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Stephen Schochet




Katherine Hepburn Stories

by Stephen Schochet


Katherine Hepburn came to Los Angeles in 1932 with a theater person's snobbish view towards Hollywood. In person, she impressed no one with her looks and style, and executive David O. Selznick worried about her "horse face". She finished her first film, Bill Of Divorcement with John Barrymore and told him," Thank God we're finished. I never want to act with you again". The Great Man replied," My dear girl. I wasn't aware that you had".

Many of Miss Hepburn's co-stars couldn't stand her. Stage Door (1936) called for her to make a speech which would cause Ginger Rogers to cry. The director Gregory La Cava knew that the Conservative Rogers hated Liberal Hepburn, so he called Ginger to the set alone. "Babe I got terrible news. Your mother called, your new house burned down." After filming Ginger's tearful reaction, La Cava confessed to the relieved actress that he was lying and excused her; Hepburn was called to the set to make her speech.

Another film that gave Hepburn problems was the comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Cary Grant. Like many movie actresses she didn't at first understand the concept of playing comedy straight, letting the script dictate the humor. Her meddling and constant suggestions drove director Howard Hawks to distraction. Finally he confronted her on the set. "Katie, will you please shut up!" Hepburn replied calmly," Howard, you shouldn't talk that way to me. I have many friends on the set. They might arrange for an accident to happen to you." Hawks looked up into the rafters at one of the film techs manning a huge spotlight. "Hey Joey, who would rather drop that light on, me or Miss Hepburn?" "Get out of the way, Mr. Hawks."

Hepburn at one point was declared box office poison and thought her career would be saved by playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, which she was willing to do for free. Mindful of what the reaction from the South would be to a New Englander playing the role, David O. Selznick cruelly rejected her by saying," I can't imagine Rhett Butler chasing after you for 10 years."

Despite her liberalism, Katherine Hepburn mostly got on well her political opposites, including John Wayne, who kissed her on the lips and called her a "hell of a woman". She laughed when her long time lover Spencer Tracy told the story of visiting her family home in Connecticut. During dinner, her father Doc Hepburn and Kate got into a lively discussion as to what needed to be done by the rich to help the poor. Tired of their moralizing, Tracy went out to the porch for a smoke. After a couple puffs, he noticed a very poor, very lost looking Mexican fisherman, had come onto the property. "Hey better get another plate ready in there, the poor are here to collect," said Tracy. Old man Hepburn came out on the porch. "Hey you, get the hell out of here! I'll sick the dogs on you." After the frightened fisherman ran away Doc Hepburn told the startled Tracy," Got to get the alarms fixed." Then the men went back inside, and the Hepburns resumed their discussion on how to help the poor.

Hepburn was a fearless and generous performer. She fell backwards into the garbage filled Venice canals five times to please Director David Lean while making Summertime (1950), causing her a permanent eye infection. She gave up her close-up scenes to Judy Holiday to help advance the latter's career during the filming of Adam's Rib (1949). She swam with crocodiles while filming The African Queen; in 1951 and 30 years later dove in the freezing cold of Squam Lake in Laconia, New Hampshire without a wet suit, during the making of On Golden Pond. She was admired by women for her strong, independent stances, but her first marriage ended in divorce, and her lover Spencer Tracy never divorced his wife Louise. After he died in 1967 Hepburn disappointed feminists many times by saying she did not believe a woman could have it all, meaning both a successful career and a relationship.


Stephen Schochet is the author of the upcoming book

Hollywood Stories: Short Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies. He is also the author of two acclaimed audiobooks

Tales of Hollywood: Hear the Origins of Hollywood!


Fascinating Walt Disney: Hear How Walt Disney's Dreams Came True!

These entertaining gift items are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 1-800-431-1579 or wherever books are sold.

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