sold out for 148 shows. The production then went on tour. Reviews for Hepburn varied, but she was noted as the only leading-lady in Hollywood who was performing high-caliber material on the stage.
In 1951, Hepburn filmed The African Queen, her first movie in technicolor. She played Rose Sayer, a prim spinster missionary living in German East Africa at the outbreak of World War I. Co-starring Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen was shot mostly on location in the Belgian Congo, where Hepburn became ill with dysentery while they were filming. The trip was so significant to Hepburn that later in life she released a memoir about the experience. The movie was released at the end of the 1951 to great acclaim, and gave Hepburn her fifth Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards. It proved that she could be a hit without Spencer Tracy, being the first successful film she had made without him since The Philadelphia Story a decade earlier, and fully re-established her popularity.
Hepburn went on to make the sports comedy Pat and Mike (1952), a second film written specifically as a Tracy-Hepburn vehicle by their friends Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. Kanin felt that Hepburn's audience were missing out on an important aspect of her personality: her athleticism. Thus the character of Pat Pemberton, a talented sportswoman, was created. Hepburn had to gain weight for the role, after a bout of dysentery had left her extremely thin, and she was under pressure to perform several sports to a high standard, many of which did not end up in the film. Pat and Mike was one of the team's most popular and critically acclaimed films, and it was also Hepburn's personal favorite of the nine films she made with Tracy. The performance brought a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Following completion of Pat and Mike, Hepburn appeared in London's West End for a ten week run of George Bernard Shaw's The Millionairess. Her parents had read her Shaw as a child and she was delighted to take the role. But she was exhausted after two years of intense work, and almost had to pull out of the production when she developed laryngitis. The delayed shock of her mother's death a year earlier also began to take effect, and close friend Constance Collier wrote that she was "on the verge of a nervous breakdown". The Millionairess was widely acclaimed, and brought to Broadway. It opened at the Shubert Theatre in October 1952, where the response by critics was lukewarm but it sold out for the entire ten week run. Hepburn subsequently tried to get the play adapted into a film: a script was written by Preston Sturges, Hepburn offered to work for nothing and pay the director herself, but the project was not picked up by any studio. She later referred to this as the biggest disappointment of her career.
After some time off work, Hepburn traveled to Venice to film David Lean's romantic drama Summertime, where she played a lonely spinster who has a love affair with Italian actor Rossano Brazzi. She described it as "a very emotional part" and found it fascinating to work with Lean. Hepburn herself performed a fall into a canal and developed a chronic eye infection as a result. The role earned her another Academy Award nomination and is regarded as some of her finest work. David Lean later said it was his personal favorite of the films he made, and Hepburn his favorite actress. The following year, Hepburn spent six months touring Australia with the Old Vic theatre company, playing Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Isabella in Measure for Measure. The tour was successful and Hepburn earned significant plaudits for the effort.
Hepburn received an Academy Award nomination for the second year running for her work opposite Burt Lancaster in The Rainmaker (1956). Again she played a lonely women empowered by a love affair, and it seemed that Hepburn had found a niche in playing love-starved spinsters that critics, audiences and her peers clearly enjoyed. Hepburn said of playing such roles, "With Lizzie Curry [The Rainmaker] and Jane Hudson [Summertime] and Rosie Sayer [The African Queen] – I was playing me. It wasn't difficult for me to play those women...because I'm the maiden aunt." Less success that year came from The Iron Petticoat (1956), a reworking of the classic comedy Ninotchka, with Bob Hope. Hepburn played a cold-hearted Soviet pilot, a performance which one contemporary journalist called "awful". Hepburn considered it the worst film on her resume, and called Hope "the biggest egomaniac with whom I have worked in my entire life."
