|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 413 pages
Start date: Spring 2010
Finished date: Spring 2010
Where From: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: I adore Katharine Hepburn, heard that her autobiography is a classic, wanted to learn more about her, and to see what kind of writer she is.
Summary: Classical screen legend Katharine Hepburn writes her life story in a conversational style akin to her on-screen persona that shines through in a series of chronological commentaries on her movies, her romances, and her mostly charmed life.
First of all, if you know Katharine Hepburn from the screen, you will recognize her on the page, and if you enjoy her movies, there is no doubt you will eat this up. She writes as she speaks: charming, sharp-witted, and fast-paced with lots of hyphens and clipped sentences as if in conversation with her readers.
Photos are nicely arranged throughout the book instead of all together in the book’s centre like the nostalgia of a personal scrapbook. At age 13, she looks as elegant as she did for her over 50-year career on stage and screen, depicted in gracious, loving detail without shying from self-criticism for her label as “box office poison” during the 1930s after winning the first of 4 Oscars for only her 3rd movie, Morning Glory. She writes admirably of her parents, a doctor and a suffragette, with sadness at the suicide of her beloved brother, and proudly of her childhood in Connecticut where she lived out her retirement.
She speaks fondly of her husband “Luddy” Smith, who was more of a best friend than a spouse, her friendship with Laura Harding, which began a rumour that Hepburn was bisexual, her affair that wasn’t with Howard Hughes, her long working relationship with director George Cukor, and, of course, her 24-year romance with Spencer Tracy and their 9 films made together. Every well-known film of her career is addressed with grace and humility, including classic favourites Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen (of which she wrote a separate memoir, The Making of The African Queen), The Lion in Winter, and her final hurrah, On Golden Pond, which paired Hepburn for the first & last time with Henry Fonda.
The book concludes with Hepburn’s near-retirement, a live-in friendship with long-time companion/assistant Phyllis, a puzzling, overlong chapter called “Willie Rose and his Maserati,” which you can afford to skip over (I could not understand why it wasn’t edited out as it doesn’t have much of a point or a presence in her life story), a cute fan interaction story “Brief Encounter,” and ends with a love letter to “Spence.”
Me suggests an overstrung ego that isn’t there. Hepburn is content writing gently and lovingly as if in conversation with herself, posing & answering her own questions. It’s a delightful read that I recommend even if you know very little about her. You may get to know her without having seen her movies, which she makes possible with her lovely writing style.
I am interested in reading other well-known biographies of her, which I haven’t attempted yet. If you have read any of the following, please send me a comment:
Kate Remembered- A. Scott Berg
Kate: The Life of Katharine Hepburn- Charles Higham
Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn- William J. Mann
Rank: (A+)- A must-read!