Katharine Hepburn

Dafato Team | May 27, 2023

Table of Content


Katharine Houghton Hepburn (Hartford, May 12, 1907 - Fenwick, June 29, 2003) was an American actress. Hepburn's Hollywood career spanned more than 60 years. She was known for her stubborn independence, witty personality, and outspokenness, cultivating a screen persona that matched this public image, which caused her to regularly play sophisticated, strong-willed women. Her work was in a variety of genres, ranging from comedy to literary drama, which earned her many accomplishments, including four Academy Awards (all for Best Actress - more than any other performer), an Emmy and nominations for a Grammy and two Tony Awards; making her one of the few performers to receive nominations for all four major entertainment awards. In 1999, Hepburn was voted by the American Film Institute as the greatest female classic film star of all time.

Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began acting while attending Bryn Mawr College. After four years in the theater, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Her early years in the film industry were marked by successes, including an Academy Award for her performance in "Morning of Glory" (1933), but was followed by a series of commercial failures that culminated in the critically lauded box office flop "Taken Away" (1938). Hepburn planned her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the rights to the film "Nuptials of Scandal," which she sold on the condition that she be the lead star. The production was a box office success and earned him a third Oscar nomination. In the 1940s, she was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy that lasted 26 years and nine films, and extended to an off-screen affair.

Hepburn challenged herself in her career by appearing in Shakespearean theatrical productions and a number of literary roles. She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, as in "An Adventure in Africa" (1951), alongside Humphrey Bogart, a persona that audiences embraced. Hepburn won three more Oscars for her work in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967), "The Lion in Winter" (1968) and "On a Golden Lake" (1981). Henry Fonda won his only Best Actor Oscar working with Hepburn in "On Golden Pond," as did James Stewart in "The Philadelphia Story," and Bogart in "The African Queen." In the 1970s, he began appearing in telefilms, which later became his main focus. He made his last screen appearance at the age of 87. After a period of inactivity and health problems, Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.

Hepburn shunned Hollywood publicity and refused to conform to society's expectations of women, wearing pants before they were present in women's fashion. She was briefly married as a young woman, but after that lived independently. With her unconventional lifestyle and independent characters she brought to life on screen, Hepburn personified the "modern woman" in 20th century America, and is remembered as an important cultural figure.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 12, 1907, the second of six children. Her parents were Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879-1962), a urologist at Hartford Hospital, and Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn (1878-1951), a feminist activist. As a child, Hepburn's mother joined several protests in favor of "women's votes." Both parents fought for social change in the US: Thomas Hepburn helped establish the New England Social Hygiene Association, which educated the public about venereal diseases, while Katharine Martha headed the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association, and later campaigned for birth control alongside Margaret Sanger. The Hepburn children were raised to exercise their freedoms of speech, and encouraged to think and debate on any subject they wished. Their parents were criticized by the community for their progressive views, which encouraged Hepburn to fight against the barriers she encountered. Hepburn said she realized at a young age that she was the product of "two very remarkable parents," and credited herself as "enormously lucky" that her upbringing provided the foundation for her success. She remained close to her family throughout her life.

Young Hepburn was a girl considered very masculine, who liked to be called Jimmy and to have her hair very short. Thomas Hepburn liked his children to use their minds and bodies to the limit and taught them to swim, run, dive, ride, wrestle, and play golf and tennis. Golf became a passion of Hepburn's; she took daily lessons and became very skilled, reaching the semifinal of the Connecticut Women's Golf Championship. She loved swimming in the Long Island Estuary, and took cold baths every morning in the belief that "the more bitter the medicine, the better it was for you." Hepburn was a movie fan from a young age and used to see one every Saturday night. She would put on plays and perform for her neighbors with her friends and siblings, selling the ticket for 50 cents in order to raise money for the Navajos.

In March 1921, 13-year-old Hepburn and her 15-year-old brother, Tom, were visiting New York City, staying with a friend of their mother's in Greenwich Village during the Easter vacation. On March 30, Hepburn discovered the body of her beloved older brother dead of an apparent suicide. He had tied a curtain around a beam and hanged himself. The Hepburn family denied suicide and claimed that Tom's death occurred because of an experiment gone wrong. The incident left the Hepburn teenager nervous, moody, very temperamental, and distrustful of people. She shunned other children, dropped out of Oxford School, and took private lessons. For many years, she used Tom's birthday (November 8) as her own. It wasn't until her 1991 autobiography, "Me: Stories of My Life," that Hepburn revealed her true date of birth.

In 1924, Hepburn was admitted to Bryn Mawr College. She initially agreed to attend the institution to satisfy her mother, who had studied there, but ultimately found the experience rewarding. It was her first time studying at a school after several years, which made her feel awkward and uncomfortable with her classmates. She struggled with the school requirements of college education and was once suspended for smoking in her room. Hepburn was attracted to acting, but roles in college plays were conditioned on those with good grades. Once her performance improved, she began to perform regularly. Hepburn played the lead role in a production of "The Woman in the Moon" in her senior year, and the positive response she received cemented her plans to pursue a theatrical career. She graduated with a degree in history and philosophy in June 1928.

Beginning in the theater (1928-1932)

Hepburn left college determined to become an actress. The day after she graduated, she traveled to Baltimore to meet Edwin H. Knopf, who ran a successful theater company. Impressed with her willpower, Knopf cast Hepburn in his current production, "The Czarina. She received good reviews for her small role, and Printed Word described her performance as "attractive." She received the role in the following week's show, but her second performance was less well received. She was criticized for her shrill voice, and so she left Baltimore to study with a voice teacher in New York.

Knopf decided to produce "A Romance in Venice" in New York, and cast Hepburn as an understudy for the leading lady. A week before performances began, the leading lady was fired and Katharine replaced her, which gave her a leading role just four weeks into her theater career. On opening night, Hepburn arrived late, mixed up her lines, stumbled, and spoke too fast to be understood. She was immediately fired and the original leading lady was rehired. Undeterred, Hepburn joined forces with producer Arthur Hopkins and accepted the role of a schoolgirl in "These Days." Its Broadway premiere took place on November 12, 1928, at the Cort Theatre, but reviews of the show were poor, and it was shut down after eight nights. Hopkins promptly hired Hepburn as the lead actress replacement in "Holiday," a play by Philip Barry. In early December, after only two weeks, she quit to marry Ludlow Ogden Smith, a college acquaintance. Hepburn planned to leave the theater behind, but she began to miss the work and quickly resumed her understudy role in "Holiday," which she held for six months.

In 1929, Hepburn turned down a Guild Theatre role to play the leading lady in "A Passing Shadow." She felt the role was perfect, but again she was fired. She returned to the Guild and took an understudy role in "A Month in the Country" for minimum wage. In the spring of 1930, Hepburn joined the Berkshire Playhouse theater company in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She left the production in the middle of the summer season and continued studying with a drama teacher. In early 1931, she was cast in the Broadway production of "Art and Mrs. Bottle." She was dismissed from the role after the screenwriter did not like her, saying, "She looks frightful, her manners are objectionable, and she has no talent," but Hepburn was rehired when no other actress could be found. She went on to be a minor success after a few performances.

Hepburn appeared in several plays in Ivoryton, Connecticut, and proved she knew how to succeed. 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 was sure that the role would make her a star, but Howard did not like her acting, which caused her to be fired. When she asked Barry why she had been dismissed, he replied, "Well, to be brutally frank, you weren't very good." This unsettled the self-confident Hepburn, even though she continued to look for work. She took a small role in her next play, but when rehearsals began, she was invited to play the leading lady in the Greek fable "The Warrior's Husband.

"The Warrior's Husband" proved to be Hepburn's best performance up to that point. Biographer Charles Higham states that the role was ideal for the actress, requiring aggressive energy and athleticism, and she was enthusiastically involved in the production. The play opened on March 11, 1932 at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway. Hepburn's opening scene required her to leap down a narrow staircase with a deer over her shoulder, wearing a short silver robe. The show ran for three months, and Hepburn received positive reviews. Richard Garland of the New York World-Telegram wrote, "It has been many nights since such a brilliant performance has lit up the Broadway scene."

Success in Hollywood (1932-1934)

A scout from Hollywood agent Leland Hayward saw Hepburn's performance in "The Warrior's Husband" and asked her to audition for the role of Sydney Fairfield in "Victims of Divorce," the next RKO Pictures film. Director George Cukor was impressed with what he saw: "There was this strange creature," he recalled, "she was unlike any I had ever heard. He particularly liked the way she picked up a glass: "I thought she was very talented in that action." Offering the role, Hepburn demanded $1500 a week, a large sum for an unknown actress. Cukor encouraged the studio to accept his demands, and they signed Hepburn to a temporary contract with a three-week guarantee. RKO boss David O. Selznick said he took a "tremendous chance" in booking the actress.

Hepburn arrived in California in July 1932, at the age of 25. She starred in "A Bill of Divorcement" alongside John Barrymore, but showed no sign of intimidation. Although she struggled to adapt to the nature of film acting, Hepburn was fascinated by the industry from the beginning. The production was a success and Hepburn received positive reviews. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times called her performance "exceptionally good ... Miss Hepburn's characterization is one of the best seen on the screen." A "Variety" reviewer stated, "The highlight here is the overwhelming impression made by Katharine Hepburn in her first film assignment. She has something vital that sets her apart from the galaxy of films." On the strength of "A Bill of Divorcement," RKO signed her to a long-term contract. George Cukor became a lifelong friend and colleague - he and Hepburn made ten films together.

Hepburn's second film was "Thus Love Women" (1933), the story of an aviatrix and her affair with a married man. The production was not commercially successful, but Hepburn's reviews were good. Regina Crewe wrote in the Journal-American that although her mannerisms were irritating, "they command attention and fascinate the audience. She is a distinct, definite, positive personality." Hepburn's third film confirmed her as a major actress in Hollywood. For playing the aspiring actress Eva Lovelace - a role first intended for Constance Bennett - in "Morning of Glory," she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She had seen the script on producer Pandro S. Berman's desk and, convinced that she was born for the role, insisted it be hers. Hepburn chose not to attend the awards ceremony - as she would not do during her career - but was thrilled with the win. Her success continued with the role of Jo in the film "The Four Sisters" (1933). The production was a hit, one of the biggest successes in the film industry 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 challenge anyone to be as good

By the end of 1933, Hepburn was a respected film actress, but was eager to prove her worth on Broadway. Jed Harris, one of the most successful theater producers of the 1920s, was experiencing a decline in his career. He asked Hepburn to appear in the play "The Lake," which she agreed to do for a low salary. Before she was let go, RKO asked her to film "Mystique" (1934). Hepburn's role in the film was Trigger Hicks, a lay girl from the mountains. Although it did well at the box office, "Spitfire" is widely considered one of Hepburn's worst films, receiving poor reviews for the effort. Hepburn kept a picture of herself as Hicks in her bedroom throughout her life for "

The play "The Lake" was advertised in Washington, D.C., where there was a large advance sale. Harris' poor direction eroded Hepburn's confidence, which caused her to struggle with her performance. Despite this, Harris moved the play to New York without further rehearsals. It opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on December 26, 1933, and Hepburn was harshly criticized by expert critics. Dorothy Parker joked, "She runs through the whole gamut of emotions, from A to B." Already tied to a ten-week contract, she had to endure the embarrassment of rapidly declining box office sales. Harris decided to take the show to Chicago, telling Hepburn, "My dear, the only interest I have in you is the money I can make by your side." Hepburn did not want to continue in a failed show, so she paid Harris $14,000, most of her savings, to end the production. She later referred to Harris as "by far the most diabolical person I have ever met," and said that this experience was important in teaching her to take responsibility for her career.

Career setbacks (1934-1938)

After the failure of "Spitfire" and "The Lake," RKO cast Hepburn in "Gypsy Blood" (1934), based on a Victorian novel by J. M. Barrie, in an attempt to repeat the success of "Little Women. There was no such recurrence, and the production was a commercial failure. The romantic drama "Ruined Hearts" (1935), with Charles Boyer, was also poorly received and lost money. After three forgettable films, success returned to Hepburn with "The Woman Who Knew How to Love" (1935), the story of a girl's desperation to rise socially. Hepburn loved the book and was delighted with the offer of the role. The film was a hit and became one of Hepburn's favorites, giving the actress her second Oscar nomination. Hepburn received the second highest vote, after winner Bette Davis.

Given the choice of her next feature film, Hepburn decided to star in George Cukor's new project, "Living in Doubt" (1935), which first paired her with Cary Grant. Her hair was cut short for the role, as her character disguises himself as a boy during much of the film. Critics did not like "Sylvia Scarlett" and the production was unpopular with the public. She then played Mary Stuart of Scotland in John Ford's "Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots" (1936), which received an equally poor reception. She then starred in "Free Thou Woman!" (1936), a Victorian-era drama where Hepburn's character defied convention by having a child out of wedlock. "Vanity Street" (1937) also had a period setting, this time in a comedy. Neither film was very popular with audiences, which meant that she had made four films in a row without success and without the expected financial return.