Tracy and Hepburn reunited on screen for the first time in five years for the office-based comedy Desk Set (1957). It worked as a hybrid of their earlier romantic-comedy successes and the later Hepburn-as-spinster films, but performed poorly at the box office. That summer Hepburn returned to Shakespeare. Appearing in Stratford, Connecticut, at the American Shakespeare Theatre, she repeated her Portia in The Merchant of Venice and played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Reviews for the shows were strong. After two years away from the screen, she starred in a film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' controversial play Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. The movie was shot in London, and was "a completely miserable experience" for Hepburn. She clashed with director Joseph L. Mankiewicz during filming, which culminated with her spitting at him in disgust. The picture was successful, and her work as creepy aunt Violet Venable gave Hepburn her eighth Oscar nomination. Williams was extremely pleased with the performance, and later wrote, "Kate is a playwright's dream actress. She makes dialogue sound better than it is by a matchless beauty and clarity of diction". He wrote The Night of the Iguana (1961) with Hepburn in mind, but the actress, although flattered, felt the play was wrong for her and declined the part, which went to Bette Davis.
Continued success (1960–1970)
Hepburn returned to Stratford in the summer of 1960 to play Viola in Twelfth Night and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, with Robert Ryan playing Antony. Theater enthusiast Garson Kanin believed she was one of the few actresses to succeed completely as Cleopatra and Hepburn herself was proud of the role. Her repertoire was further improved when she appeared in Sidney Lumet's film version of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962). It was a low-budget production, and Hepburn appeared in the film for a tenth of her established salary. She called it "the greatest [play] this country has ever produced", the role of morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone "the most challenging female role in American drama" and felt her performance was the best screen work of her career. Long Day's Journey Into Night earned Hepburn an Oscar nomination and the Best Actress Award at that year's Cannes Film Festival.
Following completion of Long Day's Journey Into Night, Hepburn took a five-year break in her career to care for the ailing Spencer Tracy. She did not appear in a film again until 1967's Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, with Tracy. Tracy was a dying man by this point, and Columbia Studio only agreed to finance the picture if Hepburn and director Stanley Kramer both put their salaries in escrow as an insurance. The movie dealt with the controversial subject of interracial marriage, with Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton, playing her daughter. Houghton later commented that her aunt was "extremely tense" during filming, as she tried to commit to the role while knowing that Tracy was near to death. He died only three weeks after filming was completed. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was a triumphant return for Hepburn, her most commercially successful picture to date, and she won her second Best Actress Award at the Oscars, 34 years after winning her first. Hepburn always said she felt the award was not just for her, but was also given to honor Tracy, and claimed to have never watched the film as it would be too painful.
Finding work to be the best antidote against grief, Hepburn quickly returned to acting after Tracy's death. She received numerous scripts  and chose to play Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion In Winter (1968), a part she called "fascinating". She read extensively in preparation for the role, and starred opposite Peter O'Toole. It was filmed in Montmajour Abbey in the south of France, an experience she loved despite being—according to director Anthony Harvey—"enormously vulnerable" throughout. The movie was nominated in all the major categories at the Academy Awards, and for the second year running Hepburn won the Oscar for Best Actress, an unprecedented occurrence as she became the first actor to win three leading performance awards. The role, combined with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, also won Hepburn a BAFTA. Immediately after completion of The Lion in Winter she traveled on to Nice to film The Madwomen of Chaillot (1969), based on Jean Giraudoux's satirical play of the same name. Unlike her previous hits the picture was a big failure critically and financially, and reviews targeted Hepburn for giving a misguided performance.
From December 1969 to August 1970, Hepburn starred in the Broadway musical Coco, about the life of Coco Chanel. Hepburn admitted that before the show, she had never even sat through a theatrical musical. She was not a strong singer, but she found the offer irresistible and, as said by Scott Berg, "what she lacked in euphony she made up for in guts". The actress took vocal lessons six times a week in preparation for the show. She was nervous about every performance, and recalled "wondering what the hell I was doing there." Reviews for the production were mediocre, but Hepburn herself was praised and Coco was popular with the public. One critic described "an unforgettable performance in an otherwise forgettable show". Hepburn would typically receive a standing ovation at the end of the night, and the show's run was twice extended. She later said Coco marked the first time she accepted that the public were not against her, but actually seemed to love her. Hepburn received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical but lost to close friend Lauren Bacall. Hepburn wrote to congratulate Bacall, saying "none could be more pleased than I."
