[[caption-width-right:280:She's not "outdoorsy", she's athletic.]]

->''"I don't know what it is, but I've got it."''
-->--'''Katharine Hepburn''', asked to define "star quality"

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 June 29, 2003) was, according to the Creator/AmericanFilmInstitute, the greatest female star ever to grace American cinema.

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 [[StarMakingRole first real success]] was in the 1933 release of ''Literature/LittleWomen'', 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'', ''Film/MaryOfScotland'', ''Sylvia Scarlet'', and ''Quality Street''. Even parts well-regarded now, such as her turn as the title character in ''Alice Adams'', Susan Vance in ''Film/BringingUpBaby'', Terry Randall in ''Film/StageDoor'' (which provided her SignatureLine, "The calla lilies are in bloom again..."), and Linda Seton in ''Film/{{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 HairTriggerTemper. However, 1939 marked her triumphant return as Tracy Lord in ''Film/ThePhiladelphiaStory'' and the film of the play the following year.

A long string of memorable films followed, among them ''Film/TheAfricanQueen'' (opposite the equally legendary Creator/HumphreyBogart), ''Theatre/LongDaysJourneyIntoNight'', ''Film/GuessWhosComingToDinner'', and ''Theatre/TheLionInWinter''. She also made nine films -- largely romantic comedies -- with Creator/SpencerTracy, whom she met on the set of their first film, ''Film/WomanOfTheYear.'' The couple [[RomanceOnTheSet 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 UsefulNotes/{{Academy Award}}s out of twelve nominations, all for Best Actress. Her next closest competitor, the great Creator/MerylStreep, 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.

Creator/CateBlanchett won the 2004 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Hepburn in the Creator/MartinScorsese's Howard Hughes biopic ''Film/TheAviator'', making Hepburn the only Oscar winner to be played by someone who would win an Oscar for the role.

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 "Katharine of Arrogance." During the filming of ''Film/SuddenlyLastSummer'', 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 Creator/RobertMitchum 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 Creator/GeorgeCukor, with whom she got on famously.
* Being something of a DeadpanSnarker.

Her mother, also named Katharine Hepburn, was one of the founders of what eventually became Planned Parenthood.

