Some sad news-Katharine Hepburn dies at 96

  • Thread starter Let's Go Devils and Celtic
  • Start date

Let's Go Devils and Celtic

The Great Kate
Iconic Actress Katharine Hepburn Dies at 96

June 29
— Katharine Hepburn, the revered American actress whose career spanned well over six decades, has died. She was 96.

The Hollywood legend died at her home in Connecticut, ABCNEWS has learned. She was surrounded by family and friends.

One of the last stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, Hepburn's roles ranged from ingenue in A Bill of Divorcement to indomitable queen in The Lion in Winter. Some of her better-known films include Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Pat and Mike, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and On Golden Pond.

Hepburn's life and career were marked by fierce independence, unending vitality and remarkable dedication to friends, family and work. She was the only actor or actress in history to have been nominated for 12 Academy Awards, and the only woman to win four as best actress — three of them after the age of 60.

Master of Her Fate

Commenting on why she rarely attended the awards ceremonies at which she was to be honored, Hepburn explained in typically frank fashion, "As for me, prizes mean nothing. My prize is my work." The American Film Institute voted her the greatest American female screen legend of all time.

Hepburn once remarked of her celebrated status in show business, "I'm a legend because I've survived over a long period of time and still seem to be master of my fate — I'm still paddling the goddamned boat myself."

Her uniquely East Coast establishment personality made her one of the most outspoken and vital figures in Hollywood history and earned her the unabashed admiration of colleagues and audiences alike.

She always credited her distinctive character to her parents: "The single most important thing anyone needs to know about me," she said, "is that I am totally, completely the product of two damn fascinating individuals who happened to be my parents."

The daughter of a wealthy and unconventional family — her father, Thomas Hepburn, was a prominent surgeon and urologist, and her mother, Katharine Hepburn (née Houghton) was a famous suffragette and birth control activist — Katharine Houghton Hepburn was born May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Conn.

She would also be deeply affected by the death of her beloved brother, Tom, who hanged himself (it's unclear whether it was a suicide or an accident). It was 14-year-old Kate who found him. For many years after, she would use his birthday, Nov. 8, as her own.

After Tom's death, Hepburn was largely schooled at home, but then went on to Bryn Mawr College. After graduating in 1928, she commenced a career as a theatrical actress, earning a string of increasingly conspicuous parts in summer stock and Broadway productions.

That same year, she married businessman Ludlow Ogden Smith, whom she convinced to change his name to S. Ogden Ludlow so that she would not be known by the plain-Jane name "Kate Smith." The couple soon separated.

A Style All of Her Own

Hepburn's big break came in the form of a starring role as Antiope the Amazon queen in the 1932 Broadway comedy The Warrior's Husband. After summarily rejecting some unacceptable clauses in a film contract offered by RKO, Hepburn joined the studio, debuting in the role of John Barrymore's daughter in George Cukor's A Bill of Divorcement (1932).

She won her first best actress Oscar for her performance in her third feature film outing, the 1933 movie Morning Glory, as an actress trying to make it on Broadway. Her early films positioned her to play physically and verbally strong, rebellious female characters, a forceful persona developed to best advantage in Little Women (1933), Alice Adams (1935, an Oscar-nominated performance) and Sylvia Scarlett (1936).

Katharine Hepburn receives an award from Planned Parenthood in 1988. (Ed Bailey/AP Photo)

From her earliest days in Hollywood, Hepburn exhibited an arrogant disdain for star etiquette. The angular redhead dressed mannishly and unbecomingly by movie idol standards (she wore slacks and refused to wear makeup); her crisp New England diction and uniquely emancipated mindset were off-putting to many; she refused to submit to requests for studio publicity shots, autographs or interviews; and she didn't fraternize with her co-workers.

Qualities the movie-going public and critics deemed signs of self-absorbed haughtiness were actually hallmarks of Hepburn's dedicated professionalism. But in an era when star patina was prized over talent, she suffered at the box office for her unyielding personality and refusal to be shoehorned into roles she found unsuitable.

Finding Philadelphia

Not even her lead assignment in the classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby could resuscitate Hepburn's flagging popularity, and after a disappointing string of misfires, a leading exhibitor conferred upon her the career-killing label of "box-office poison."

But she still had supporters. For his part, Cary Grant concluded of his frequent co-star, "There's no pretense about her. She's the most completely honest woman I've ever met."

Hepburn had no intention of giving up, and in 1939, she returned to Broadway in a role written expressly with her in mind in Phillip Barry's The Philadelphia Story. She was so certain of the play's potential that she even acquired the film rights. (Billionaire Howard Hughes, who romanced Hepburn, reportedly purchased them for her.)