Film, television and theatre (1971–1983)
Hepburn stayed active throughout the 1970s, focussing on roles described by Andrew Britton as "either a devouring mother or a batty old lady living [alone]". First she traveled to Spain to film a version of Euripides' The Trojan Women (1971) alongside Vanessa Redgrave, whom Hepburn considered the finest actress of her generation. The movie was poorly received, but won Hepburn the Best Actress Award from the Kansas City Film Critics. In 1971 she signed on to star in an adaptation of Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt, but was unhappy with early versions of the script and and took to rewriting it herself. The studio disliked her changes, so Hepburn abandoned the project and was replaced with Maggie Smith. Her next feature was an adaptation of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1973), directed by Tony Richardson and co-starring Paul Scofield. It had a small release and received generally unfavorable reviews. Hepburn then ventured into television for the first time, appearing in a TV Movie of The Glass Menagerie (1973). She had been wary of entering into the medium but it proved to be one of the main television events of 1973, scoring high on the Nielsen ratings. Hepburn received an Emmy Award nomination for playing wistful Southern mother Amanda Wingfield, which opened her mind to future work in the medium, and her next project was the TV movie Love Among the Ruins (1975), a London-based Edwardian drama with Laurence Olivier. It was a great success, with rave reviews and high ratings, and earned Hepburn her only Emmy Award.
Hepburn made her only appearance at the Academy Awards in 1974, to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to Lawrence Weingarten. She received a standing ovation, and joked with the audience, "I'm very happy I didn't hear anyone call out 'It's about time'." The following year, she was paired with legendary actor John Wayne in the Western Rooster Cogburn, a sequel to his Oscar-winning film True Grit. Hepburn's role was similar to that which she had played in The African Queen, cast as a deeply religious spinster who teams up with a masculine loner to avenge a family member's death. The movie received mediocre reviews. Its stunt casting was enough to draw some people to the box office, but not as many as anticipated and it was only moderately successful.
In 1976, Hepburn returned to Broadway for a three-month run of the play A Matter of Gravity, after the role of eccentric Mrs. Basil was deemed a perfect showcase for the actress. It then went on a successful nationwide tour. During the Los Angeles run of the production, Hepburn fractured her hip but chose to continue the tour performing in a wheelchair. That year, she was voted "Favorite Motion Picture Actress" by the People's Choice Awards. In 1978, after three years away from the screen, she starred in the adventure comedy Olly Olly Oxen Free. It turned out to be one of the biggest failures of Hepburn's career, as it was quickly removed from theatres and did not receive an international release. She later said the main reason she had done the film was the opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon. The TV Movie The Corn Is Green (1979) followed, which was filmed in Wales. It was the last of ten films Hepburn made with George Cukor, and gained her a third Emmy nomination.
By the 1980s Hepburn had developed a noticeable tremor, giving her a permanently bobbing head, but she continued to appear regularly throughout the decade. She was paired with another legend of her generation, Henry Fonda, in On Golden Pond (1981). Having previously seen the play on Broadway, where she was impressed by its depiction of an elderly married couple and the difficulties of old age, she sought to play the role of quirky Ethel Thayer on film. The picture was filmed in New Hampshire, and showcased how energetic the 74-year-old actress still was, as she dived fully clothed into Squam Lake and gave a lively singing performance. It was a big success, and won Hepburn a second BAFTA and a fourth Academy Award, the record amount of Oscars for a performer and the second oldest winner of the Best Actress award. The same year she also received a Tony nomination for her work in The West Side Waltz, where she played a septuagenarian refusing to bow-out of life gracefully. Walter Kerr of The New York Times wrote of Hepburn and her performance: "One mysterious thing she has learned to do is breathe unchallengeable life into lifeless lines." She hoped to make a film out of the production, but nobody purchased the rights. Hepburn's reputation as one of America's best loved actors was firmly established by this point, as she was named favorite movie actress in a survey by People magazine and again won the popularity award from People's Choice.