No, she's not related to Creator/AudreyHepburn, who was from across the pond. [[note]]They were, in fact, close friends in real life; Katharine nicknamed her "my little daughter".[[/note]]
!!Some notable films Katharine Hepburn appeared in include:
* ''A Bill of Divorcement'' (1932), as Sydney Fairfield
* ''Christopher Strong'' (1933), as Lady Cynthia Darrington
* ''Morning Glory'' (1933), as Eva Lovelace. Her first UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-winning role; she lost the Oscar statue after a hurricane destroyed her house in 1938.
* ''LIterature/LittleWomen'' (1933), as Jo March
* ''The Little Minister'' (1934), as Babbie the Gypsy
* ''Literature/AliceAdams'' (1935), as the title character. Oscar nom.
* ''Sylvia Scarlett'' (1935), as the [[GenderBender gender-bent]] eponymous Sylvia/Sylvester. The first of her four films with Creator/CaryGrant.
* ''Film/MaryOfScotland'' (1936), as [[UsefulNotes/MaryOfScotland Mary, Queen of Scots]]
* ''Quality Street'' (1937), as Phoebe Throssel
* ''Film/StageDoor'' (1937), as Terry Randall. As noted, provided her SignatureLine, spoken as a character in a play. The full speech runs:
-->"The calla lilies are in bloom again -- such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died."
* ''Film/BringingUpBaby'' (1938), as Susan Vance. Her second film with Cary Grant.
* ''Film/{{Holiday}}'' (1938), as Linda Seton. Her third film with Cary Grant.
* ''Film/ThePhiladelphiaStory'' (1940), as Tracy Lord. Her fourth and final film with Cary Grant. Oscar nom.
* ''Film/WomanOfTheYear'' (1942), as Tess Harding. The first of her nine films with Creator/SpencerTracy. Oscar nom.
* ''Dragon Seed'' (1944), as Jade Tan. In a very unconvincing {{yellowface}} role.
* ''Song of Love'' (1947), as ClaraSchumann. A Biopic of [[UsefulNotes/DichterAndDenker German composer]] Music/RobertSchumann.
* ''Theatre/StateOfTheUnion'' (1948), as Mary Matthews. The fifth of her films with Spencer Tracy.
* ''Film/AdamsRib'' (1949), as Amanda Bonner. The sixth of her films with Spencer Tracy.
* ''Film/TheAfricanQueen'' (1951), as Rose Sayer. Oscar nom.
* ''Pat and Mike'' (1952), as Patricia Pemberton. The seventh of her films with Spencer Tracy.
* ''Film/{{Summertime}}'' (1955), as Jane Hudson. Oscar nom.
* ''The Rainmaker'' (1956), as Lizzie Currie. Oscar nom.
* ''Film/DeskSet'' (1957), as Bunny Watson. The eighth of her films with Spencer Tracy.
* ''Film/SuddenlyLastSummer'' (1959), as Violet Venable. Oscar nom.
* ''Theatre/LongDaysJourneyIntoNight'' (1962), as TheAlcoholic Mary Tyrone. Oscar nom.
* ''Film/GuessWhosComingToDinner'' (1967), as Christina Drayton. The ninth and last of her films with Spencer Tracy, and the second of her UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-winning roles.
* ''Film/TheLionInWinter'' (1968), as Eleanor of Aquitaine. The third of her UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-winning roles. Shared the Oscar with Creator/BarbraStreisand for ''Theatre/FunnyGirl'', after the vote ended in a tie. 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 Creator/WallaceBeery and Creator/FredricMarch to share the Best Actor statue of 1932).
** She's ''descended'' from Eleanor, both through Eleanor's marriage to the King of France (Louis VI) and Eleanor's later marriage to the King of England (Henry II).
* ''The Madwoman of Chaillot'' (1969), as Countess Aurelia. The first of a series of revivals of classic plays, done mainly for television.
* ''Coco'' (1969), as UsefulNotes/CocoChanel (Broadway musical)
* ''The Trojan Women'' (1971), as Hecuba
* ''Theatre/TheGlassMenagerie'' (1973), as Amanda Wingfield (TV movie)
* ''Love Among the Ruins'' (1975), as Jessica Medlicott, opposite fabled actor Creator/LaurenceOlivier.
* ''Film/RoosterCogburn'' (1975), as Eula Goodnight, opposite Creator/JohnWayne as the eponymous bounty hunter.
* ''The Corn is Green'' (1979), as Lilly Moffat (TV movie)
* ''On Golden Pond'' (1981), as Ethel Thayer, opposite Creator/HenryFonda. Her fourth and last UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-winning part.
* ''Love Affair'' (1994), as Ginny. Her last cinematic release.
* ''One Christmas'' (1994), as Cornelia Beaumont (TV movie)

!!Tropes associated with her work:
* {{Bifauxnen}}: Many of her roles, such as the titular character in ''Sylvia Scarlett''.
* FieryRedhead: Loads of Hepburn's roles in the early years of her career occasionally had her characters defying expectations or being passionate about her interests or her job.
** In real life, Hepburn was one, and proud. She stated in her autobiography that she probably got it from her parents, who were both passionate and strong people, and encouraged their children to follow their dreams, no matter the doubters.
* DeadpanSnarker: Both on and off the screen.
* IntergenerationalFriendship: Notable ones are Creator/LaurenBacall (17 years), Creator/BrianBlessed (29 years), and to a lesser extent, Music/MichaelJackson (51 years).
* ProperLady: Especially in her later years.
* RealitySubtext: [[invoked]] When Creator/SpencerTracy 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 his real life relationship with Hepburn.
* SpiritedYoungLady: Not all of her characters were young, but name one who wasn't spirited!
* ThoseTwoActors: [[invoked]]
** She and Creator/SpencerTracy starred with each other in nine films from 1942-1967.
** Before that, her and Creator/CaryGrant. The two starred with each other in four films from 1935-1940.
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Katharine vied hard for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in ''Film/GoneWithTheWind'', practically demanding to be handed the role only for the movie producer David O. Selznick to bluntly state, "I can't see Rhett Butler chasing you for twelve years" as he believe she had no sex appeal for the part.
* WhatTheHellIsThatAccent: Hepburn might as well be the best example of the Mid-Atlantic accent: the typical dialect that many movie stars were using in their films at the time. What made it her trademark was that she never changed her voice, no matter what character she was, making her a member of {{Small Reference Pool|s}} of old/outdated dialects. (Although, the accent ''did'' manage to give her a convincing posh southern-[[UsefulNotes/TheMidlands English]] accent for the missionary Rose in ''Film/TheAfricanQueen''.)