One hundred and four years ago today, in Hartford Connecticut, a baby girl was born to Dr. Thomas Hepburn and his wife. The baby was called Katharine Houghton, after her mother, and she grew to become the best screen actress the world has ever seen.
My fascination with Katharine Hepburn began in May of 2007, with the Centenary of her birth. Turner Classic Movies (TCM) www.tcm.com celebrated with airing many of her films all month and I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning and refuse social invitations to be able to make sure that I could see as many of these films as I could. It wasn't long until I understood why many people refer to Hepburn as Katharine the Great.
Katharine Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of ninety-six. In a way, I'm glad that I didn't know of her at the time of her death. For if I did, I'm quite sure that I would have mourned her loss as if she were a dear friend.
In honor of Katharine Hepburn's birthday, and of her work, I present my top five favorite Katharine Hepburn movies:
5. Woman of the Year (1942) This was the movie that paired her with Spencer Tracy for the first time. They would go on to make eight more films together. In this film, Kate plays the typical "independent woman" journalist who falls in love and marries the sportswriter of the newspaper she works for. It isn't long before husband and wife begin to clash over what makes a successful marriage.
4. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) In this film, Hepburn and Tracy worked together for the last time. They were joined by Sidney Poitier and Kate's real-life niece Katharine Houghton, and they played liberal thinking parents having to come to terms with their daughter's engagement to a black man. At the time, the subject of interracial marriage was unheard of, and quite honestly, was a very brave move on the part of everyone who was involved.
3. The Lion in Winter (1968) Hepburn played Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to Peter O'Toole's King Henry II. Although she has much less screen time than anyone else in the film, she dominates it. And I must say that it is an absolute disgrace that Barbra Streisand tied with her for the Best Actress Academy Award.
2. The Philadelphia Story (1940) With this film, Hepburn returned to box office stardom after being labeled box office poison. Paired with Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart and directed by George Cukor, she proved that she was a force to be reckoned with. She had the most delicious way of biting off a line and smiling as she spat venom.
1. Bringing up Baby (1938) My all time favorite Katharine Hepburn movie and the ultimate screwball comedy involving a stodgy paleontologist, a zany heiress, two leopards, and a dog. It was a failure on its initial release, because, according to director Howard Hawks, "Everybody was crazy." It is now considered the definitive screwball comedy, and in my opinion, one of the funniest movies ever made. And Kate had never been better.
Happy birthday, Kate. Thank you for leaving behind such an amazing body of work for the world to enjoy. Thanks for being you. Thank you for just being. You are my hero.
Katharine Houghton Hepburn