Alongside a series of unpopular films, problems arose with Hepburn's attitude. She had a difficult relationship with the press, with whom she used to be rude and provocative. When asked if she had children, she replied, "Yes, I have five: two white and three colored." Hepburn did not give interviews and denied autograph requests, which earned her the nickname "Katharine of Arrogance. The public was also perplexed by her childish behavior and fashion choices, which made her a widely unpopular figure. Hepburn felt she needed to leave Hollywood, so she returned east to star in a theatrical adaptation of "Jane Eyre." It had a successful tour, but, uncertain about the script and reluctant to risk failure after the disaster of "The Lake," Hepburn decided not to take the show to Broadway. In late 1936, Hepburn vied for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "...Gone with the Wind." Producer David O. Selznick refused to offer the role to her because he found her lacking in sex appeal. He reportedly told Hepburn, "I can't see Rhett Butler chasing you for twelve years.

Hepburn's next feature film, "In the Theater of Life" (1937), paired her with Ginger Rogers in a role that mirrored her own life - that of a socialite trying to become an actress. Hepburn was praised for her work in the early previews, which gave her higher billing than Rogers. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, but was not the box office success RKO had hoped for. Industry experts blamed Hepburn for the small profit, but the studio continued its commitment to resurrect her popularity. She was cast in "Taken Away" (1938), a wacky Howard Hawks comedy, where she played a voluble heiress who loses a leopard from Brazil while trying to woo a paleontologist (Cary Grant). She approached the film's physical comedy with confidence, and received tips on the ideal timing for jokes from her co-star Walter Catlett. "Bringing Up Baby" was critically acclaimed, but not successful at the box office. With the genre and Grant extremely popular at the time, biographer A. Scott Berg believed that Hepburn's rejection by viewers was to blame.

After the release of "Bringing Up Baby," the Independent Theatre Owners of America included Hepburn on a list of actors considered "box office poisons." With her reputation at a low ebb, the next film RKO offered her was "Birds Without a Direction," a B-movie. Hepburn turned it down and instead opted to buy her own contract for $75,000. Many actors were afraid to leave the stability of the studio system at the time, but Hepburn's personal wealth meant that she could afford to be independent. She signed on for Columbia Pictures' film version of "Charming Bohemian" (1938), pairing her for the third time with Grant to play another socialite, who this time finds happiness with her sister's fiancé. The comedy got positive reviews, but failed to attract much of an audience, and the next script offered to Hepburn came with a salary of $10,000 - less than she had received early in her film career. Reflecting on this change of fortune, Andrew Britton wrote: "No other star has emerged more quickly or with more ecstatic acclaim. No other star has also become unpopular so quickly for so long."

Resurgence (1939-1942)

After the decline in her career, Hepburn took steps to create her own comeback vehicle. She left Hollywood to pursue a project on stage and signed on to star in Philip Barry's new play, "The Philadelphia Story." The script was adapted to show the actress' similarity to the socialite character Tracy Lord, incorporating a mixture of humor, aggression, nervousness, and vulnerability. Howard Hughes, Hepburn's partner at the time, felt the play could be her ticket back to Hollywood stardom and bought the rights to a movie before it even debuted on stage. "The Philadelphia Story" first toured the United States, receiving positive reviews, and then premiered in New York at the Shubert Theater on March 28, 1939. It was a great success financially and critically, with 417 performances and then a successful second tour.

Several major movie studios sought Hepburn to produce the film version of Barry's play. She chose to sell the rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Hollywood's number one studio, on the condition that she would star. As part of the deal, she also got to cast director George Cukor, and chose James Stewart and Cary Grant (to whom she ceded the billing) as co-stars. Before filming began, Hepburn astutely noted, "I don't want to make a grand entrance in this movie. Viewers ... 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 Grant pushing the actress. Berg describes how the character was created to make the audience "laugh enough to sympathize with her," which Hepburn felt was crucial to "recreating" her public image. "Nuptials of Scandal" was one of the biggest hits of 1940, breaking major records at Radio City Music Hall. The reviewer in Time declared, "Come back, Katie, all is forgiven." Herb Golden of Variety stated, "It's Katharine Hepburn's movie ... The perfect conception of all the socialite girls of Main Line: fickle but full of personality, gathered into one. The story without her is almost inconceivable." Hepburn was nominated for her third Academy Award for Best Actress, and won the New York Critics Association Award for Best Actress, while Stewart won her only Best Actor Oscar for her performance.

Hepburn was also responsible for the development of her next project, the romantic comedy "The Woman of the Day" about a political columnist and a sports reporter whose relationship is threatened by her self-centered independence. The idea for the film was proposed to her in 1941 by Garson Kanin, who recalled how Hepburn contributed to the script. She presented the final product to MGM and demanded $250,000 - half for her, half for the authors. With her terms accepted, Hepburn also secured the casting of director George Stevens and co-star Spencer Tracy, both of her choice. On Hepburn and Tracy's first day on set together, she allegedly told Tracy, "I'm afraid I'm too tall for you," to which Tracy replied, "Don't worry, Miss Hepburn, I'll soon cut you down to my size." They began a relationship on screen and off, which lasted until Tracy's death in 1967, with them appearing in eight other films together. Released in 1942, "Woman of the Year" was another hit. Critics praised the chemistry between the stars and, according to Higham, noted Hepburn's "growing maturity and polish." The World-Telegram praised the two "brilliant performances," and Hepburn received her fourth Oscar nomination. During the film, Katharine signed a contract with MGM.

Deceleration (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 not as enthusiastic about the production, but with Hepburn's popularity on the rise, the play ran for 16 weeks. MGM was eager to reunite Tracy and Hepburn for a new film and chose "Sacred Fire" (1942). A mystery film with a propaganda message about the dangers of fascism, the film was seen by Hepburn as an opportunity to make a worthy political statement. The production received poor reviews, but was a financial success, confirming the popularity of the pair created by Tracy and Hepburn.

Since "The Woman of the Day," Hepburn had committed herself to a romantic relationship with Tracy and devoted herself to helping him, as the latter suffered from alcoholism and insomnia. As a result, her career slowed down and she worked less in the remainder of the decade than in the 1930s - mainly because she did not appear on stage again until 1950. Her only appearance in 1943 was a special appearance in the war film "Uncle Sam's Brides," playing herself. She took on an atypical role in 1944, playing a Chinese peasant girl in the high-budget drama "The Dragon's Strain." Hepburn was enthusiastic about the film, but he received a lukewarm response and she was described as unsuitably cast for the role. She then reunited with Tracy for the film version of "Without Love" (1945), after turning down a role in "The Razor's Edge" to support Tracy in her return to Broadway. "Without Love" received poor reviews, but a new film from the duo was a big event, being extremely popular on release and selling a record number of tickets over Easter weekend 1945.

