Katharine Hepburn was offered the part of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940), but she turned it down. As a result Rosalind Russell was cast instead.
I think most of the people involved in any art always secretly wonder whether they are really there because they're good or they're because they're lucky. If they have time to think.
Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. A film icon, in 1999, she was ranked by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.
Raised in Connecticut by wealthy parents, after graduation, Hepburn turned to acting. Favorable reviews of her work on stage in 1932 brought her to the notice of Hollywood. After a few early film successes, including her first Oscar, for Morning Glory, she endured a string of flops, which led to her being voted "box office poison". Fortunately, she had a great triumph starring in the Broadway play The Philadelphia Story. She obtained the film rights with the help of Howard Hughes and sold them to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on the condition that she reprise her leading role as Tracy Lord. The hit film adaptation revived her flagging career.
Over the course of her long life, she costarred with such screen legends as Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story), Humphrey Bogart (The African Queen), John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn), and Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond). However, her greatest teaming, both on-screen and off, was with Spencer Tracy, beginning with 1942's Woman of the Year. They fell in love and conducted a decades-long affair that was kept secret from the general public. (Tracy was married and, as a Catholic, could not divorce his wife.) The last of their nine films together was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), which was completed shortly before his death.
Hepburn holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins with four, out of 12 nominations. Hepburn won an Emmy Award in 1976 for her lead role in Love Among the Ruins, and was nominated for four other Emmys, two Tony Awards and eight Golden Globes.
Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of suffragette Katharine Martha Houghton (1878 – 1951) (an heiress to the Corning Glass fortune and co-founder of Planned Parenthood) and Dr. Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879 – 1962), who was a successful urologist from Virginia with Maryland roots. Her siblings were Thomas Houghton Hepburn (1905–1921), Richard Houghton Hepburn (1911–2000), Robert Houghton Hepburn (1913–2007), Marion Houghton Hepburn Grant (1918–1986) and Margaret Houghton Hepburn Perry (1920–2006).
Hepburn's father insisted the girls swim, ride, and play golf and tennis. Hepburn won a bronze medal for figure skating from the Madison Square Garden skating club, shot golf in the low eighties and reached the semi final of the Connecticut Young Women's Golf Championship. Hepburn especially enjoyed swimming, and regularly took dips in the frigid waters that fronted her bayfront Connecticut home, generally believing that "the bitterer the medicine, the better it was for you." She continued her brisk swims well into her 80s. Hepburn would come to be recognized for her athletic physicality—she fearlessly performed her own pratfalls in films such as Bringing Up Baby (1938).
On April 3, 1921, while visiting friends in Greenwich Village, Hepburn found her older brother Tom (born November 8, 1905), whom she idolized, hanging from the rafters of the attic by a rope, an apparent suicide. Her family denied it was self-inflicted, arguing he had been a happy boy. They insisted it must have been an experiment gone awry. It has been speculated he was trying to carry out a trick he saw in a play with Katharine. Hepburn was devastated and sank into a depression. She shied away from other children and was mostly home-schooled. For many years she used Tom's birthday (November 8) as her own. It was not until her 1991 autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life, that Hepburn revealed her true birth date of May 12, 1907.
Hepburn was educated at the Oxford School (now Kingswood-Oxford School) in West Hartford, Connecticut, before going on to Bryn Mawr College. Hepburn was suspended for breaking curfew and smoking, which at that time was particularly not encouraged for women. Decades later, Hepburn also confirmed that after dark, she would go swimming naked in the college's "Cloisters" fountain. She received a degree in history and philosophy in 1928, the same year she had her debut on Broadway after landing a bit part in Night Hostess.
A banner year for Hepburn, 1928 also marked her marriage to socialite businessman Ludlow ("Luddy") Ogden Smith, whom she had met while at Bryn Mawr and married after a short engagement. Hepburn and Smith's marriage was turbulent, and they spent less and less time living together as Hepburn pursued her career on the stage and traveled. They were divorced in Mexico in 1934. Fearing that the Mexican divorce was not legal, Ludlow obtained a second divorce in the United States in 1942 and a few days later he remarried. Katharine Hepburn often expressed her gratitude toward Ludlow for his financial and moral support in the early days of her career. "Luddy" continued to be a lifelong friend to her and the Hepburn family.
On September 21, 1938, Hepburn was staying in her family's Old Saybrook, Connecticut beach home when the 1938 New England Hurricane struck and destroyed the house. Hepburn, her mother, brother and servants narrowly escaped before the home was lifted off its foundations and washed away. She stated in her 1991 book entitled Me that she lost 95% of her belongings in the storm, including her 1932–1933 best actress Oscar, which was later found intact.
Hepburn developed her acting skills during her time at Bryn Mawr. There, Hepburn met Eddie Knopf, a young producer with a stock company in Baltimore, Maryland, who cast her in several small roles, including a production of The Czarina and The Cradle Snatchers.
Her first leading role was in a production of The Big Pond, which opened in Great Neck, New York. The producer dismissed the original actress at the last moment, and substituted Hepburn. Terror stricken, Hepburn arrived late and stumbled over her lines, tripped over her feet and spoke so fast she was almost incomprehensible. She was also dismissed, but continued to understudy and gain small stock company roles.
Hepburn was cast in the Broadway play Art and Mrs. Bottle. Hepburn was dismissed from this role too, although she was later rehired when the director could not find a replacement. After another summer of stock companies, in 1932, Hepburn landed the role of Antiope the Amazon princess in The Warrior's Husband (an update of Lysistrata), which required her to wear a very short costume, and received excellent reviews. Hepburn became the talk of New York City, and was noticed in Hollywood.
