A REMARKABLE WOMAN: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn by Anne Edwards
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A REMARKABLE WOMAN: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn

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Anne Edwards, who told the whole Judy Garland story (1975) and ""the awful truth"" about Vivien Leigh (1977), gives us a sympathetic account of Hepburn, ""a stranger to compromise"" who fought for what she wanted and whose life and rise to stardom are indeed the stuff of legend. Dubbed ""Katharine of Arrogance"" by one newspaper, belligerent to the ""invaders of privacy"" (journalists), Hepburn spat in her director's and producer's eyes when she thought she wasn't treated right, and paraded in her underwear as she had threatened when the studio took away her pair of worn-out dungarees (her life uniform). Her fierce individualism was the product of her eccentric family--all intellectual snobs, bullheaded and self-motivated. Her father, a successful surgeon, supported mother Kit Houghton Hepburn's work for women's equality, and their house was a lively place of fierce debates (during one of which the rebellious mother once hurled a coffee-pot at her husband). Fenwick, their summer house in Connecticut, has remained Katharine's home throughout her life, and until her father's death she sent her salary home and got a weekly allowance. (Once, when she was almost 40, she asked for father to send her more money to buy a dress. But her father refused, writing back that she already had a dress.) Surprisingly enough, the fearless and daring Hepburn never could dine in restaurants because she was terrified of people watching her eat. While at Bryn Mawr she decided to be an actress and, before graduation, she burst into director Edwin Knopf's office in Baltimore (without an appointment); in spite of his insistence that he did not take amateurs, she returned and haunted the rehearsals till he gave her a small non-speaking part in Czarina. She got herself fired a few times, was chastized in 1938 as ""Box Office Poison""--after a string of flops--but fought fiercely back and made such unforgettable pictures as The Philadephia Story and The African Queen (for 12 of which she was nominated for the Academy Awards; four awarded). Woman of the Year was to start her legendary affair with Spencer Tracy. Although she had been married briefly to Luddy (Ludlow Ogden Smith)--who remained a life-long friend--and had numerous ""beaux,"" Hepburn once said that Tracy ""was the only man. . .man enough to counteract her individualistic femininity"" and the only one who could ""smash [her] down."" Edwards. attempting to avoid oversimplification, admits that ""one cannot say that Tracy became a father image to her"" but points out Katharine's submission to the two men. This very readable book, laced now and then with clich‚s, is a tribute to a remarkable individual with a lot of guts. Inspiring stuff, pleasantly written on the whole.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow