Katharine Hepburn 1907 – 2003 A Life Lived In Moviesby J-Stacknik
Katharine Hepburn, nicknamed the first lady of cinema, was a true movie screen legend. She starred in over 45 movies and was nominated 12 times for an Academy Award (all for best actress) winning 4 all together, a feat no other actor has yet matched. She also starred on stage and did numerous television movies and miniseries throughout her more than 60 year career.
Katharine was born in Hartford, Connecticut, she was the daughter of a doctor and a mother who was involved in the suffragist movement. Her parents always encouraged Kate to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential. She suffered tragedy at an early age finding her brother Tom, with whom she was very close, hanged accidentally trying to do a hanging trick that his father had taught him. For many years Katharine used his birth date, November 8, as her own. She attended Bryn Mawr College and this is where she decided to become an actress.
After graduating she started getting small roles in plays on Broadway that got her recognized bringing her to her first starring role in the movie A Warrior’s Husband in 1932. Film offers started rolling in and after making a few screen tests she was cast in the movie A Bill of Divorcement opposite John Barrymore. The movie was a hit and she signed a deal with RKO. She made five films between 1932 and 1934. It was for the third film out of those five, Morning Glory (1933) that she won her first Academy Award.
Things started to fall apart for her after this initial success. She started gaining a reputation in Hollywood for her haughty behavior off-screen and for her refusal to play the Hollywood game. Today behavior like this would be applauded but back then it was not. Hepburn returned to Broadway in 1934 appearing in The Lake where her performance was panned by critics and although initial ticket sales were good it started to die off and fans deserted her. Upon her return to Hollywood from the period of 1935-1938 she made seven movies of which only two were hits. With this many flops she came to be labeled “box office poison.”
Katharine decided to return to Broadway to star in The Philadelphia Story (1938) and was a hit. She quickly bought the rights to the movie and in doing this was able to make her way back to Hollywood on her own terms. She picked her co-stars as well the director for the movie version of the play. It was a smash hit, and it won her her third Oscar nomination and made her a bankable star again. It was after this that she starred in Woman of the Year her first film with movie actor Spencer Tracy. The pair had an incredible chemistry and over the course of 25 years they did 8 movies together and the chemistry carried over to a romance in real life that lasted just as long.
From that point on Katharine continued to make successful movies and over the course of her career received numerous awards including 4 Oscars altogether a feat still unmatched to this day. Her last Oscar win came with the movie On Golden Pond (1981) with Henry Fonda.
On June 29, 2003, Hepburn died of natural causes at Fenwick, the Hepburn family home in Connecticut. She was 96 years old, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut in the family plot.