Friday, May 13, 2011

Katharine Hepburn

Yesterday would have been one of, if not outright, my all time favorite actress Katharine Hepburn's 104 birthday. Miss Hepburn was born in Hartford, CT to Dr. Thomas Hepburn, who fought for the prevention of STD's &  Mrs. Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn,a suffragist & feminist. From them Katharine got her sense of independence & adventure. At the age of 14, while on a visit to an aunt's house, Miss Hepburn her brother Tom hanging in her aunt's garret. Whether by accident or on purpose it is not known. After that Katharine adopted her brother's birthday November8, became very shy & was schooled at home. But she did attend Bryn Mawr College, where she discovered acting. After graduation she went to New York and got small parts on Broadway & other places where she attracted attention, especially for her role in "Art & Mrs. Bottle". But stardom came when Miss Hepburn played Antiope, the Amazon princess in the play "A Warrior's Husband" which inevitably to Hollywood Screen test. Her first movie was in RKO's  "A Bill of Divorcement" with John Barrymore. The film was a smash and RKO gave miss Hepburn the raise in salary she demanded. For third picture "Morning Glory" she won her first Oscar. Her fourth film "Little Women" was the most successful picture of its time.

Because she would not play the old Hollywood games, wore slacks & no makeup (God forbid) & had  haughty behavior off-screen she was not to favorably received. So when she went back to New York to do the play "The Lake" critics already had their knives out & sharpened & panned her performance. Upon her return to Hollywood things were not much better. From 1935-38 Katharine Hepburn had only 2 hits: "Alice Adams" her second Oscar nod & "Stage Door". With more misses than hits she was labeled "box office poison". So back to Broadway Miss Hepburn went to star in "The Philadelphia Story" & it became a smash. So naturally she bought the film right, with help from Howard Hughes. With "The Philadelphia Story" in hand she got back to Hollywood own her terms. Good for her. The film version was a hit & with her 3rd Oscar nomination in hand, she was a bankable star again.

Now the year is 1942 & the movie is "Woman of the Year" & upon meeting Spencer Tracy son the lot she said " I'm afraid I am too tall for you, Mr. Tracy" to which he replied " Don't worry. I'll cut you down to size". So love, a 4th nomination  & eight more films, that spanned 25 years, was in the air. With their last film, co starring her niece, ANOTHER Katharine Houghton, playing their daughter, was "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner". This gave Miss Hepburn her 10th Nomination & her 2nd win. 1968 saw her opposite Peter O'Toole in "The Lion In Winter" in which she received her 3rd Oscar. In 1969 she daringly played Coco Chanel in the Broadway play "Coco". In spite of her misgivings about her singing voice the play was a hit.

In the 1970's Miss Hepburn acted in television  movies. In "Love Among the Ruins", with Laurence  Olivier, in 1975 she won an Emmy. Her final Oscar came in 1980 for of course "On Golden Pond" with Henry Fonda.Katharine Hepburn's last performance was in 1994's Warren Beatty movie "Love Affair" in which she played his aunt.

Even as she grew older Miss Hepburn remained active with biking and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean by her home in Connecticut. By the mid-nineties her health was in decline and made fewer appearances. 
Katharine Hepburn died on June 29, 2003 at the age of 93 in her home at Old Saybrook, Connecticut. 


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