Hepburn's next film was "Hidden Chains" (1946), a film noir with Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum that was poorly received. A fourth film with Tracy came in 1947: a drama set in the Old West entitled "Green Sea." Similarly to "Keeper of the Flame" and "Without Love," a lukewarm response from critics did not prevent it from being a financial success both at home and abroad. In the same year, Hepburn played Clara Schumann in "Love Sonata." She trained intensively with a pianist for the role. At the time of its October release, Hepburn's career was significantly affected by her public opposition to the growing anti-communist movement in Hollywood. Seen by some as dangerously progressive, she was not offered work for nine months, just as people allegedly threw things at the screens showing "Song of Love." Her next film role came unexpectedly, as she agreed to replace Claudette Colbert just a few days before filming began on Frank Capra's political drama "His Wife and the World" (1948). Tracy had long been hired to play the male lead, so Hepburn was already familiar with the script and prepared for the pair's fifth film. Critics responded positively, and the production performed well at the box office.

Tracy and Hepburn appeared on screen together for the third consecutive year in the 1949 film "Adam's Rib." Like "Woman of the Year," it was a comedy based on a "battle of the sexes," and was written specifically for the two by their friends Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. A story of married lawyers opposing each other in court, Hepburn described it as "perfect for Although their political views still provoked scattered picket lines in theaters across the country, "Adam's Rib" was a hit, with favorable reviews and the duo's most profitable film to date. Bosley Crowther, critic for The New York Times, praised the film and the "perfect compatibility" of the two together.

Professional Expansion (1950-1952)

The 1950s saw Hepburn face a series of professional challenges and work harder than at any other time in her life at an age when most other actresses began to retreat. Berg described the decade as "the heart of her vast legacy" and "the period when she really stood out." In January 1950, Hepburn returned to the stage, playing Rosalinda in "How You Like It," a Shakespeare play. She hoped to prove that she could act in established material, and said, "It is better to try something difficult and fail than to expect something safe all the time." The play premiered at the Cort Theatre in New York with a large audience, and was sold out after 148 shows. The production then went on tour. Reviews of Hepburn varied, but she was noted as the only Hollywood leading lady who was performing high caliber material on stage.

In 1951, Hepburn filmed "An Adventure in Africa," her first film in Technicolor. She played Rose Sayer, a missionary spinster living in German East Africa at the beginning of World War I. Co-starring Humphrey Bogart, "The African Queen" was filmed in the Belgian Congo, an opportunity Hepburn embraced. With the experience somewhat difficult, Hepburn fell ill with dysentery during filming. Later in life, she released a memoir about the experience. The film was released in late 1951 to great popular support and critical acclaim, and gave Hepburn her fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while also earning Bogart his only Academy Award for Best Actor. The first successful film she made without Tracy since "The Philadelphia Story" a decade earlier, Katharine proved she could be a success without her former partner, fully re-establishing her popularity.

Hepburn went on to make the sports comedy "The Absolute Woman" (1952), the second film written specifically for Tracy and Hepburn by Kanin and Gordon. She was a keen athlete, and Kanin later described this as her inspiration for the film: "As I watched Kate playing tennis one day ... it occurred to me that her audience was missing a treat. Hepburn was under pressure to perform several high standard sports, many of which did not end up in the film. "Pat and Mike" was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed team films, and was also Hepburn's personal favorite of the nine films she made with Tracy. The performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.

In the summer of 1952, Hepburn appeared in London's West End for a ten-week run of "The Millionairess," directed by George Bernard Shaw. Her parents had read Shaw to her as a child, which made the play a special experience for the actress. Two years of intense work left her exhausted, however, and her friend Constance Collier wrote that Hepburn was "on the verge of a nervous breakdown." Widely acclaimed, "The Millionairess" was taken to Broadway. In October 1952, it premiered at the Shubert Theatre, where, despite a lukewarm critical response, it sold out its ten-week run. Hepburn subsequently tried to adapt the play into a film: a script was written by Preston Sturges, with Katharine offering to work for free and pay the director, but no studio accepted the project. She later referred to this as the biggest disappointment of her career.

Old Maids and Shakespeare (1953-1962)

"Pat and Mike" was the last film Hepburn completed in her contract with MGM, making her free to select her own projects. She spent two years resting and traveling, before committing to the romantic drama "When the Heart Blooms" (1955). The film was shot in Venice, with Hepburn playing a lonely spinster who has a passionate, love-filled affair. She described it as "a very emotional part" and found it fascinating to work with Lean. At her own insistence, Hepburn fell into a canal and developed a chronic eye infection as a result. The role earned her another Oscar nomination and was cited as one of her best work. Lean later said that this was his 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", Catherine in "The Taming of the Shrew", and Isabella in "Measure for Measure". The tour was successful and Hepburn won significant applause for the effort.

Hepburn received an Oscar nomination for the second year in a row for her work alongside Burt Lancaster in "Tears from Heaven" (1956). Again, she played a lonely woman with a love affair, and it was clear that Hepburn had found a niche playing "love-starved spinsters," which both critics and audiences liked. Hepburn said of playing such roles, "With Lizzie Curry , Jane Hudson and Rosie Sayer - I was playing myself. It wasn't hard for me to play those women, because I'm the single aunt." Less success that year came from "The Iron Skirt" (1956), a reworking of the classic comedy "Ninotchka," with Bob Hope. Hepburn played a cold-hearted Soviet pilot, a performance that Bosley Crowther called "awful." It was a critical and commercial failure, and Hepburn considered it the worst film on her resume.

Tracy and Hepburn reunited on screen for the first time in five years in "Electronic Love" (1957), an office-based comedy. Berg notes that it worked as a hybrid of their previous romantic comedy hits and Hepburn's new spinster persona, but it performed poorly at the box office. That summer, Hepburn returned to the stage with Shakespeare. Appearing in Stratford, Connecticut, at the American Shakespeare Theatre, she reprised the role of Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" and played Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing." The shows were received positively.

