KATHARINE HEPBURN: A Hollywood Yankee by Gary Carey


Email this review


Though totally without surprises, depth, or fresh research (virtually no trace of original interview material), this short biography of film-great Hepburn--an update of a 1975 paperback original--is a cut above fanzine trash: Carey (All the Stars in Heaven, Doug & Mary) writes decently, is neither a gusher nor a sniper, and avoids the inanities that afflict so many quickie star-bios. As one might expect, there's relatively little here about the un-flashy star's private life; briefly mentioned are her strong family background, her very brief marriage, her romances with Leland Hayward and Howard Hughes, and (in somewhat more detail) her longtime relationship with the increasingly ill Spencer Tracy. (She ""mothered him, nursed him, fed him, cued him, lent him moral support, got him from one day to the next."") The long, busy career, however, receives a solid rundown--from her erratic theater beginnings to celebrity in The Warrior's Husband; from instant film-stardom in Bill of Divorcement through the ups and downs of the Thirties (it's ""possible to admire Hepburn and still see why a large portion of the 1930s movie public positively loathed her""); from the Philadelphia Story comeback to the Tracy/Hepburn comedy hits (most of which Carey believes are overrated) and The African Queen, ""a daring and triumphant leap into middle age."" Carey, a tartly discriminating (if not always persuasive) viewer of the Hepburn canon, judges Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey as ""her greatest performance"" to date; he feels her work in The Trojan Women is underrated but is a bit snide about On Golden Pond; he's slightly less trustworthy and comprehensive on Hepburn's stage work. (Compare, for instance, his few paragraphs on Hepburn's American Shakespeare performances with the close-ups in John Houseman's Final Dress, below.) As a film-by-film, play-by-play chronology, then, this is sturdy and reasonably balanced--and in all respects preferable to Charles Higham's sloppy version.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's