Creator: Katharine Hepburn
She's not "outdoorsey", she's athletic.
"I don't know what it is, but I've got it."Katharine Houghton Hepburn
—Katharine Hepburn, when asked what "star quality" consists of
(1907 — 2003) was, according to the American Film Institute, the greatest female star ever to grace American cinema.Katharine
Hepburn, or "The Great Kate," had quite possibly the longest starring career ever seen in Hollywood. Her first film, A Bill of Divorcement
, hit theaters in 1932; her last, Love Affair
, was released in 1994. For those who hate math, Hepburn was a big-screen regular for six decades.
Her first real success
was in the 1933 release of Little Women
, playing Jo March; Hepburn broke box office records as the feisty, red-haired heroine. Before Little Women
was ever released, however, she had already won her first Oscar. She wouldn't win her next for over thirty years, but when she did, she went an unheard-of three for three on her last three nominations, nominated (and winning) in 1967, 1968 (one of only two actresses to win back-to-back), and 1981.
After Little Women
, Hepburn unfortunately hit a rough patch. For a number of years, she was given unsuitable roles by RKO, in films such as The Little Minister
, Mary of Scotland
, Sylvia Scarlet
, and Quality Street
. Even parts well-regarded now, such as her turn as the title character in Alice Adams
, Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby
, Terry Randall in Stage Door
(which provided her Signature Line
, "The calla lilies are in bloom again..."), and Linda Seton in Holiday
failed to break her reputation as "box office poison." Hepburn's box office woes were not helped by her reputation for being difficult to work with due to her Hair-Trigger Temper
. However, 1939 marked her triumphant return as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story
and the film of the play the following year. A long string of memorable films followed, among them The African Queen
(opposite the equally legendary Humphrey Bogart
), Long Days Journey Into Night
, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
, and The Lion in Winter
. She also made nine films — largely romantic comedies — with Spencer Tracy
, whom she met on the set of their first film, Woman of the Year
. The couple became romantically involved during that film
and, in spite of Tracy's marriage to another woman whom he refused to divorce, remained together until Tracy's death in 1967. Hepburn categorically refused to watch Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
, their last film together, because the memories of Tracy were too painful for her.
Hepburn is famous for winning four Oscars out of twelve nominations, all for Best Actress. Her next closest competitor, the great Meryl Streep
, has seventeen nominations under her belt — fourteen for Best Actress, three for Best Supporting Actress — and three wins, two for Best Actress and one for Best Supporting Actress.Cate Blanchett
won the 2004 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Hepburn in the Martin Scorsese
's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator
, making Hepburn the only Oscar winner to be played by someone who would win an Oscar for the role.
Her mother, also named Katharine Hepburn, was one of the founders of what eventually became Planned Parenthood.
She was also noted for:
- Never attending the Oscar ceremony as a nominee (she did attend as a presenter in 1974).
- Rarely, if ever, wearing skirts or dresses offscreen — she preferred slacks.
- And this was long before it was widely common or acceptable for women to do so... legend has it that one studio tried to force her to wear skirts by confiscating all of her slacks while she was out of her trailer. She responded by walking around the set in her underwear until she embarrassed the studio into giving them back.
- Being tart and abrasive, which led some of her Hollywood detractors to nickname her "Katherine of Arrogance." During the filming of Suddenly Last Summer, she was so disgusted with how the director treated another actor that she spat right in his face when filming was over - and Hepburn herself was notorious for belittling and criticizing actors who didn't measure up to her standards. She once tore into Robert Mitchum for doing an unflattering yet accurate impression of her, telling him he had no talent and only got by on his looks. His response? He just shrugged as if to say Whatever.
- Writing a best-selling book, The Making of The African Queen: or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, a memoir of her time making the eponymous film.
- Her striking face and auburn hair.
- Her height — she was one of Hollywood's tallest leading ladies from that time period at 5'7" (most leading ladies were only a little over 5'3").
- Making a lot of films with George Cukor, with whom she got on famously.
- Being something of a Deadpan Snarker.
No, she's not related to Audrey Hepburn
. (She was from across the pond.)
Some notable films Katharine Hepburn appeared in include:
Tropes commonly associated with her acting:
Tropes that fit her personally:
- Academy Award: The only person in history to win 4 acting Oscars. They were all for Best Actress, which also makes her the only female performer to win 3 or more times in the Lead category (the closest an actor has come to this is Daniel Day-Lewis, who won 3 times for Best Actor).
- Also famously tied with Barbara Streisand for Best Actress of 1968. It was her 3rd win, for The Lion in Winter, while Streisand won for "Funny Girl". This was only the second time that a tie was declared in an acting category, and the first time ever that an EXACT tie occurred (in the Academy's earliest years, all one had to do was earn within 3 votes of 1st place to tie, which allowed Wallace Beery and Fredric March to share the Best Actor statue of 1932).
- Bifauxnen: Sylvia Scarlett
- Reality Subtext: When Spencer Tracy did his "If it's half of what we felt, it's everything" speech in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Hepburn is seen standing to the side with tears spilling down her cheeks. That wasn't acting - Tracy's monologue was very obviously about Hepburn, and she knew the man she loved was dying and that it would be the last film they ever did together.
- Those Two Actors: She and Spencer Tracy.
- Before that, her and Cary Grant. The two starred with each other in 4 films from 1935-1940.