In the play, Hepburn entered the stage by jumping down a flight of steps while carrying a large stag on her shoulders — an RKO scout (Leland Hayward, whom she would later romance) was so impressed by this display of physicality that he asked her to do a screen test for A Bill of Divorcement, which starred John Barrymore, David Manners, and Billie Burke.
She demanded $1,500 per week for film work (at the time she was earning between $80 and $100 per week), assuming RKO would refuse. To her surprise, after seeing her screen test, RKO agreed to her demands and cast her. At 5 feet, 7 inches (1.71 m), Hepburn was one of the tallest leading ladies of the day. The director George Cukor became a lifetime friend and colleague. Barrymore pinched her posterior on the set in one of many attempts to seduce her. She said, "If you do that again I'm going to stop acting." Barrymore replied, "I wasn't aware that you'd started, my dear."
After the positive audience reaction to A Bill of Divorcement, RKO signed Hepburn to a new contract. But her non-conformist, anti-Hollywood behavior off screen made studio executives fret she would never become a major star. The following year (1933), Hepburn won her first Oscar in Morning Glory, as a young actress who rejects romance in favor of her career. That same year, Hepburn played Jo in the screen adaptation of Little Women, which broke box-office records, and for which she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.
in a promotional shot for Morning Glory (1933)Intoxicated by her success, Hepburn wanted to return to the theater. She chose The Lake, but RKO would not release her and she made the forgettable Spitfire. Having satisfied RKO, Hepburn went immediately back to Manhattan to begin the play, in which she played an English girl unhappy with her overbearing mother and weak father. The play was generally considered a flop, and Hepburn's performance elicited Dorothy Parker's quip that the actress "ran the gamut of emotions from A to B."
In 1935, in the title role of the film Alice Adams, Hepburn earned her second Oscar nomination. By 1938, Hepburn was an established star, and her forays into comedy with the films Bringing Up Baby and Stage Door were well-received critically. But audience response to the two films was tepid, and the good reviews from the critics were not enough to rescue her from an earlier string of flops (The Little Minister, Spitfire, Break of Hearts, Sylvia Scarlett, A Woman Rebels, Mary of Scotland, Quality Street). As a result, Hepburn's movie career began to decline.
Katharine Hepburn would often come to interviews dressed in men's suits, saying that it was "comfortable". Without meaning to, she made a fashion statement, and women who admired her started wearing trousers, which was not encouraged at the time.
Some of what has made Hepburn greatly beloved today—her unconventional, straightforward, anti-Hollywood attitude—at the time began to turn audiences sour. Outspoken and intellectual with an acerbic tongue, she defied the era's conventions, preferring to wear pantsuits and disdaining makeup. She also had a famously difficult relationship with the press, turning down most interviews, which did not help her image with the public. On her first outing with the Hollywood press corps after the success of A Bill of Divorcement, Hepburn talked with reporters who had invaded her and her husband's cabin aboard the ship City of Paris. A reporter asked if they were really married; Hepburn responded, "I don't remember." Following up, another reporter asked if they had any children; Hepburn's answer: "Two white and three colored". Hepburn's aversion to media attention did not thaw until 1973, when she appeared on The Dick Cavett Show for an extended two-day interview.
Hepburn could also be prickly with fans; though she relented as she aged, early in her career Hepburn often denied requests for autographs. However, on movie sets, she was eager to learn the ways of the stage and camera crews and befriended many of them. Even so, her refusal to sign autographs and answer personal questions earned her the nickname "Katharine of Arrogance" (an allusion to Catherine of Aragon). Soon, audiences began to stay away from her movies.
Hepburn was affected by a series of flops when, in 1938, she — along with Fred Astaire, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Dolores del Río, Marlene Dietrich, and others — was voted "box office poison" in a poll taken by exhibitors. In 1939, Hepburn was going to do producer David O. Selznick a favor and play the role of Scarlett O'Hara because he did not yet have anyone else signed for the role. Hepburn insisted that she did not have the lustful sex appeal that the part demanded and told Selznick that his studio needed to find the woman who did. Hepburn rehearsed the lines thoroughly just in case. The night before the deadline, Selznick finally cast Vivien Leigh. Unknown to Hepburn and the rest of Hollywood, Leigh was long favored for the role, but as an English actress, she was deemed unsuitable. Her affair with Laurence Olivier, while he was in the middle of a divorce, made her a controversial choice. The vast "search for Scarlett" was orchestrated to make it seem as if no other actress could be found, thus limiting the shock of Vivien Leigh landing the role. Hepburn was later the maid of honor at Leigh and Olivier's wedding in 1940. Hepburn remained a close friend of Vivien Leigh until Leigh's death in 1967.
Hepburn yearned for a comeback on the stage. Philip Barry wrote a play especially for her, The Philadelphia Story, a year after she had starred in the film version of his play Holiday. In the new play, her portrayal of spoiled socialite Tracy Lord received rave reviews. With the help of ex-lover Howard Hughes, she acquired the film rights and sold them to MGM; the resulting film was one of the biggest hits of 1940. As part of the deal with MGM, Hepburn got to choose the director, George Cukor, but not the costars she wanted: Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. Instead, the roles went to Cary Grant and James Stewart respectively. The documentary Cary Grant — A Class Apart states that Hepburn was allowed the choice for her final male lead once Gable was unavailable, and that, with $100,000 to use, Katharine chose her friend and favorite costar, Cary Grant. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work and won the New York Film Critics award. Her career was revived almost overnight.