A feted success in the stage production, Hepburn returned to Hollywood on her own terms, negotiating her choice of co-stars (Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant) and director (George Cukor, with whom she would go on to collaborate on some of the best films of her career) for MGM's 1940 film version of the play.

The movie was a smash, and so was she as the elegantly frosty socialite Tracy Lord; The Philadelphia Story broke box-office records and earned Hepburn her third Oscar nomination.

The Tracy Years

MGM next paired Hepburn with Spencer Tracy in the 1942 film Woman of the Year. The film got her another Academy Award nomination, but more importantly, it launched the legendary team of Tracy and Hepburn, both professionally and personally.

Though the couple never married — Tracy, a staunch Catholic, felt that he couldn't divorce his wife, though he lived apart from her for decades — their legendary love affair lasted 25 years, ending only with Tracy's death in 1967. Professionally, the duo excelled at the battle of the sexes, and their inspired duels in State of the Union (1948), Adam's Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952) made the films classics.

Outside of her successful string of romantic comedies and dramas with Tracy, Hepburn gave equally delightful performances on her own. She moved smoothly into playing older character leads in films such as The African Queen (1951), with Humphrey Bogart, and Suddenly Last Summer (1959). Both performances drew Oscar nominations. Bogart said of his reputedly fractious leading lady, "I don't think she tries to be a character. I think she is one."

In 1962, Hepburn delivered an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated turn as the morphine-addled matriarch of the hopelessly dysfunctional Tyrone family in the film version of Eugene O'Neill's play Long Day's Journey Into Night. She received top honors at the Cannes Film Festival for her stunning performance.

Following work on that film, Hepburn withdrew from the public eye for five years to tend to Tracy as his health progressively deteriorated. For the last of her nine collaborations with Tracy (and, as it turned out, his last film before a heart attack took his life), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967), Hepburn took home her second best actress Oscar statuette.

Soon after Tracy's death, Hepburn took home a third Oscar for the 1968 film The Lion in Winter, in which she co-starred with Peter O'Toole.

Throughout the 1970s and '80s, the actress continued to star on TV, in films and on the stage. Both she and Laurence Olivier earned Emmy awards for the 1975 George Cukor-directed TV movie Love Among the Ruins. On Broadway, she portrayed Coco Chanel in the 1969 musical Coco.

Aging Gracefully

Hepburn continued to evince a regal pride despite a progressive neurological disease, said to be Parkinson's, that made her head shake uncontrollably. She continued to throw herself into her work notwithstanding her deteriorating health, scoring a fourth Oscar for her performance in the 1981 movie On Golden Pond, in which she enjoyed her one on-screen collaboration with the legendary actor Henry Fonda.

She survived a near-fatal car crash in 1984, and gamely carried on with her regimen of icy showers, chocolate candies and intermittent roles in TV movies like Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry, The Man Upstairs and This Can't Be Love.

In 1987, Hepburn wrote a popular memoir titled The Making of 'The African Queen,' or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind; she followed up with a best-selling autobiography, Me, in 1992.

In 1994, Warren Beatty convinced the 87-year-old actress to come out of retirement to essay the role of his great-aunt in Love Affair, the last feature-film appearance of Hepburn's lengthy career. It was apparent from the ease with which she upstaged her co-stars — Beatty and Annette Benning — that Katharine Hepburn had lost none of her touch.

Role Model for Women

The occasion of Hepburn's 90th birthday, on May 12, 1997, was marked by the dedication of the Katharine Hepburn Garden in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations. The garden is in the New York City neighborhood of Turtle Bay, of where the actress lived for six decades. Extremely frail at the time, Hepburn did not attend the event. She opted instead to celebrate with little fanfare at the Hepburn family residence in Fenwick, Conn., where she had lived since leaving Manhattan in 1996.

Though she hadn't performed in recent years, Hepburn maintained her relentlessly positive and engaged outlook on life. To filmgoers, she will always epitomize the noble independence, sophistication and emancipation that were her hallmarks throughout her life and inspired generations of young women.

"I've had a fascinating life," Hepburn once commented. "I don't think I'm the least bit peculiar, but people tell me I am."

Quintesssential Kate

Here's a look at some of Katharine Hepburn's best-known films:
A Bill of Divorcement (1932) — In her film debut, Hepburn plays a young girl who gives up her fiancé so she can take care of her mad dad (John Barrymore).

Morning Glory (1933) — Hepburn won her first Oscar for her role as Eva Lovelace, an aspiring actress trying to make it big.

Little Women (1933) — Independent tomboy Kate plays independent tomboy Jo in a film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel.

Alice Adams (1935) — Hepburn received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the titular social-climber.

Stage Door (1937) — Feisty Ginger Rogers steals the show, but Hepburn's fine as the rich society girl who wants to be an actress. Imortal line: "The calla lilies are in bloom again."