After two years away from the screen, Hepburn starred in a film adaptation of the controversial play "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959), directed by Tennessee Williams, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. The film 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 on him in extreme disgust. The film was a financial success, and her work as the creepy Aunt Violet Venable granted Hepburn her eighth Oscar nomination. Williams was pleased with the performance, writing, "Kate is a playwright's dream actress. She makes dialogue sound better than it is by an incomparable beauty and clarity of diction." He wrote 1961's "The Night of the Iguana" with Hepburn in mind, but the actress, though flattered, felt the play was wrong for her and turned down the role, which went to Bette Davis.

Hepburn returned to Stratford in the summer of 1960 to play Viola in "Kings Night," and Cleopatra Philopator in "Antony and Cleopatra." The New York Post wrote of her Cleopatra: "Hepburn offers a highly versatile performance ... once or twice using her famous mannerisms and always fascinating to watch." Hepburn herself was proud of the role. Her repertoire was further enhanced when she appeared in Sidney Lumet's film version of Eugene O'Neill's play "Long Journey Into Night" (1962). It was a low-budget production, and she appeared in the film for one-tenth of her established salary. that this country has ever produced" and the role of morphine addict Mary Tyrone "the most challenging female role in American drama," and felt that 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 the Cannes Film Festival. It remains one of her most lauded performances.

Later success (1963-1970)

After the completion of "Long Day's Journey Into Night," Hepburn took a break from her career to care for a sick Spencer Tracy. She did not work again until 1967 in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," her ninth film with Tracy. The film portrayed the subject of interracial marriages, with Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton, playing her daughter. Tracy was dying by this time, suffering the effects of heart disease, and Houghton later commented that her aunt was "extremely tense" during production. Tracy died 17 days after filming her last scene. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was a triumphant return for Hepburn and her most commercially successful film to date. She won her second Academy Award for Best Actress, 34 years after winning her first. Hepburn felt that the award was not only for her, but also to honor Tracy.

Hepburn quickly returned to acting after Tracy's death, choosing to occupy herself as a remedy against grief and mourning. and chose to play Leonor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter" (1968), in which she called "fascinating." She read extensively in preparation for the role, in which she starred alongside Peter O'Toole. Filming took place in Montmajor Abbey in the south of France, an experience she loved despite being-according to director Anthony Harvey-"enormously vulnerable" the entire time. John Russell Taylor of The Times suggested that Leonor was "the performance of her ... career" and proved that she was "a growing, developing and still amazing actress." The film was nominated in every major Oscar category and, for the second year in a row, Hepburn won the Academy Award for Best Actress (shared with Barbra Streisand for "A Genius Girl"). The role, combined with her performance in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," also won a British Film Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Actress. Hepburn's next appearance was in "The Madwoman of Chaillot" (1969), which she filmed in Nice immediately after completing "The Lion in Winter." The production was a critical and financial failure, and critics took aim at 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 attended a theatrical musical. She was not a strong singer, but found the offer irresistible, and as Berg says, "What she lacked in euphony, she made up for in courage." The actress took singing lessons six times a week in preparation for the show. She was nervous about every performance and wondered "what the hell was I doing there". The reviews for the production were mediocre, but Hepburn herself was praised, and "Coco" was popular with audiences-with its showing twice extended. She later said that "Coco" marked the first time she accepted that the public was not against her, but actually seemed to love her. Her work earned her a Tony nomination for best actress in a musical.

Film, television and theater (1971-1983)

Hepburn remained active throughout the 1970s, concentrating on roles described by Andrew Britton as "a ravenous mother or a crazy old woman living in a house of cards. When asked why she had accepted the role, she said she wanted to broaden her range and try everything while she still had time. But the Kansas City Film Critics Circle rated Hepburn's performance as the best by an actress that year. In 1971, she signed a contract to star in an adaptation of Graham Greene's "Travels with My Aunt," but was unhappy with early versions of the script and began rewriting it herself. The studio did not like her changes, so Hepburn abandoned the project and was replaced by Maggie Smith. Her next film, an adaptation of Edward Albee's "Delicate Balance" (1973) directed by Tony Richardson, had a small release and received mostly unfavorable reviews.

In 1973, Hepburn ventured into television for the first time, starring in a production of Tennessee Williams' "Crystal Cuffs." She was wary of the medium, but it proved to be one of the top television events of the year, scoring high in the Nielsen Ratings. Hepburn received an Emmy nomination for playing the melancholy Southern mother Amanda Wingfield, which opened her mind to future work on the small screen. Her next project was the telefilm "Love Among Ruins" (1975), an Edwardian London drama with her friend Laurence Olivier. The production received positive reviews and a high audience, and earned Hepburn her only Emmy.

Hepburn made her only Oscar appearance in 1974, to award the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to Lawrence Weingarten. She received a standing ovation and joked with the audience, "I'm so glad I didn't hear anyone yell, 'It's about time.'" The following year, she teamed up with John Wayne in the western "Ruthless Punisher," a sequel to the Oscar-winning film "Indomitable Bravery." Echoing her character in "The African Queen," Hepburn again played a deeply religious spinster who teams up with a lonely man to avenge the death of a family member. The film received mediocre reviews. The casting was enough to attract some people to the box office, but it did not meet the studio's expectations and was only moderately successful.

In 1976, Hepburn returned to Broadway for a three-month run with Enid Bagnold's play "A Matter of Gravity." The role of the eccentric Mrs. Basil was considered a perfect showcase for the actress, and the play was popular despite bad reviews. Later, it went on a successful national tour. During its run in Los Angeles, Hepburn fractured her hip, but chose to continue the tour performing in a wheelchair. That year, she was voted the favorite film actress by the People's Choice Awards.

During the summer of 1976, Hepburn starred in the low-budget film "The Big Adventure." The feature failed to find a major studio distributor and was finally released independently in 1978. Because of its poor distribution, it was shown in relatively few theaters, resulting in one of the biggest flops of Hepburn's career. Screenwriter James Prideaux, who worked with Hepburn, later wrote that the film "died the moment it was released" and referred to it as his "lost film." Hepburn stated that the main reason she decided to be part of the production was for the opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon. Her career continued with the telefilm "The Heart Don't Grow Old" (1979), which was filmed in Wales. It was the last of ten films Hepburn made with George Cukor, and earned her a third Emmy nomination. In the 1980s, Hepburn developed a notable tremor, which affected her head permanently. She did not work for two years, saying in a television interview, "I've had my time - let the kids fight and sweat." During this period, she saw the Broadway production of "On Golden Pond," and was impressed by the portrayal of an elderly couple dealing with the difficulties of old age. Jane Fonda had bought the screen rights to her father, actor Henry Fonda, and Hepburn sought to act with him in the role of the quirky Ethel Thayer. "On a Golden Lake" was a hit, the second highest-grossing film of 1981. It demonstrated just how energetic 74-year-old Hepburn was when she dived fully clothed into Squam Lake and gave a lively singing performance. The film earned her a second BAFTA and a record by getting her fourth Academy Award. Henry Fonda won his only Oscar for the role, becoming the third movie star (after James Stewart and Humphrey Bogart) to win the award acting alongside Hepburn. Homer Dickens, in his book on Hepburn, notes that this was widely considered a sentimental victory, "a tribute to her enduring career."

