Hepburn, Katharine

Hepburn, Katharine

▪ American actress
in full  Katharine Houghton Hepburn 
born May 12, 1907, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
died June 29, 2003, Old Saybrook, Connecticut
 indomitable American stage and film actress, known as a spirited performer with a touch of eccentricity. She introduced into her roles a strength of character previously considered to be undesirable in Hollywood leading ladies. As an actress she was noted for her brisk upper-class New England accent and tomboyish beauty.

      Hepburn's father was a wealthy and prominent Connecticut surgeon, and her mother was a leader in the woman suffrage movement. From early childhood, Hepburn was continually encouraged to expand her intellectual horizons, speak nothing but the truth, and keep herself in top physical condition at all times. She would apply all of these ingrained values to her acting career, which began in earnest after her graduation from Bryn Mawr College in 1928. Scoring her first major Broadway success in The Warrior's Husband (1932), she was invited to Hollywood by RKO Radio Pictures.

      Hepburn was an unlikely Hollywood star. Possessing a distinctive speech pattern and an abundance of quirky mannerisms, she earned unqualified praise from her admirers and unmerciful criticism from her detractors. Unabashedly outspoken and iconoclastic, she did as she pleased, refusing to grant interviews, wearing casual clothes at a time when actresses were expected to exude glamour 24 hours a day, and openly clashing with her more experienced coworkers whenever they failed to meet her standards. She nonetheless made an impressive movie debut in A Bill of Divorcement (1932) and went on to win an Academy Award for her third film, Morning Glory (1933). Her much-publicized return to Broadway, in The Lake (1933), proved to be a flop. And while moviegoers enjoyed Hepburn's performances in homespun entertainments such as Little Women (1933) and Alice Adams (1935), they were largely resistant to historical vehicles such as Mary of Scotland (1936), A Woman Rebels (1936), and Quality Street (1937). Hepburn recovered some lost ground with her sparkling performances in the comedies Bringing Up Baby (1938) and Holiday (1938), but it was too late: a group of leading film exhibitors had already written off Hepburn as “box office poison.”

  Undaunted, Hepburn accepted a role written specifically for her in Philip Barry's 1938 Broadway comedy The Philadelphia Story, which proved to be a hit. She purchased the motion picture rights to the play and was able to jump-start her Hollywood career by starring in the 1940 film version. She continued to make periodic returns to the stage (notably as the title character in the 1969 Broadway musical Coco), but Hepburn remained essentially a film actor for the remainder of her career. Her stature increased as she chalked up such cinematic triumphs as The African Queen (1951), Summertime (1955), and Long Day's Journey into Night (1962). She won a second Academy Award for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), a third for The Lion in Winter (1968), and an unprecedented fourth Oscar for On Golden Pond (1981); her 12 Academy Award nominations also set a record, which stood until 2003, when broken by Meryl Streep (Streep, Meryl). In addition, Hepburn appeared frequently on television in the 1970s and '80s. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her memorable portrayal of Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie (1973), and she won the award for her performance opposite Laurence Olivier (Olivier, Laurence, Baron Olivier of Brighton) in Love Among the Ruins (1975), which reunited her with her favourite director, George Cukor (Cukor, George). Though hampered by a progressive neurological disease, she was nonetheless still active in the early '90s, appearing prominently in films such as Love Affair (1994) and writing several volumes of memoirs, including her autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life (1991).

 Hepburn was married once, to Philadelphia broker Ludlow Ogden Smith, a union that was dissolved in 1934. While filming Woman of the Year in 1942, she began an enduring, intimate relationship with her costar, Spencer Tracy (Tracy, Spencer), with whom she would appear in films such as Adam's Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952). Tracy and Hepburn never married—he was Roman Catholic and would not divorce his wife—but they remained close both personally and professionally until his death in 1967, just days after completing the filming of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Hepburn had suspended her own career for nearly five years to nurse Tracy through what turned out to be his final illness. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Hepburn the top female American screen legend of all time.

Additional Reading
Homer Dickens, The Films of Katharine Hepburn, rev. and updated by Lawrence J. Quirk (1990); Gary Carey, Katharine Hepburn: A Biography (1975); Barbara Leaming, Katharine Hepburn (1995, reissued 2000).

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hepburn, Katharine — pseud. di Houghton Hepburn, Katharine …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Hepburn,Katharine Houghton — Hepburn, Katharine Houghton. Born 1909. American actress whose unique comedic and dramatic presence marks many motion pictures, including The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam s Rib (1949), and The African Queen (1951). She has received a record… …   Universalium

  • Hepburn, Katharine — • ХЕ ПБЁРН (Hepburn) Кэтрин (р. 8.11.1909)    амер. актриса. Выступала в студенч. т ре, с 1928 на проф. сцене. В кино с 1932 (ф. Билль о разводе ). Уже в первых ф. ( Ранняя слава , 1933, пр. Оскар ; Маленькие женщины , 1933, пр. Мкф в Венеции,… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Hepburn, Katharine Houghton — ▪ 2004       American actress (b. May 12, 1907, Hartford, Conn. d. June 29, 2003, Old Saybrook, Conn.), was an extremely talented performer who exhibited a unique strength, spirit, style, and independence both in her performances and in her… …   Universalium

  • Hepburn, Katharine (Houghton) — born May 12, 1907, Hartford, Conn., U.S. died June 29, 2003, Old Saybrook, Conn. U.S. actress. She made her Broadway debut in 1928 and became a star with her first film, A Bill of Divorcement (1932). Her following grew with Morning Glory (1933,… …   Universalium

  • Hepburn, Katharine (Houghton) — (12 may 1907, Hartford, Conn., EE.UU.–29 jun. 2003, Old Saybrook, Conn.). Actriz estadounidense. En 1928 debutó en Broadway, y tiempo después se consagró como estrella con su primera película, Doble sacrificio (1932). Su carrera progresó con… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Hepburn, Katharine — ► (1907 2003) Actriz cinematográfica y teatral estadounidense. De su filmografía cabe destacar Gloria de un día, Óscar en 1934; Adivina quién viene esta noche, Óscar en 1968, y La reina de África (1952), entre otras …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Houghton Hepburn, Katharine — vero nome di Hepburn, Katharine …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Katharine Hepburn — Studio publicity photo, circa 1940 Born Katharine Houghton Hepburn May 12, 1907(1907 05 12) …   Wikipedia

  • Katharine Houghton Hepburn — (* 12. Mai 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut; † 29. Juni 2003 in Old Saybrook, Connecticut) war eine US amerikanische Schauspielerin. Mit vier Oscars ist sie die Schauspielerin, die am häufigsten mit dieser Auszeichnung geehrt worden ist.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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