At the height of the pre-McCarthy stages of the post-war Second Red Scare, Hepburn's strongly progressive social views also became a target of anti-communist hysteria. Myron Fagan, the right-wing writer, producer and director at the center of Hollywood's anti-communist witch-hunting denounced her after Hepburn had spoken up on behalf of fellow actors, directors, and screenwriters facing the notorious blacklist of the 1940s. Despite Hepburn's lack of actual membership in (or any formal links to) the American Communist Party, Fagan, in his polemical speech against "the Reds" in Hollywood, named Hepburn as "an example", forwarding the claim that "Katharine Hepburn's love for Joe Stalin is no secret".
Hepburn made her first appearance with Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year (1942), directed by George Stevens. Behind the scenes the pair fell in love, beginning what would become one of Hollywood's most famous romances, despite Tracy's life long unwillingness (he was a Catholic) to divorce his estranged wife, the former Louise Treadwell, whom he had married in 1923.
Hepburn and Tracy became one of Hollywood's most recognizable couples. Hepburn, with her agile mind and distinctive New England accent, complemented Tracy's working-class machismo. When Joseph Mankiewicz introduced them, Hepburn, who was wearing special heels that added several inches to her slender frame, said, "I'm afraid I'm too tall for you, Mr. Tracy." Mankiewicz retorted, "Don't worry, he'll soon cut you down to size." As The Daily Telegraph observed in Hepburn's obituary, "Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were at their most seductive when their verbal fencing was sharpest: it was hard to say whether they delighted more in the battle or in each other."
Most of their films stress the difficulties that couples can have when they try to find an equable balance of power. The sparring over power and control is almost always resolved in an agreement to share. They appeared in nine movies together, including Keeper of the Flame (1942), Adam's Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), Desk Set (1957) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), for which Hepburn won her second Academy Award for Best Actress.
Hepburn and Tracy carefully hid their affair from the public, using back entrances to studios and hotels and assiduously avoiding the press. They were undeniably a couple for decades, but did not live together regularly until the last few years of Tracy's life. Even then, they maintained separate homes to keep up appearances. Their relationship, which neither would discuss publicly, lasted until Tracy's death in 1967. Their relationship was complex and there were periods during which they were estranged. Tracy had several affairs while estranged from Hepburn, notably while filming Plymouth Adventure with his co-star Gene Tierney.
Hepburn had had several prior liaisons, most notably with her agent Leland Hayward, John Ford and Howard Hughes. Tracy, however, seems to have been her true love. Hepburn took five years off after Long Day's Journey Into Night to care for Tracy while he was in failing health. Out of consideration for Tracy's family, Hepburn did not attend his funeral. She described herself as too heartbroken to ever watch Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, saying it evoked memories of Tracy that were too painful.
One of Hepburn's Academy Award nominated performances was her role as Rose Sayer in The African Queen (1951), where she played a prim spinster missionary in Africa (around the time of World War I), who convinces Humphrey Bogart's character, a hard-drinking riverboat captain, to use his boat to destroy a German ship. Hepburn received her fifth Best Actress nomination, losing to Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Named Desire.
The African Queen was shot mostly on location in Africa, where almost all the cast and crew suffered from malaria and dysentery—except director John Huston and Bogart, neither of whom ever drank any water. (Many of the studio shots were completed in the unlikely location of Worton Hall aka Isleworth Studios which is sited in the Greater London suburb of Isleworth, West London.) Hepburn, ever the urologist's daughter, disapproved of the two men's drinking and piously drank gallons of water each day to spite them. She wound up so sick with dysentery that, even months after she returned home, the famously vigorous actress was still ill. The trip and the movie made such an impact on her that later in life she wrote a book about filming the movie: The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, which made her a best-selling author at the age of 77.
In an interview in Playboy, Huston spoke of how on their days off, he and Bogart would go big game hunting, and how one day Hepburn asked to go along. He described her as a "Diana of the Hunt" — utterly fearless — and able to shoot with the best of them.
Following The African Queen, Hepburn often played spinsters, most notably in her Oscar-nominated performances for Summertime (1955) and The Rainmaker (1956), although at 49 some considered her too old for the role. She also received nominations for her performances in films adapted from stage dramas, namely as Mrs. Venable in Tennessee Williams' Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and as Mary Tyrone in the 1962 version of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, for which the cast received a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hepburn received her second Best Actress Oscar for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, though she believed it was meant to honor Spencer Tracy, who had died shortly after filming was completed. The following year, she won a record-breaking third Oscar for her role as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, an award shared that year with Barbra Streisand for her performance in Funny Girl. Peter O'Toole, her co-star in The Lion in Winter, said in many interviews, including with host Charlie Rose, that Hepburn was his favorite actor to work with. He and Hepburn remained friends until her death.
Hepburn continued to do filmed stage dramas, including The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), The Trojan Women (1971) by Euripides, and Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1973). In 1973, she first appeared in an original television production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.