Bringing Up Baby (1938) — Serious scientist David (Cary Grant) is after a dinousaur bone, and seemingly ditzy Susan (Hepburn) is out to get David. Throw in a terrier and a pet leopard called Baby, and you've got a classic screwball comedy.

Holiday (1938) — Cary Grant is a free-thinking guy engaged to a rich girl. But when he meets his fiancée's unconventional sister Linda (Hepburn), all bets are off.

The Philadelphia Story (1940) — The film that ended Hepburn's reputation as "box-office poision." Society girl Tracy Samantha Lord is about to marry for a second time, but her first (Cary Grant) and a tabloid reporter (James Stewart) are about to knock her off her pedestal — and give her second thoughts.

Woman of the Year (1942) — Hepburn's first pairing with Spencer Tracy. They play a couple struggling to reconcile the dueling demands of career and marriage.

Adam's Rib (1949) — Hepburn and Tracy in another battle of the sexes. This time, they're married lawyers on opposite sides of the courtroom.

The African Queen (1951) — Hepburn is a strait-laced missionary slogging down a river and taking on the Germans with Humphrey Bogart.

Pat and Mike (1952) — Hepburn's a golfer who gets a little help from shady sports promoter Tracy.

Desk Set (1957) — More Tracy-vs.-Hepburn shenanigans; this time they're clashing over the modernization of a TV network's research department.

Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962) — Hepburn plays the drug-addicted mom in the film version of Eugene O'Neill's semi-autobiographical play.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967) — Hepburn and Tracy play a wealthy couple who receive quite a jolt when their daughter brings home a black fiancé (Sidney Poitier). Hepburn collected her second Oscar.

The Lion in Winter (1968) — Hepburn picked up Oscar No. 3 for her portrayl of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the medieval English queen who plots against her husband (Peter O'Toole) as their three sons jockey for the position as heir to the throne. Features a young Anthony Hopkins as Prince Richard and Timothy Dalton as the devious French King Philip.

The Glass Menagerie (1973) — Hepburn plays dominating mom Amanda Wingfield, a faded Southern belle who can't stop nagging her kids or talking about her gentleman callers, in a TV version of Tennessee Williams' play.

Love Among the Ruins (1975) — Another TV movie, but what a cast! Hepburn's an aging actress being sued for breach of promise; Laurence Olivier is the lawyer who loves her.

Rooster Cogburn (1975) — Hepburn in a Western with John Wayne! She plays Eula Goodnight, who teams up with Marshal Cogburn to catch the men who killed her minister father.

On Golden Pond (1981) — It's Oscar No. 4 for Hepburn. Ethel and Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) head to their summer cottage, where estranged daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) will try to reach an understanding with her dad.

Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (1986) — In this TV movie, WASPy widow Mrs. Delafield wants to marry her Jewish doctor, but both her children and his object.

Love Affair (1994) — Warren Beatty and real-life wife Annette Bening are no Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in this awful remake of An Affair to Remember. Hepburn, lured out of retirement to play Beatty's great-aunt, is the best thing about the film.

Copyright © 2002 ABC News Internet Ventures.

Andy I.

Re: Oh no! My Grandma loved her.

All my Grandma and Grandad ever wanted to be were actors. They always had the favourite actors and movie stars. Still Katherine Hepburn had a good life.

Adam Sallis

And the Morrissey connection is...

...she starred in 'Alice Adams', which contains the line 'I've seen this happen in other people's lives, and now it's happening in mine' as used by Moz in 'That Joke..."

She also starred in a TV version of 'The Glass Menagerie', which contain's the line "I didn't know Shakespeare had a sister." Although others claim the song title comes a Virginia Woolf essay of the same name, the story of 'The Glass Menagerie' broadly fits the song 'Shakespeare's Sister'- a domineering mother prevents a young sick woman from having a normal life.


Re: And the Morrissey connection is...

> She also starred in a TV version of 'The Glass Menagerie', which contain's
> the line "I didn't know Shakespeare had a sister." Although
> others claim the song title comes a Virginia Woolf essay of the same name,
> the story of 'The Glass Menagerie' broadly fits the song 'Shakespeare's
> Sister'- a domineering mother prevents a young sick woman from having a
> normal life.

... yeah but Woolf's essay is about suicide and Shakespeare's Sister - the song - is also about suicide, so I think it's safer to assume that the song was inspired by Woolf rather than Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie.


Re: Oh no! My Grandma loved her.

> All my Grandma and Grandad ever wanted to be were actors. They always had
> the favourite actors and movie stars. Still Katherine Hepburn had a good
> life.

this is very sad.RIP.
Top Bottom