Hepburn also returned to the stage in 1981. She received a second Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Play for her role in "The West Side Waltz" of a septuagenarian widow excited about life. Variety noted that the role was "an obvious and entirely acceptable version of the public image itself Walter Kerr of The New York Times wrote of Hepburn and her performance: "One mysterious thing she has learned to do is to breathe uncorrectable life even into lifeless lines. She hoped to make a movie of the play, but no one bought the rights. Hepburn's reputation as one of America's most beloved actresses was firmly established by this point, as she was named the favorite movie actress in a People magazine poll, and again won the People's Choice popularity award.

Focus on television (1984-1994)

In 1984, Hepburn starred in the black comedy "Grace Quigley: A Game of Life and Death," the story of an elderly woman who recruits an assassin (Nick Nolte) to murder her. Hepburn found humor in the morbid subject matter, but the reviews were negative and the box office was poor. In 1985, she presented a television documentary about the life and career of Spencer Tracy. Most of Hepburn's roles from this point on were in telefilms, which did not receive critical praise like her film work, but remained popular with audiences. With each release, Hepburn declared that it would be her last screen appearance, although she continued to take on new roles. She received an Emmy nomination for "Mrs. Delafield's Wedding," and two years later returned to comedy with "Laura Lansing Slept Here," which allowed her to act with her great-niece, Schuyler Grant.

In 1991, Hepburn released her autobiography, "Me: Stories of My Life," which topped the bestseller lists for over a year. She returned to the television screen in 1992 with "The Man Upstairs," co-starring Ryan O'Neal, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. In 1994, she worked alongside Anthony Quinn in "Traces of a Passion," which was largely based on Hepburn's own life, with numerous references to her personality and career. These later roles were described as "a fictionalized version of Kate Hepburn's typically moody character," and critics noted that Hepburn was essentially playing herself.

Hepburn's last appearance in a film released in theaters, and her first since "Grace Quigley" nine years earlier, was in "Secrets of the Heart" (1994). At age 87, she acted in a supporting role, alongside Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. It was the only film of Hepburn's career, other than her appearance in "Stage Door Canteen," in which she did not play the lead role. Roger Ebert noted that it was the first time she looked frail, but that her "magnificent spirit" was still there, and said that her scenes "stole the show." A writer for The New York Times reflected on the actress' final appearance on the big screen, "If she moved slower than before, in demeanor she was as funny and modern as ever." Hepburn played her final role in the telefilm "The Power of Christmas" (1994), for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination at the age of 87.

Public image

Hepburn was known for being fiercely private, neither giving interviews nor speaking to fans for much of her career. Hepburn distanced herself from the lifestyle known to celebrities, disinterested in a social scene she saw as boring and superficial, even wearing casual clothes in public, which went strongly against convention in an era of pure glamour. She rarely appeared in public, even avoiding restaurants, and once knocked a camera out of a photographer's hand when he took pictures without her permission. Despite her zeal for privacy, she enjoyed her fame and later confessed that she would not want the press to ignore her completely. The protective attitude toward her private life melted away as she got older; starting with a two-hour interview on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973, she became more open to the public.

Hepburn's relentless energy and enthusiasm for life are often cited in biographies, while a stubborn independence became the key to her celebrity status. This self-confidence meant that she could be controlling and difficult; her friend Garson Kanin compared her to a teacher, and she was famous for being blunt and outspoken. Katharine Houghton commented that her aunt could be "maddeningly hypocritical and bossy." Hepburn confessed to being, especially early in life, a person full of herself. She saw herself as having a happy nature, saying, "I enjoy life and I'm so lucky, why shouldn't I be happy?" A. Scott Berg knew Hepburn well in her later years and said that while she was demanding, she maintained a sense of humility and humanity.

The actress led an active life, reportedly swimming and playing tennis every morning. At eighty, she still played tennis regularly, as indicated in her 1993 documentary "All About Me". She also enjoyed painting, which became a passion later in life. When asked about politics, Hepburn told an interviewer, "I always say to be on the affirmative and liberal side. Don't be a 'no' person. Her anti-communist attitude in Hollywood in the 1940s led her into political activity, when she joined the Committee For the First Amendment. Her name was mentioned in hearings of the Committee on Anti-American Activities, but Hepburn denied being a communist sympathizer. Later in life, she openly promoted contraception and supported the legal right of women to have abortions. She described herself as a "dedicated Democrat." She practiced Albert Schweitzer's theory of "Reverence for Life," but did not believe in religion or an afterlife. In 1991, Hepburn told a journalist, "I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there is nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people." Her public statements of these beliefs led the American Humanist Association to award her the Humanist Arts Award in 1985.

Hepburn liked to go barefoot, and for her first acting role in the play "The Woman in the Moon," she insisted that her character Pandora should not wear shoes. Off screen, she usually wore pants and sandals even for formal occasions, such as TV interviews. In her own words, "What got me out of skirts was the sock situation ... So I always wore pants ... that way you can always go barefoot."


Hepburn's only marriage was to Ludlow Ogden Smith, a Philadelphia businessman whom she met while studying at Bryn Mawr. The couple married on December 12, 1928, when she was 21 and he was 29. Smith changed her name to S. Ogden Ludlow at Hepburn's request so that she would not be called "Kate Smith," which she considered too simple. She never fully committed to marriage, deciding to prioritize her career. The move to Hollywood in 1932 cemented the couple's estrangement. Hepburn filed for divorce in Yucatán on April 30, 1934, and it was finalized on May 8. Hepburn often expressed her gratitude to Smith for his financial and moral support in the early days of her career, and in her autobiography she called herself "a terrible pig" for exploiting her ex-husband's love. The pair remained friends until his death in 1979.