Two years later, Hepburn received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special Program (Drama or Comedy) for Love Among the Ruins, which co-starred friend Laurence Olivier and was directed by George Cukor. Hepburn also appeared in one of her most well received roles of her later period with John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn, the sequel to Wayne's Academy Award winning film True Grit. Rooster Cogburn was essentially The African Queen done as a western. Hepburn won her fourth Oscar for On Golden Pond (1981), with Henry Fonda. In 1994, Hepburn gave her final three movie performances — One Christmas, based on a short story by Truman Capote, as Ginny in the remake of Love Affair; and This Can't Be Love, directed by one of her close friends, Anthony Harvey (The Lion in Winter).
In later years, Hepburn developed essential tremor, a chronic neurological condition that causes involuntary shaking of the head, hands, and feet.
On June 29, 2003, Hepburn died of natural causes at Fenwick, the Hepburn family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She was 96 years old, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut in the family plot. In honor of her extensive theater work, the lights of Broadway were dimmed for an hour.
The book Kate Remembered, by A. Scott Berg, was published just 13 days after Hepburn's death.
In 2004, in accordance with Hepburn's wishes, her personal effects were put up for auction with Sotheby's in New York. Hepburn had meticulously collected an extraordinary amount of material relating to her career and place in Hollywood over the years, as well as personal items such as a bust of Spencer Tracy she sculpted herself (used as a prop in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner on the desk where Sidney Poitier makes his phone call) and her own oil paintings. The auction netted several million dollars, which Hepburn willed mostly to her family and close friends, including television journalist Cynthia McFadden.
Hepburn's genealogy has been researched through the Whittier line back to King Louis IX of France (a great grandson of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom she played in The Lion in Winter). She is listed as one of the descendants of the Mayflower compact author William Brewster (her family tree). In her 1973 interview on The Dick Cavett Show, Hepburn stated that although she agreed with Christian principles and thought highly of Jesus Christ, she did not believe in religion or the afterlife. Her paternal grandfather, Sewell Snowden Hepburn, was an Episcopal clergyman, but on the subject of religion, she told another journalist (this time a Ladies Home Journal reporter) in October 1991 that:
"I'm an atheist and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people."
In 1910, the Hepburn family lived at 133 Hawthorne Street in Hartford, Connecticut. Eight years later, they were recorded living at 352 Laurel Street, also in Hartford. By 1930, Katharine's parents and four younger siblings had moved to a large eight bedroom house at 201 Bloomfield Avenue in West Hartford. As of 2007, the house is owned by the University of Hartford.
Margaret "Peg" Perry, Hepburn's last surviving sister, died on February 13, 2006, aged 85. Perry was a librarian in Canton, Connecticut.
Robert Hepburn, the last surviving sibling of Katharine Hepburn, died on November 26, 2007. Robert was a doctor who followed in the footsteps of their father, Dr. Thomas Hepburn. He was the head of the urology department at Hartford Hospital for more than 30 years.
Hepburn's professional legacy is carried on within her family. Her niece is actress Katharine Houghton, who appeared as her daughter in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Hepburn's grandniece is actress Schuyler Grant, who appeared in Anne of Green Gables and All My Children.
To honor Hepburn, a theater is being built in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Hepburn lived and died in the Fenwick section of Old Saybrook. During the spring of 2009, the state-of-the-art Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater was opened. In October 2007, the town of Old Saybrook received a check for $200,000 from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Historic Restoration Grant for the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theatre, totaling one million dollars received in grants for this project.
On September 8 and 9, 2006, Bryn Mawr College, Hepburn's alma mater, launched the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, dedicated to both the actress and her mother. At the launch celebration, Lauren Bacall and Blythe Danner were awarded Katharine Hepburn Medals for "lives, work and contributions that embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress."
Hepburn lent her name to some liberal social and political causes, particularly family planning. In 1985, she received the Humanist Arts Award of the American Humanist Association, presented by her friend Corliss Lamont.
Hepburn, who resided in a brownstone located at 244 East 49th Street in the borough of Manhattan of New York City, was honored posthumously by neighbors in her community, Turtle Bay. First, a garden near her home was dedicated in her name in 2004. The garden contains 12 stepping stones each inscribed with quotes. One reads:
I remember when walking as a child, it was not customary to say you were fatigued. It was customary to complete the goal of the expedition.
In addition to the garden, the intersection of East 49th Street and 2nd Avenue has been renamed Katharine Hepburn Way by the city.
To mark the 100th anniversary of her birth in May 2007, the cable channel Turner Classic Movies dedicated a week of its evening broadcast hours to her films and documentaries on her life. Warner Brothers Home video also celebrated the 100th anniversary of her birth by releasing a box set of movies not previously available on DVD – Morning Glory (1933), Sylvia Scarlett (1936), Dragon Seed (1944), Without Love (1945), Undercurrent (1946), and the TV movie The Corn Is Green (1979).
In the 2004 Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, Hepburn was portrayed by Cate Blanchett, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. It marked the first instance when an Academy Award–winning actress was turned into an Academy Award–winning role.
In the "Legends of Hollywood" stamp series, Hepburn was honored as being the sixteenth star to earn her own stamp. These commemorative stamps were unveiled in Old Saybrook, CT and became available for sale in U.S. post offices on May 12, 2010, which would've been her 103rd birthday.
Graduated from Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1928, with a degree in history and philosophy.
Was named Best Classic Actress of the 20th Century in an Entertainment Weekly on-line poll, just barely (21.5% to 20.6%) beating out runner-up Audrey Hepburn. [September 1999]
She never watched Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) because it was Spencer Tracy's last film.
