“. . . as one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”–Katharine HepburnKatharine Houghton Hepburn was born on this day in Hartford, Connecticut, USA in 1907. Today is the 106th anniversary of her birth.
She was the second of six children born to Thomas and Katharine Hepburn. Her father was a urologist, her mother was a suffragette. Her parents “encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential.” [IMDb] She decided to become an actress while attending Bryn Mawr College.
Upon graduation in 1928 (she got her degree in history and philosophy) she went to Broadway where she got a number of small roles before starring as Antiope, the Amazon princess, in A Warrior’s Husband in 1932. The same year she made her first film A Bill of Divorce with John Barrymore. She won her first Academy Award for 1933’s Morning Glory.
Hepburn was always her own woman. She wore pants, but didn’t wear makeup. She spoke her mind and she certainly didn’t fit into the Hollywood starlet mold. That made for a difficult road for the actress in the mid to late 1930’s. Although she had a few stage and screen successes she struggled until she starred in The Philadelphia Story on Broadway in 1938.
She quickly bought the film rights, and so was able to negotiate her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars. The film version of The Philadelphia Story (1940), was a box-office hit, and Hepburn, who won her third Oscar nomination for the film, was bankable again. For her next film, Woman of the Year (1942), she was paired with Spencer Tracy, and the chemistry between them lasted for eight more films, spanning the course of 25 years, and a romance that lasted that long off-screen. (She received her fourth Oscar nomination for the film.) Their films included the very successful Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957). [Ibid]
By the 1950’s she was pegged for more mature roles like Oscar nominated role opposite Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.
She won her second Oscar opposite Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Tracy’s last movie) in 1967. And repeated the walk down the red carpet to pick up Oscar #3 the following year for The Lion In Winter.
Hepburn added more TV work to she schedule in the 1970s, but still found some plum film work including Rooster Cogburn and On Golden Pond. She won her 4th Oscar for Golden Pond.
Katharine Hepburn died on June 29, 2003. She was 96 years old.