Focus on television (1984–1994)
In 1984, Hepburn starred in the dark comedy Grace Quigley, the story of an elderly women who enlists a hitman (Nick Nolte) to kill her. Few people went to see the film. In 1985, she presented a documentary about the life and career of Spencer Tracy. The majority of Hepburn's roles from this point were in television movies, which did not receive the critical praise of her earlier work in the medium but remained popular with audiences. With each release, Hepburn would declare it her final screen appearance, but she continued to take on new roles. She received an Emmy nomination for 1986's Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry, then two years later returned for the comedy Laura Lansing Slept Here, which allowed Hepburn to act with her grandniece, Schuyler Grant. In 1991 she released her autobiography, Me: Stories of my Life. It topped best-seller lists for over a year. She returned to the screen in 1992 for The Man Upstairs, co-starring Ryan O'Neal, for which she was Golden Globe nominated. In 1994 she worked opposite Anthony Quinn in This Can't Be Love, which was largely based on Hepburn's own life, with numerous references to her personality and career. Her next TV movie, and the final role she ever filmed, was One Christmas (1994), for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. These later roles have been described as "a fictional version of the typically feisty Kate Hepburn character" and critics have remarked that Hepburn was essentially playing herself.
Hepburn's final appearance in a theatrically released film, and her first since Grace Quigley ten years earlier, was Love Affair (1994). At 86 years old, she played a supporting role alongside Annette Benning and Warren Beatty. It was the only film of Hepburn's career, other than the cameo appearance in Stage Door Canteen, in which she did not play a leading role. Roger Ebert noted that it was the first time Hepburn had looked frail, but that the "magnificent spirit" was still there and said her scenes "steal the show". The New York Times made similar observations as they reflected on the actress' final appearance, stating that "if she moved more slowly than before, in demeanor she was as game and modern as she had ever been".
Hepburn was known for being fiercely private for much of her career. She would not give interviews or talk to fans, believing her life to be no one's business, and once wrestled a camera out of a photographer's hand when he took a picture without asking. She also confessed that she would not have liked the press to ignore her completely. Hepburn distanced herself from the celebrity lifestyle, uninterested in a social scene she saw as tedious and superficial and wearing casual clothes that went strongly against convention in an era of glamour. She rarely appeared in public, even avoiding restaurants. The deep need for privacy seemed to cease as she aged and she became increasingly open about her life, beginning with a two-hour long interview on The Dick Cavett Show in 1973.
Hepburn was extremely active in her private life, reportedly swimming and playing tennis every morning. Even in her eighties she was still playing tennis regularly, as seen in her 1993 documentary All About Me. She also filled her time painting, which became a passion later in life. A small bust she sculpted of Spencer Tracy's head was featured in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. She was by all accounts a hugely energetic and enthusiastic person, even being "wildly overimaginative and often unrealistic", but her self-assuredness meant she could be controlling and difficult. Garson Kanin likened her to a schoolmistress, and on movies sets she would openly question any detail that offended her. She retained the Hepburn family custom of doing and saying exactly what she felt at any given moment, and according to niece Katharine Houghton she could be "maddeningly self-righteous and bossy". Lauren Bacall, who was a friend for fifty years, described how the rules Hepburn lived by had to be respected and agreed to by anyone who wished to enter her life. Scott Berg knew the actress well in her later years, and said that despite making demands, "she always remained grounded ... For all her impatience, there was always a sense of humility and humanity." He described her as "ever striding and often strident, irrepressible to the point of irritating, exhilarating, and sometimes exhausting." Hepburn confessed to being, especially early in life, "a me me me person". She saw herself as having "a happy nature", and said, "I like life and I've been so lucky, why shouldn't I be happy?"
Hepburn met Ludlow Ogden Smith, a socialite businessman from Philadelphia, whilst a student at Bryn Mawr. The couple impulsively married on December 12, 1928, when she was 21 and he was 29. Hepburn made Smith change his name to S. Ogden Ludlow so that she would not be known as 'Kate Smith'. It was too plain, she insisted, and disliked that it was the name of an overweight singer who was popular at the time. Hepburn never fully committed to the relationship and prioritized her career. The move to Hollywood in 1932 cemented their estrangement, and in 1934, Hepburn traveled to Mexico to get a quick divorce. Hepburn often expressed her gratitude toward Ludlow for his financial and moral support in the early days of her career, and admitted that she married him primarily out of convenience and that she was "a terrible pig" for doing so. Smith continued to be a lifelong friend to her and the rest of the Hepburn family.
Hepburn began a relationship with her agent, Leland Hayward, soon after moving to Hollywood. Both were married. Hayward proposed marriage after they each had divorced, but Hepburn did not wish to be married again. She "liked the idea of being my own single self." They were together for almost four years, until Hayward left her and abruptly married actress Margaret Sullavan. After Hayward she had a significant relationship with entrepreneur Howard Hughes. They first met while Hepburn was filming Sylvia Scarlett in 1935, introduced by mutual friend Cary Grant. Hughes pursued her for a period, and they formed a relationship whilst Hepburn was touring Jane Eyre. The couple lived together in California. Hughes also wished to marry her, and the tabloids made reports of their impending nuptials, but Hepburn was too focused on resurrecting her failed career. They separated in 1938, when Hepburn left Hollywood to tour in The Philadelphia Story.
Alongside the choice to never remarry, Hepburn made the conscious decision not to have children, believing that motherhood should be a full time commitment and that it was not one she was willing to make. She told Scott Berg, "I would have been a terrible mother, because I'm basically a very selfish human being." She felt she had partially experienced parenthood through her much younger siblings, which fulfilled any need to have children of her own.
The most significant relationship of Hepburn's life was with Spencer Tracy. In her autobiography she wrote, "It was a unique feeling that I had for [Tracy]. I would have done anything for him." Friend Lauren Bacall later wrote of how "blindingly" in love Hepburn was with the actor. The relationship has also received much publicity, being called "legendary", and is one of the main things through which Hepburn is associated. Meeting when she was 34 and he was 41, Tracy was initially wary of Hepburn, unimpressed that she had dirty fingernails and thought she was probably a lesbian, but Hepburn said she "knew right away that I found him irresistible." Tracy remained married throughout their relationship: although he and wife Louise had been living separate lives since the 1930s, there was never an official split and neither party pursued a divorce. Hepburn did not interfere and never fought for marriage. With Tracy determined for his wife not to know of the relationship with Hepburn, it had to remain private. They tried not to be seen in public together and maintained separate residences. Tracy was a periodic alcoholic and troubled individual, and Hepburn devoted herself to making his life easier. Reports from people who saw them together describe how Hepburn's entire demeanor changed when around Tracy. She mothered and obeyed him, and acquaintances state that Tracy became heavily dependent on her. They often spent stretches of time apart due to their work, particularly during the first half of the 1950s when Hepburn was largely abroad for career commitments. Tracy resented these absences, and while Hepburn was playing The Millionairess in London in 1952, he had an affair with his Plymouth Adventure co-star Gene Tierney.
Tracy's health declined significantly in the 1960s, and Hepburn took a five-year break in her career to care for him. She moved into Tracy's house for this period, and was with him when he died on June 10, 1967. Out of consideration for Tracy's family, she did not attend his funeral. It was only after Louise Tracy's death, in 1983, that Hepburn began to speak publicly about her feelings for Tracy. In response to the question of why she stayed with him for so long, despite the nature of their relationship, she said, "I honestly don't know. I can only say that I could never have left him." She claimed to not know how Tracy felt about her, but said, "I think I was a comfort". Hepburn said of the relationship that they "just passed twenty-seven years [sic] together in what was to me absolute bliss."
Politics and beliefs
Hepburn's political views lay firmly with the left. She told an interviewer, "I always just say be on the affirmative and liberal side. Don't be a 'no' person." She was angered by the anti-communist hysteria in Hollywood during the Second Red Scare, and made a speech against censorship in May 1947. The speech shocked the public and she was targeted by right-wing activists as a communist sympathizer, being mentioned at the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee,. She insisted that the claims made about her were untrue. Throughout her life, Hepburn was also outspoken in promoting birth control and in her support for abortion. She refused to accept the Kennedy Center Honors until Ronald and Nancy Reagan had left the White House, because she "wanted nothing to do with either of them".
Hepburn stated in her 1973 interview with Dick Cavett that although she agreed with Christian principles, and thought highly of Jesus Christ, she did not believe in religion or the afterlife. She told a journalist in October 1991, "I'm an atheist and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people." She practiced the "Reverence for Life" theory propounded by Albert Schweitzer, finding spirituality in nature. Her public declarations of these beliefs led the American Humanist Association to award her the Humanist Arts Award in 1985.
According to reports Hepburn was not an instinctive actor, liking to carefully study the text and character beforehand, making sure she knew it thoroughly, and then to rehearse as much as possible and film multiple takes of a scene. With a genuine passion for the industry she committed heavily to each role, insisting on learning any necessary skills and performing feats herself, and was known to learn not only her own lines but also those of her co-stars. Stanley Kramer commented on her motivation, saying: "Work, work, work. She can work till everyone drops." With each film Hepburn would involve herself in its production, making suggestions for the script and stating her opinion on everything from costumes to lighting to camerawork.
The characters Hepburn played were, with very few exceptions, wealthy and intelligent, and often they were strong and independent. As Richard Schickel explains, these self-assured characters tended to be humbled in some form and revealed to have a hidden softness or vulnerability. She was often presented as a 'voice' which has to be placed. As such, Andrew Britton sees Hepburn as embodying the "contradictions" of "the nature and status of women", as the strong females she depicts are eventually "restored to a safe position within the status quo".
Hepburn was one of the most lauded American actresses of the twentieth century, but has also been criticized for a lack of versatility in her performances. Her on-screen persona never diverged much from her private personality, something the actress admitted herself. In 1991 she told a journalist: "I think I'm always the same. I had a very definite personality and I liked material that showed that personality. I never played with a sort of fancy accent of any kind." Playwright and author David Macaray has said, "Picture Katharine Hepburn in every movie she ever starred in and ask yourself if she's not playing, essentially, the same part over and over ... Icon or no icon, let's not confuse a truly fascinating and unique woman with a superior actress." Criticism has also come from the claim that her presence was too cold. She has been the target of impersonators, most often with the line "The calla lillies are in bloom again, such a strange flower" from Stage Door.
Final years and death
Hepburn stated in her eighties, "I have no fear of death. Must be wonderful, like a long sleep." Her health began to deteriorate not long after her final screen appearance. In the winter of 1996 she was admitted to hospital with pneumonia, which almost killed her. By 1997 she had become very weak, was speaking and eating very little, and again nearly died. She showed signs of dementia in her final years. In May 2003, an aggressive tumor was found in Hepburn's neck. The decision was made not to medically intervene, and she died on June 29, 2003 at the Hepburn family home in Fenwick, Connecticut. She was 96 years old and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, in the family plot. Hepburn requested that there be no memorial service.
Hepburn's death received considerable public attention. Many tributes were held on television, and newspapers and magazines dedicated their issues to the actress. American president George W. Bush made a statement in which he said Hepburn "will be remembered as one of the nation's artistic treasures." In honor of her extensive theatre work, the lights of Broadway were dimmed for the evening of July 1, 2003. In 2004, in accordance with Hepburn's wishes, her belongings were put up for auction with Sotheby's in New York. It included personal items, such as a bust of Spencer Tracy she sculpted herself (the highest selling item, at $316,000), as well as a large collection of material relating to her career. The auction garnered $5.8 million, which Hepburn willed mostly to her family and close friends.
Hepburn is considered an important and influential cultural figure. Academics Ros Horton and Sally Simmons included her in their book Women Who Changed The World, which honors 50 women who helped shape world history and culture. She was also included in Ladies Home Journal's book 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, Variety magazine's "100 Icons of the Century" and is number 84 on VH1's list of the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons of All Time".
Her legacy lies both on-screen and off. She has been credited with "breaking the mold" for women in Hollywood, where she brought a new breed of strong-willed females to the screen. Film academic Andrew Britton wrote a monograph studying Hepburn due to her "key presence within classical Hollywood, a consistent, potentially radical disturbance", and pinpoints her "central" influence in bringing feminist issues to the screen. Off screen, Hepburn lived in a manner ahead of her time, and thus came to symbolize the "modern woman" and played a part in changing attitudes towards the gender. Horton and Simmons write: "Confident, intelligent and witty, four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn defied convention throughout her professional and personal life...Katharine Hepburn provided an image of an assertive woman whom [females] could watch and learn from." Film historian Jeanine Basinger stated after Hepburn died: "What she brought us was a new kind of heroine—modern and independent. She was beautiful, but she did not rely on that." Mary McNamara, an entertainment journalist and reviewer for the Los Angeles Times wrote: "More than a movie star, Katharine Hepburn was the patron saint of the independent American female." She was not universally revered by feminists, however, who were angered by her public declarations that women "cannot have it all", meaning a family and a career.
Hepburn's legacy extends to fashion, where she was a pioneer for wearing trousers at a time when it was radical for a woman to do so. This contributed towards making trousers acceptable for women, as fans began to imitate her clothing. In 1986 she received a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in recognition of the influence she played in women's fashion.
A number of Hepburn's films have become classics of American cinema, with four of her pictures (The African Queen, The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) featuring on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Films of all time. Adam's Rib and Woman of the Year were also included in their list of the Greatest American Comedies, while a line spoken by Hepburn in On Golden Pond was selected as one of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema.
Hepburn was honored by the Turtle Bay community in Manhattan, New York City, where she maintained a residence for over sixty years. First, a garden near her home was dedicated in her name in 1997. The garden contains 12 stepping stones, representing her 12 Oscar nominations, each inscribed with a quotation from the actress. In addition to the garden, the intersection of East 49th Street and 2nd Avenue was renamed "Katharine Hepburn Place" after the actress' death in 2003.
Bryn Mawr College, Hepburn's alma mater, introduced the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center in 2006. It is dedicated to both the actress and her mother, and encourages women to lead publicly engaged lives and to take on important issues affecting women. The center awards the annual Katharine Hepburn Medal, which "recognizes women whose lives, work and contributions embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress".
The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center was opened in 2009 in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, the location of the Hepburn family beach home which she loved and later owned. It is a non-profit performing arts organization, including a 250-seat theatre and a small museum honoring Hepburn. Three public exhibitions have been held devoted to showcasing Hepburn's career. One Life: Kate, A Centennial Celebration was held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington from November 2007 to September 2008. The New York Public Library ran Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files for five months in 2009, which included several of Hepburn’s play transcripts and annotated rehearsal notes. Kent State University exhibited a selection of Hepburn's film and theatre costumes from October 2010 to September 2011 in Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen. Hepburn has also been honored with her own postal stamp as part of the "Legends of Hollywood" stamp series.
Hepburn has been characterized in two television movies and one feature film. On television she was portrayed by Tovah Feldshuh in The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977) and then by Mearle Ann Taylor in The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980). In Martin Scorsese's 2004 biopic of Howard Hughes, The Aviator, Hepburn was portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance, marking the first instance where an Academy Award–winning actress was turned into an Academy Award–winning role.
Filmography and theatre credits
Throughout her 66-year career, Hepburn appeared in 44 feature films, eight television movies and 33 plays. Her movie career covered a range of genres, including screwball comedies, period dramas, and adaptations of works by America's top playwrights. She appeared on the stage in every decade from the 1920s to the 1980s, performing plays by Shakespeare, Shaw and a Broadway musical. Hepburn first appeared in a television movie in 1973, and continued to appear in the medium until she gave the final performance of her career in the 1994 television movie One Christmas. Hepburn also presented two documentaries for television, and narrated two short documentaries.
- Little Women (1933)
- Stage Door (1937)
- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- Holiday (1938)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Woman of the Year (1942)
- Adam's Rib (1949)
- The African Queen (1951)
- Summertime (1955)
- Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
- Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)
- Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
- The Lion in Winter (1968)
- On Golden Pond (1981)
Awards and nominations
Hepburn won four Academy Awards, the record number for a performer, and a total of twelve Oscar nominations for Best Actress, a number only surpassed by Meryl Streep. She also holds the record for the longest time span between first and last Oscar nominations, at 48 years. She received two awards and five nominations from the British Film Academy Awards, one award and six nominations from the Emmy Awards, eight Golden Globe nominations, two Tony Award nominations, and awards from the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the People's Choice Awards and others. She won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild and received the Kennedy Center Honors, which recognize a lifetime of accomplishments in the arts, in 1990.