Ranked #1 woman in the AFI's "50 Greatest Movie Legends." [June 1999]
Walked around the studio in her underwear in the early 1930s when the costume department stole her slacks from her dressing room. She refused to put anything else on until they were returned.
She was nearly decapitated by an aeroplane propeller when she was rushing about an airport, avoiding the press.
A leading contender for Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), she later served as Maid of Honor at Vivien Leigh's and Laurence Olivier's wedding.
Had a relationship with Spencer Tracy from 1943 until his death in 1967.
Ranked #68 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
Born at 3:47pm-EST.
Aunt of actress Katharine Houghton, who portrayed her character's daughter in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
Admitted to using her brother's birthdate as her own for years.
Does not suffer from Parkinson's disease. She set the record straight in the 1993 TV documentary Katharine Hepburn: All About Me (1993) (TV), which she narrated herself. Quote: "Now to squash a rumor. No, I don't have Parkinson's. I inherited my shaking head from my grandfather Hepburn. I discovered that whisky helps stop the shaking. Problem is, if you're not careful, it stops the rest of you too. My head just shakes, but I promise you, it ain't gonna fall off!"
Was admitted to a Hartford hospital for treatment for a urinary infection. Her release was delayed because doctors wanted to monitor her walking. [18 July 2001]
Was a direct descendant of Britain's King John through one of his illegitimate children. Hepburn played King John's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in The Lion in Winter (1968).
Great-aunt of Schuyler Grant and Daniel Jenkins.
Turned down the role of Marilla in Anne of Green Gables (1985) (TV), but recommended her great-niece, Schuyler Grant for the role of Anne. Schuyler ended up playing Diana instead.
On American Film Institute's list of "Top 100 U.S. Love Stories," compiled in June 2002, Hepburn led all actresses with six of her films on the list. (Actor Cary Grant, co-star with her in two of them, led the male field, also with six films on list). The duo's The Philadelphia Story (1940) was ranked #44 and their Bringing Up Baby (1938) ranked #51. Hepburn's four other movies on AFI Top "100 Love Movies list" are: - #14 The African Queen (1951) - #22 On Golden Pond (1981) - #58 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - #74 Woman of the Year (1942)
Meryl Streep beat her in the number of Oscar nominations, when she received her 13th Oscar nod for Adaptation. (2002). However, Hepburn still reigns as the only 4-time Oscar recipient for acting.
As of 2009, "Only Tie in Oscars For Best Actress", Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (1968) and Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter (1968) in 1969.
Her father's name was Thomas Hepburn and her mother's name was Katharine Houghton. Each of their six children were given Mrs. Hepburn's maiden name for their middle names.
Was nominated for two Tony Awards: in 1970 as Best Actress (Musical), for playing the title character, Coco Chanel in "Coco," and in 1982 as Best Actress (Play), for "The West Side Waltz." She lost both times.
Her maternal grandfather; her father's brother, Charlie; and her older brother, Tom, all committed suicide. These tragedies were never talked about in her family. Ms. Hepburn said of her parents, "There was nothing to be done about these matters and [my parents] simply did not believe in moaning about anything."
Made nine films with Spencer Tracy, the first of which was Woman of the Year (1942).
Admitted that she was menstruating while making The African Queen (1951), which resulted in giving her fellow crew members the impression that she was moody and difficult.
On June 2004 Sotheby's auction house hosted a two-day estate of Katharine Hepburn, auctioning of personal belongings of the legendary actress to collectors. The auction included her furniture, jewelry (which included the platinum, diamond and sapphire given to her by then-boyfriend Howard Hughes which fetched $120,000, six times its estimated price), paperwork (such as personal checks, telegrams, birth certificates, letters, film contracts, movie scripts), and nomination certificates from the Academy Awards. Among other items were casual clothes, and gowns that included her unusual wedding dress to Ludlow Ogden Smith in 1928, made of crushed white velvet with antiqued gold embroidery, sold for $27,000. Also consisted in the lot were house decorations drawings and paintings done by the actress herself, glamour portraits, and a glass bronze sculpture entitled "Angel on a Wave" sold for $90,000 while a self-portrait entitled "Breakfast in Bed and a Self-Portrait in Brisbane, Australia", fetched $33,000, some 40 times the estimated price. Movie memorabilia comprised of a ring from her 1968 film The Lion in Winter (1968), Gertrud (1964), the canoe from the film On Golden Pond (1981) sold for $19,200 to entertainer Wayne Newton and the most sought after piece and the most expensive item was the bronze bust of Spencer Tracy that Hepburn created herself and was featured in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). The audience cheered when the 3-inch sculpture sold for $316,000, compared to an estimate of $3,000-$5,000. The only awards that were won by the actress to be auctioned of were the 1958 Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year, the annual Shakespeare club of New York City, the Fashion Desinger Lifetime Achievment, a few Box Office Blue Ribbons, the Walk of Fame plaque and the 1990 Kennedy Center Honor. Her four Oscars were not included due to contract reasons.
She was one of the few great stars in Hollywood who made no attempt to sugarcoat her true personality for anyone, a personality that was by all accounts feisty and some would say nasty. She was infamous for letting those whom she disliked know it.
Was a natural red head.
Her affair with Howard Hughes was portrayed by Cate Blanchett and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator (2004).
She was voted the "2nd Greatest Movie Star of All Time" by Entertainment Weekly.
Was a self-confessed fan of John Gilbert and Greta Garbo.
