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Katharine Hepburn

Real name: Katharine Houghton Hepburn
Birthdate: May 1, 1907
Status: N/A
Partner: N/A

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Biography

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an iconic American star of film, television and stage.

A banner year for Hepburn, 1928 also marked her nuptials to socialite businessman Ludlow ("Luddy") Ogden Smith, whom she had met while attending Bryn Mawr and married after a short engagement. Hepburn and Smith's marriage was rocky from the start — she insisted he change his name to S. Ogden Ludlow so she would not be confused with well-known rotund singer Kate Smith. They were divorced in Mexico in 1934. Fearing that the Mexican divorce was not legal, Ludlow got a second divorce in the United States in 1942 and a few days later he remarried. Although their marriage was a failure, Katharine Hepburn often expressed her gratitude toward Ludlow for his financial and moral support in the early days of her career. "Luddy" continued to be a lifelong friend to her and the Hepburn family.

On September 21, 1938, Hepburn was staying in her Old Saybrook, Connecticut home when the 1938 New England Hurricane struck and destroyed her house. Hepburn narrowly escaped before the home was washed away.

In the play, Hepburn entered the stage by jumping over a flight of steps while carrying a large stag on her shoulders — an RKO scout (Leland Hayward, whom she would later romance) was so impressed by this display of physicality that he asked her to do a screen test for the studio's next vehicle, A Bill of Divorcement, which starred John Barrymore and Billie Burke.

Hepburn was already reeling from a devastating series of flops when, in 1938, she (along with Fred Astaire, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and others) was voted "box office poison" in a poll taken by motion picture exhibitors. In 1939, Hepburn was going to do producer David O. Selznick a favor and play the role of Scarlett O'Hara because he did not yet have anyone else signed for the role. Hepburn insisted that she did not have the lustful sexual appeal that the part demanded and told Selznick that his studio needed to find the woman who did. Hepburn rehearsed the lines thoroughly just in case. The night before the deadline, Selznick finally cast Vivien Leigh. Unbeknownst to Hepburn and the rest of Hollywood, Vivien Leigh was favored for the role early on, but as a British actress, she was deemed unsuitable for the part. In addition, her affair with Laurence Olivier while he was in the middle of a divorce made her a controversial pick. The vast "search for Scarlett" was orchestrated to make it seem as if no other actress could be found, thus limiting the shock of Vivien Leigh landing the role. Hepburn was later the maid of honor at Leigh and Olivier's wedding in 1940. Hepburn remained a close friend of Vivien Leigh until Leigh's death in 1967.

The pair carefully hid their affair from the public, using back entrances to studios and hotels and assiduously avoiding the press. Hepburn and Tracy were undeniably a couple for decades, but did not live together regularly until the last few years of Tracy's life. Even then, they maintained separate homes to keep up appearances. Tracy, a Roman Catholic, had been married to the former Louise Treadwell since 1923, and remained so until his death.

Hepburn continued to do filmed stage dramas, including The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), The Trojan Women (1971) by Euripides, and Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1973). In 1973, she first appeared in an original television production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.



 


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