Academy Award wins and nominations (all for Best Actress):
- 6th Academy Awards (1934): Win for Morning Glory
- 8th Academy Awards (1936): Nomination for Alice Adams
- 13th Academy Awards (1941): Nomination for The Philadelphia Story
- 15th Academy Awards (1943): Nomination for Woman of the Year
- 24th Academy Awards (1952): Nomination for The African Queen
- 28th Academy Awards (1956): Nomination for Summertime
- 29th Academy Awards (1957): Nomination for The Rainmaker
- 32nd Academy Awards (1960): Nomination for Suddenly, Last Summer
- 35th Academy Awards (1963): Nomination for Long Day's Journey Into Night
- 40th Academy Awards (1968): Win for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
- 41st Academy Awards (1969): Win for The Lion in Winter (shared with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl)
- 54th Academy Awards (1982): Win for On Golden Pond
- ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars". American Film Institute. June 16, 1999. http://www.afi.com/100years/stars.aspx. Retrieved October 17, 2009.
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- ^ a b c Rich, Frank (September 29, 1991). "A Wild Desire to Be Absolutely Fascinating". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/29/books/a-wild-desire-to-be-absolutely-fascinating.html?src=pm. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
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- ^ Chandler (2011) p. 7.
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- ^ a b c d e f g h i "Cinema: The Hepburn Story". Time. September 1, 1952. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,816908,00.html. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
- ^ "About the Houghton-Hepburns". Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, Bryn Mawr College. http://www.brynmawr.edu/hepburn/about_hepburns.shtml. Retrieved 29 September, 2011.
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- ^ a b Berg (2004) p. 73.
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- ^ Higham (2004) p. 15.
- ^ a b Higham (2004) p. 16.
- ^ Kanin (1971) p. 22.
- ^ a b Hepburn (1991) p. 118.
- ^ a b Higham (2004) p. 17.
- ^ Hepburn (1991) p. 128.
- ^ Higham (2004) p. 21.
- ^ Haver (1980) p. 94.
- ^ a b c Haver (1980) p. 96.
- ^ Higham (2004) pp. 30–31.
- ^ Berg (2004) p. 82.
- ^ Hall, Mordaunt (October 3, 1932). "Movie Review – A Bill of Divorcement". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9801E7D81331E633A25750C0A9669D946394D6CF. Retrieved August 25, 2011.
- ^ "A Bill of Divorcement Review". Variety. October 1932. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117789265/. Retrieved August 25, 2011.
- ^ Higham (2004) p. 41.
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- ^ Higham (2004) p. 44.
- ^ a b Berg (2004) p. 86.
- ^ Berg (2004) p. 85.
- ^ Berg (2004) p. 88.
- ^ Higham (2004) p. 56.
- ^ Hepburn (1991) p. 147.
- ^ Berg (2004), p. 89;Higham (2004) p. 57.
- ^ a b Berg (2004) p. 91.
- ^ a b Berg (2004) p. 92.
- ^ Berg (2004) pp. 89–90.
- ^ Higham (2004) p. 60.
- ^ Hepburn (1991) p. 166.
- ^ Berg (2004) p. 93.
- ^ Hepburn (1991) p. 4.
- ^ Higham (2004) p. 66.
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Katharine Hepburn Filmography1930sA Bill of Divorcement (1932) • Christopher Strong (1933) • Morning Glory (1933) • Little Women (1933) • Spitfire (1934) • The Little Minister (1934) • Break of Hearts (1935) • Alice Adams (1935) • Sylvia Scarlett (1935) • Mary of Scotland (1936) • A Woman Rebels (1936) • Quality Street (1937) • Stage Door (1937) • Bringing Up Baby (1938) • Holiday (1938)1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s Related articles
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