In The Lion in Winter (1968) she plays the mother of Richard Lionheart, who is played by Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins later said that Hepburn's voice was, in part, the basis for Hannibal Lecter's voice.
In a letter to Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Gregory Peck, she claimed that sentiment for the death of her long-time lover and co-star, Spencer Tracy, had been part of the reason she won her second Oscar for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). She told also Peck that she modeled her award-winning characterization of "Christina Drayton" on her mother.
When Cate Blanchett won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Aviator (2004), Hepburn became the first previous Oscar winner to become an Oscar-winning movie role.
She was voted the 14th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
According to Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley's book "Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s", Hepburn was a leftist in her politics in the 1940s. When the Conference of Studio Unions, headed by suspected Communist Party member Herb Sorrell, launched a strike in 1946-47 against the studios and fought other unions for control over Hollywood's collective bargaining, she expressed support for him (Sorrell was kidnapped, beaten, and left for dead, during the strike, possibly by the Mafia, which up until the early 1940s, had controlled the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which was contesting the CSU for jurisdiction over Hollywood unions.) At a Screen Writers Guild meeting during the CSU strike, She also made a speech which anti-communist, anti-CSU SAG activist Ronald Reagan recognized as being based word for word on a CSU strike bulletin. She ignored lover Spencer Tracy's admonition that actors should stay out of politics ("Remember who shot Lincoln"). Despite their family's wealth, her mother had been sympathetic to Marxism and the Soviet Union. On May 19, 1947, Hepburn addressed a Progressive Party rally at the Hollywood Legion Stadium with Progressive Party stalwart and later presidential candidate Henry Wallace, the former vice president of the U.S. who had been sacked from President Harry S. Truman's cabinet for being pro- Soviet. Wearing a red dress, Hepburn delivered a speech, written by Communist Party member and soon-to-be Hollywood Ten indictee Dalton Trumbo. When screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. (winner of an Oscar for writing her picture Woman of the Year (1942) and one of the Hollywood Ten) was jailed, she wrote a letter of support for him. Years later, in 1964, when Lardner was trying to get Tracy to star in The Cincinnati Kid (1965), he thanked Hepburn for her support. She told him she didn't remember writing the letter and refused to talk about it.
Became very fond of Christopher Reeve, both as an actor and as a person, when he made his Broadway debut opposite her in the 1978 production of "A Matter of Gravity". She became so fond of him that she used to tease him that she wanted him to take care of her when she retired. Ironically, his reply was "Miss Hepburn, I don't think I'll live that long".
Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
She and Spencer Tracy acted together in 9 movies: Adam's Rib (1949), Desk Set (1957), Keeper of the Flame (1942), Pat and Mike (1952), The Sea of Grass (1947), State of the Union (1948), Without Love (1945), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) and Woman of the Year (1942).
After marrying Ludlow Ogden Smith in 1928, she forced him to change his name to S. Ogden Ludlow. She objected to her married name being "Katharine Smith" because there was already a well-known (and rather portly) radio singer with the same name.
One of Hollywood's early tall leading ladies, standing over 5' 7" in an era when most actresses were only a little over 5' 0".
Kate Bosworth has said that Hepburn was her primary inspiration for her portrayal of "Lois Lane" in Superman Returns (2006).
She thought Melanie Griffith was a good actress, but would fade away quickly. She also saw Julia Roberts as the next big thing. But the actress she loved above all was Vanessa Redgrave. She adored every performance Ms Redgrave has ever given and would tell people that she was, "A thrill to look at and to listen to".
Did not attend Spencer Tracy's funeral out of respect to his family.
A resident of Manhattan's Turtle Bay Gardens for most of her life, Hepburn actually lived in a four-story brownstone at 244 East 49th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenue). Famous neighbors over the years have included, Robert Benton, Stephen Sondheim, Garson Kanin and wife Ruth Gordon
Holds the Guiness World Record as the only movie star to win four Academy Awards, all for her leading roles in Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981).
Gained a permanent eye infection while failing to close her eyes when she was asked to fall into a Venice Canal during the filming of Summertime (1955).
Did all her own stunts because the stunt woman never stood up straight enough.
Is known for being an avid golfer, tennis player, and swimmer. She is also known for taking cold showers.
Is in the Guinness World Records-book for "Most 'Best Actress' Oscars Won".
She is a descendant of "Eleanor of Aquitaine", whom she portrayed in The Lion in Winter (1968).
Was nominated 12 times for the Academy Award, all as Best Actress, and won four times. Jack Nicholson also has 12 nominations (8 as Best Actor and 4 Best Supporting Actor nominations) and three wins (two Best Actor trophies and one Best Supporting Actor gong). Hepburn beat out previous acting nomination record holder Bette Davis (a double winner who was nominated 10 times for an Academy Award, all of them Best Actress nods) with her 11th nod and 3rd win for The Lion in Winter (1968) (a record she extended with her 12 nomination and fourth win for On Golden Pond (1981). Herpburn herself was surpassed by Meryl Streep, with 13 nods (11 in the Best Actress category) and two wins (one in the Best Actress category and one Best supporting actress award). While it is possible that Nicholson might equal her four Oscar acting wins, it is improbable that her record of four wins in the top category will ever be equaled, let alone surpassed.
Is one of only five thespians to be nominated for acting honors by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences over five decades: (1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s). Only Laurence Olivier (1930s-1970s), Paul Newman (1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s) and Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine(1960s-2000s) have turned the trick.