Soon after moving to California, Hepburn began a relationship with her agent, Leland Hayward, although both were married. Hayward proposed to the actress after they both divorced, but she declined, later explaining, "I liked the idea of just being myself." In 1936, while on tour with "Jane Eyre," Hepburn began a relationship with manager Howard Hughes. She had been introduced to him a year earlier by their mutual friend, Cary Grant. Hughes wished to marry her, and the tabloids reported their impending nuptials, but Hepburn remained focused on resurrecting her hitherto failed career. They split in 1938, when Hepburn left Hollywood after being labeled "box office poison."

Hepburn stood by her decision not to remarry and made a conscious choice not to have children. She believed that motherhood requires a full-time commitment and said it was not a commitment she was willing to make. "I would have been a terrible mother," she told Berg, "because I am basically a very selfish human being." Katharine felt that she had partially experienced motherhood through her much younger siblings, which filled any need to have children of her own. Rumors had been circulating since the 1930s that Hepburn was a lesbian or bisexual, which she often joked about. In 2007, William J. Mann wrote in his biography of the actress that he thought this was the case. In response to this speculation about her aunt, Katharine Houghton said, "I never discovered any evidence that she was a lesbian." However, in a 2017 documentary, columnist Liz Smith, who was a close friend,

The most significant relationship of Hepburn's life was with Spencer Tracy, her co-star in nine films. In her autobiography, she wrote, "It was a unique feeling I had for . I would have done anything for him." Lauren Bacall, another close friend, later wrote about how Hepburn was "blindly" in love with the actor. The relationship was later publicized as one of Hollywood's most legendary love affairs. Meeting in 1941, when she was 34 and he was 41, Tracy was initially suspicious of Hepburn, not impressed by her dirty fingernails and suspecting her of being a lesbian, but Hepburn said she "knew immediately that Tracy remained married throughout the relationship. Although he and his wife Louise had lived separate lives since the 1930s, there was never an official separation and neither party sought a divorce. Hepburn did not interfere and never fought for the marriage.

With Tracy determined to hide his relationship with Hepburn from his wife, he had to remain private. They were careful not to be seen together in public and lived in different residences. Tracy was an alcoholic and was often depressed; Hepburn described him as "tortured," and devoted herself to making his life easier. Reports from people who saw them together describe how Hepburn's entire demeanor changed when she was around Tracy. She acted like her mother and obeyed him, and Tracy became very dependent on her. They used to spend a lot of time apart because of work, especially in the 1950s when Hepburn was often abroad for career commitments.

Tracy's health worsened in the 1960s, and Hepburn took a five-year break from her career to care for him. She moved into Tracy's home for this period and was by his side when Tracy died on June 10, 1967. Out of consideration for Tracy's family, she did not attend the funeral. It was only after Louise Tracy's death in 1983 that Hepburn began to speak publicly about her feelings for her frequent co-star. In response to the question of why she stayed with Tracy for so long, despite the nature of their relationship, she said, "I honestly don't know. All I can say is that I could never have left him." She claimed not to know how he felt about her, and that they "just spent twenty-seven years together in what was, to me, absolute bliss."

Final Years and Death

Hepburn declared in her eighties, "I'm not afraid of death. It must be wonderful, like a long sleep." Her health began to deteriorate shortly after her last screen appearance, and she was hospitalized in March 1993 for exhaustion. In the winter of 1996, she was hospitalized with pneumonia. In 1997, she became very weak, speaking and eating very little. Friends and family feared that she would die as a result. She showed signs of dementia in her later years. In May 2003, an aggressive tumor took over Hepburn's neck. The decision was made not to intervene medically, and she died of cardiac arrest on June 29, 2003, one month after her 96th birthday at the Hepburn family home in Fenwick, Connecticut. He was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, also in Connecticut. Hepburn requested that there be no memorial service.

Hepburn's death received considerable public attention. Many tributes were made on television, and newspapers and magazines devoted issues to the actress. U.S. President George W. Bush said that Hepburn "will be remembered as one of the nation's artistic treasures." In honor of her extensive theatrical work, the lights on Broadway were dimmed for the night of July 1, 2003. In 2004, in accordance with Hepburn's wishes, her belongings were put up for auction by Sotheby's in New York City. The event raised $5.8 million, which Hepburn left to her family.

According to reports, Hepburn was not an instinctive actress. She liked to study the text and character carefully, making sure she knew them completely, and then rehearse as much as possible and shoot several takes of a single scene. With a genuine passion for acting, she would strongly commit to each role, insist on learning all the necessary skills, and perform stunts. She was known for learning not only her own lines, but also those of her co-stars. Commenting on her motivation, Stanley Kramer said, "Work, work, work. She can work until everybody else falls down." Hepburn was involved in the production of each of her films, making suggestions for the script and giving her input on everything from costumes to lighting and camera work.

The characters Hepburn played were, with few exceptions, rich and intelligent, and often strong and independent. These difficult characters tended to be humiliated in some way and revealed to have a hidden vulnerability. Garson Kanin described what he called "the formula for Hepburn-like success: being a classy or arrogant girl ... brought to earth by a layman, or ignorant ... or a cataclysmic situation. It seems to have worked over and over again." Because of this repeated character arc, Hepburn embodied the "contradictions" of "the nature and status of women," and the strong women she portrays are eventually "restored to a secure position within the status quo." Film critic Molly Haskell commented on the importance of this to Hepburn's career: with an intimidating presence, it was necessary for her characters to "do some kind of self-abatement, to get on the good side of the audience."

Hepburn is one of the most celebrated American actresses, but she was also criticized for her lack of versatility. Her screen persona matched her own real-life personality, something Hepburn admitted. 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." Playwright and author David Macaray said, "Imagine Katharine Hepburn in all the movies she starred in and ask yourself if she's not playing essentially the same part over and over again ... Icon or not, let's not confuse a truly fascinating and unique woman with a superior actress." Another criticism that was repeated a lot was that her behavior was too cold.

Hepburn is considered an important and influential cultural figure. Ros Horton and Sally Simmons included her in their book "Women Who Changed The World," which honors 50 women who helped shape the history and culture of the world. She is also named in Encyclopædia Britannica's list of "300 Women Who Changed the World," Ladies Home Journal's "100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century," Variety magazine's "100 Icons of the Century," and she is number 84 on VH1's list of "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons of All Time." In 1999, Hepburn was voted by the American Film Institute as the greatest female classic film star of all time.

Regarding Hepburn's cinematic legacy, one of her biographers, Sheridan Morley, said that she "broke the mold" for women in Hollywood, where she brought a new generation of strong-willed women to the screen. Film scholar Andrew Britton wrote a monograph studying Hepburn's "key presence in classic Hollywood, a consistent and potentially radical disruption," and points to her "central" influence in bringing feminist issues to film.