Her performance as "Eleanor of Aquitaine" in The Lion in Winter (1968) is ranked #13 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Her performance as "Tracy Lord" in The Philadelphia Story (1940) is ranked #54 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Her performance as "Rose Sayer" in The African Queen (1951) is ranked #94 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Her performance as "Susan Vance" in Bringing Up Baby (1938) is ranked #21 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Three films of hers are on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time. They are: The African Queen (1951) at #48, On Golden Pond (1981) at #45, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) at #35.
Spoofed in the Warner Bros. animated cartoon Little Red Walking Hood (1937), in which Little Red Riding Hood speaks exactly like her.
Godmother of Stanley Kramer's daughter Katharine. She was named after Hepburn, who was directed by Kramer in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
Despite her success at the Oscars, she never attended an Academy Awards ceremony as a nominee. Her only appearance was at the 1974 awards to present the Irving Thalberg Award to her friend Lawrence Weingarten. When she went onstage to a standing ovation, she said "I'm living proof that a person can wait forty-one years to be unselfish.".
Thanked by Natalie Merchant in the liner notes of her album "Motherland".
Her former maid, Emma Faust Tillman, held the title of "World's Oldest Person" for only four days (January 24-28, 2007). Her four-day reign, which was certified by the Guinness World Records committee was also the shortest one on record.
In Italy, most of her films were dubbed by Wanda Tettoni and in the sixties by Anna Miserocchi. She was occasionally dubbed by Lidia Simoneschi, Andreina Pagnani and once by Rina Morelli in Desk Set (1957).
Was a close friend of actor Peter O'Toole, and it is commonly believed that his daughter, Kate O'Toole, was named after her. However, 'Siân Phillips' stated in her autobiography that their daughter was named after the title character in Shakespeare's 'Taming of the Shrew', inspired by the line 'Kate, Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom'.
One of her closest friends, Canadian portrait artist Myfanwy Pavelic died on May 11, 2007, one day short of Hepburn's 100th birthday anniversary.
Thought very highly of the acting talents of Jeremy Irons and John Lithgow. She particularly disliked Meryl Streep, claiming she could recognize Streep's constant search for tactics during a performance. Hepburn also thought Glenn Close talented, but said openly Close's feet were too big for audiences to take her seriously as an actress.
The intersection of East 49th Street and Second Avenue in the borough of Manhattan in New York City was renamed "Katherine Hepburn Place" shortly after her passing. Hepburn lived in a brownstone (244 East 49th Street) which is close to the intersection.
Dropped out of the The Blue Bird (1976) before shooting began.
Was fired by the producer of Travels with My Aunt (1972) early in the filming for demanding too many script changes.
Her accumulation of 12 Oscar nominations (4 wins) was accomplished over a period of 48 years. Meryl Streep had 12 nominations (2 wins) after only 21 years (with an additional 4 nominations by 2010). Bette Davis scored 10 nominations (2 wins) over 28 years. As of 2010, Streep holds the record for her 16 nominations.
Suffered from pyrophobia (fear of fire).
Godmother of Sam Robards, son of Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards.
According to Anthony Harvey - the director of The Lion in Winter (1968) - she kept the Oscar she received for the film in a paper bag and in a cupboard for years after he'd delivered it to her.
Appointed Cynthia McFadden Executrix of her estate.
Aunt of Mundy Hepburn.
Her first name is often misspelled as Katherine, it is actually spelled Katharine with a second A. She was known for correcting those who spelled it wrong.
During what is argued by film historians to be the greatest year in classic American cinema, she was a rare star who did not appear in a film in 1939. Instead, she was on stage playing Tracy Lord in "The Philadelphia Story," which proved to be her comeback after being branded as box-office poison.
Was with Spencer Tracy the night he died. According to her, he had gotten up in the middle of the night to get a glass of milk. She followed the sickly Tracy to the kitchen but before she got there she heard a glass shatter and then a loud thud. She found Tracy dead on the floor; he had suffered a massive heart attack.
The scene in which her character falls into the canal in Summertime (1955) left her with a permanent eye infection as the water was contaminated.
Turned down the role of Kitty Foyle in Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman (1940). The part was then given to Ginger Rogers, who went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
Survived the Great New England Hurricane of Sept. 21, 1938 while at her summer home in Fenwick, CT. Reportedly she was there considering a marriage proposal by Howard Hughes. The storm killed at least 682.
According to her friend and biographer A. Scott Berg, although she said often that Alice Adams (1935) was her favorite film role, it was actually her performance as Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962) that she regarded as her greatest achievement in film.
Pictured on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued 12 May 2010.
Profiled in book "Funny Ladies" by Stephen Silverman. 
Desperately wanted to play the role of Alma Winemiller, which was eventually played by Geraldine Page, in Summer and Smoke (1961).
In 2010, Jason Bateman, who was in one of Hepburn's last movies, This Can't Be Love (1994) (TV), told New York Magazine that Hepburn only ever wore white Reebok high-top sneakers on and off the set. If a scene called for her to be wearing something fancier, all she would do is wear black socks over the white sneakers.
People have grown fond of me, like some old building.
I'm a personality as well as an actress. Show me an actress who isn't a personality, and you'll show me a woman who isn't a star.
Wouldn't it be great if people could get to live suddenly as often as they die suddenly?
I don't regret anything I've ever done; As long as I enjoyed it at the time.
Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to give - which is everything.
I often wonder whether men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.
Not everyone is lucky enough to understand how delicious it is to suffer.
There are no laurels in life . . . just new challenges.
[on Hollywood] They didn't like me until I got into a leg show.
I can't say I believe in prizes. I was a whiz in the three-legged race - that's something you CAN win.
Afraid of death? Not at all. Be a great relief. Then I wouldn't have to talk to you.
Once a crowd chased me for an autograph. "Beat it", I said, "go sit on a tack!" "We made you", they said. "Like hell you did", I told them.
[on fashion] I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear.
My father, a surgeon and urologist, studied sex professionally all his life. Before he died at 82, he told me he hadn't come to any conclusions about it at all.
[on marriage] It's bloody impractical. "To love, honor, and obey". If it weren't, you wouldn't have to sign a contract.
At my age, you don't get much variety - usually some old nut who's off her track.
With all the opportunities I had, I could have done more. And if I'd done more, I could have been quite remarkable.
I find a woman's point of view much grander and finer than a man's.
I remember as a child going around with "Votes For Women" balloons. I learnt early what it is to be snubbed for a good cause.
Life is full of censorship. I can't spit in your eye.
Only when a woman decides not to have children, can a woman live like a man. That's what I've done.
Acting is a nice childish profession - pretending you're someone else and at the same time selling yourself.
It's a bore - B-O-R-E - when you find you've begun to rot.
Plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do.
Life is hard. After all, it kills you.
I think most of the people involved in any art always secretly wonder whether they are really there because they're good - or because they're lucky.
I never realized until lately that women were supposed to be inferior.
Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don't do that by sitting around wondering about yourself.
If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married.
Life's what's important. Walking, houses, family. Birth and pain and joy. Acting's just waiting for a custard pie. That's all.
Life can be wildly tragic at times, and I've had my share. But whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you have got not to forget to laugh.
If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.
It's life isn't it? You plow ahead and make a hit. And you plow on and someone passes you. Then someone passes them. Time levels.
If you survive long enough, you're revered - rather like an old building.
Enemies are so stimulating.
I can remember walking as a child. It was not customary to say you were fatigued. It was customary to complete the goal of the expedition.
I have many regrets, and I'm sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret if you have any sense, and if you don't regret them, maybe you're stupid.
I welcome death. In death there are no interviews!
I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.
I'm what is known as gradually disintegrating. I don't fear the next world, or anything. I don't fear hell, and I don't look forward to heaven.
Listen to the song of life.
Who is Katharine Hepburn? It took me a long time to create that creature.
I don't fear death, it must be like a long sleep.
I always wanted to be a movie actress. I thought it was very romantic. And it was.
"Isn't it fun getting older?" is really a terrible fallacy. That's like saying I prefer driving an old car with a flat tire.
1993] I have loved and been in love. There's a big difference.
 In some ways I've lived my life like a man, made my own decisions, etc. I've been as terrified as the next person, but you've got to keep going.
 The lack of work destroys people.
[Describing Cary Grant] He is personality functioning.
[asked what star quality is] It's either some kind of electricity or some kind of energy. I don't know what it is, but whatever it is, I've got it.
[When Barbara Walters asked her if she owned a skirt] I have one, Ms. Walters. I'll wear it to your funeral.
[pn Marlon Brando] I don't think he's a limited actor at all - I think he's a very gifted actor. Although I'm afraid he may be a limited person.
[on director George Cukor] He has the ability to make me trust myself.
[on Humphrey Bogart] Bogart was like Henry Fonda -- proud and happy to be an actor.
[on Humphrey Bogart] He was a real man -- nothing feminine about him. He knew he was a natural aristocrat -- better than anybody.
[on Peter O'Toole] He can do anything. A bit cuckoo, but sweet and terribly funny.
[1954 comment on Judy Holliday] My, I like Judy Holliday! She looks like a Monet model. And she's so -- so defenseless. I like defenseless people. They're the best.
[on good parts] If it interests you, they don't have to pay you. It's a fascinating business anyway--it's very nice to be paid--but when you do *thrilling* material, it's like buying a piece of furniture that's really good. When you buy it, and it's great, you get *enormous* pleasure out of seeing it, and you never remember how much it cost.
If you have fame, you never feel that you have fame, if you have the brains of a flea. Because fame is something that's over back of you. It ain't ahead.... Not ahead at all. I mean, if you've done it that's great, but "what are you going to do now?" is the *only* thing that matters.
Cold sober, I find myself absolutely fascinating.
Most people, I figure, have a reservoir that you walk into town with your little box of goodies, you know. And this is me, and this is what I have to offer. Then, after a while, you've *sold* all those goodies, and if you don't go away and fill up another box ... you're just repeating. Then you're just growing *old*, and then, for a you know, certain people, there's a time when you're switching from, uh, uh, you're too old to do this, and you're too young to do that, and you have to figure out: what are you? And what really interests you? You see, we're *all* creatures of habit, and we get in a rut, and we run down that rut, happy as bugs. Well, sometimes you're bloody sick of what you're doing. And you haven't got the brains to stop. You know. And you could change, change.
[about her first TV interview, in 1973] I thought, can you think of any really *good* reason not to do it? Except that, oh, I'm so shy, or oh, my private life, or oh, are they going to find out how boring I am? You know? And that was the only reason *now*, in a sense, *not* to do television. Because it certainly is a method of expression, which has to be accepted as these things come along.
On personal power: As one goes through life one learns that if you don't paddle your own canoe, you don't move.
On work: Without discipline, there's no life at all.