Off-screen, Hepburn's lifestyle was ahead of its time, coming to symbolize the "modern woman" and playing a role in changing gender attitudes. Horton and Simmons write: "Confident, intelligent, witty, and a four-time Academy Award winner, Katharine Hepburn defied convention throughout her professional and personal life ... Hepburn provided an image of an assertive woman they could watch and learn from." After Hepburn's death, film historian Jeanine Basinger stated, "What she brought us was a new kind of heroine - modern and independent. She was beautiful, but she didn't rely on it." Mary McNamara, 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 woman. She was not universally revered by feminists, however, who were angered by her public statements that women "can't have it all," meaning a family and a career.

Hepburn's legacy extends to fashion, where she pioneered the wearing of pants at a time when it was a radical move for a woman. She helped make pants acceptable to women, with fans beginning to imitate her clothes. In 1986, she received a lifetime achievement award from the United States Council of Fashion Designers in recognition of her influence on women's fashion. Several of Hepburn's films have become classics in American cinema, with four of her films ("The African Queen," "The Philadelphia Story," "Bringing Up Baby," and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner") being featured on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest American Films of All Time. "Adam's Rib" and "Woman of the Year" were included in the list of Best American Comedies. Her cutting, patrician voice is considered one of the most remarkable in film history.


Hepburn has been honored with several memorials. The Turtle Bay community in New York City, where she maintained a residence for over 60 years, dedicated a garden in her name in 1997. After Hepburn's death in 2003, the intersection of East 49th Street and 2nd Avenue was renamed "Katharine Hepburn Place." Three years later, Bryn Mawr College, Hepburn's alma mater, launched the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center. It is dedicated to both the actress and her mother, and encourages women to address important issues affecting their gender. 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 Academy Award-winning actress" and whose recipients "are chosen based on their commitment and contributions to the greatest passions of women and Hepburn - civic engagement and the arts." The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center opened in 2009 in Old Saybrook, the location of Hepburn's family beach house, which she later loved and owned. The building includes a performance space and a museum focused on Katharine Hepburn.

The library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the New York Public Library have collections of Hepburn's personal papers. Selections from the New York collection, which documents Hepburn's theatrical career, were featured in a five-month exhibition, "Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files," in 2009. Other exhibitions have been held to showcase Hepburn's career. "One Life: Kate, A Centennial Celebration" was held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington from November 2007 to September 2008. University of Kent exhibited a selection of her film and theater costumes from October 2010 to September 2011 in "Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen." Hepburn was also honored with her own postage stamp as part of the "Legends of Hollywood" stamp series. In 2015, the British Film Institute held a two-month retrospective of Hepburn's work.


Hepburn is the subject of a one-woman play, "Tea at Five," written by Matthew Lombardo. The first act features Hepburn in 1938, after being labeled "box office poison," and the second act in 1983, where she reflects on her life and career. The play premiered in 2002 at Hartford Stage. Hepburn was portrayed in "Tea at Five" by Kate Mulgrew, Stephanie Zimbalist, A revised version of the play, eliminating the first act and expanding the second, premiered on June 28, 2019, at Boston's Huntington Theatre, with Faye Dunaway playing Hepburn. Feldshuh also appeared as Hepburn in "The Amazing Howard Hughes," a 1977 telefilm, while Mearle Ann Taylor later portrayed her in 1980's "The Scarlett O'Hara War." In Howard Hughes' biographical film "The Aviator" (2004), directed by Martin Scorsese, Hepburn was played by Cate Blanchett, which won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This marked the first time that an actress playing an already Oscar-winning actress won an Oscar.

During her 66-year career, Hepburn appeared in 44 feature films, 8 telefilms and 33 plays. Her film career included a variety of genres, including wacky comedies, period dramas, and adaptations of works by major American playwrights. She appeared on stage throughout the decades from 1920 to 1980, performing plays by Shakespeare and Shaw, and a Broadway musical.

Hepburn won four Academy Awards, the record number for an artist, and received a total of 12 Best Actress nominations - a number surpassed only by Meryl Streep . Hepburn also holds the record for the longest time gap between her first and last Oscar nomination, at 48 years. She has received two BAFTA awards and five nominations, one Emmy award and six nominations, eight Golden Globe nominations, two Tony nominations, and awards from the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, New York Critics Association, People's Choice, and others. Hepburn was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1979. She also won a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Contribution Award in 1979, and received the Kennedy Award, which recognizes a lifetime of achievement in the arts, in 1990.

Hepburn was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances:


  1. Katharine Hepburn
  2. Katharine Hepburn
  3. «Folha de S.Paulo - Cinema: Katharine Hepburn, 96, morre nos EUA - 30/06/2003». www1.folha.uol.com.br. Consultado em 12 de maio de 2021
  4. 1 2 3 4 Katharine Hepburn // Internet Broadway Database (англ.) — 2000.
  5. 1 2 Katharine Houghton Hepburn // Internet Broadway Database (англ.) — 2000.
  6. Dickens (1990) pp. 225—245 gives a full listing of stage performances.
  7. 1 2 Curtis (2011) pp. 508, 662, 670, 702, 727.
  8. 1 2 Britton (2003) p. 41.
  9. ^ (EN) AFI's 50 Greatest American Screen Legends, su afi.com, American Film Institute. URL consultato il 16 novembre 2014 (archiviato dall'url originale il 13 gennaio 2013).
  10. ^ (EN) Grace May Carter, There are actress - then there is Hepburn, in Katharine Hepburn, 2018, ISBN 978-1640192072.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ A tal proposito, si è spesso sostenuto che Katharine Hepburn fosse imparentata con l'omonima attrice inglese Audrey Hepburn. In realtà la parentela è lontanissima e, comunque, le due attrici non si conobbero mai prima di diventare famose. Il grado di parentela riconosciuto è quello di cugine di 19º grado, in ragione di comuni antenati britannici. Priva di fondamento è, quindi, anche la voce secondo la quale Audrey Hepburn avrebbe scelto il suo nome in onore di Katharine.
  13. Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Γερμανίας: (Γερμανικά, Αγγλικά) Gemeinsame Normdatei. Ανακτήθηκε στις 10  Δεκεμβρίου 2014.
  14. (Αγγλικά) SNAC. w60k26nf. Ανακτήθηκε στις 9  Οκτωβρίου 2017.
  15. Ανακτήθηκε στις 4  Μαρτίου 2021.
  16. (Αγγλικά) Internet Movie Database.
  17. ev0000003/1934.

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?