Katharine Hepburn Biography

It’s typical that Hepburn would continue to patronise a local craftsman like Mr Margolis down through the decades, when she could afford whatever she wanted. Loyalty: another Yankee virtue.

It is a town of shingled saltbox houses and Greek revival churches. Her furniture was very Wasp: most pieces are primitive English or American. There are lots of spindly Windsor chairs with spoked hoop or comb backs.

Died that she was such a good friend to the town that she’d once bought it a fire truck.
“I will not accept excuses and I will never give one,” Hepburn told the movie critic Rex Reed. “You’re either on time or you’re late. You either remember your lines or you don’t. You either pay your bills or you go to jail.

jay Tm tired’ or ‘I’m nervous’ or this md that. If you’re tired, give yourself some gas and dimb that hill. Why you 3an*t do something is of practically no nterest at ali to me, unless you say /ou’ve got a size eight foot in a size five shoe and can’t take another step. To this say take offyour shoes and hop on my 3ack and 111 carry you the rest of the jvay. But it’sapoorhabitinlifetoblame myone but yourself for anything.”

But, of course, there wasn’t anything .ypical about Katharine Hepburn; after ıll, she created the type, she didn’t Bonform to it. She was her own n vent ion. Like ali true stars, she made lerself up. Her accent, once infamously lescribed as “a cross between Donald Duck and a Stradivarius”, must have *ounded to movie goers sitting in the iark in the Midland Theatre in Kansas Dity like that of a genuine high tone Mew England blue blood. But to a lative of upper crust Boston or Newport her voice was, frankly, a bit peculiar. She was actually an atypical wîew England blue blood. Her parents rhomas and Katharine, a urologist and al sufiragette, stood out in Hartford for their iberal polit ics and their friends: the novelist I Sinclair Lewis, the anarchist Emma 3oldman, the birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. Young Kate, according to biographers, :rained herself to talk as she did.

So though she was the intemational poster *irl for Yankee breeding, she was also a bit of i quirky bird. There are eighteenth century hairs with good bone structure alongside an 3normous white, lighted make up mirror (est: £800 1,200), which the star insisted on hauling from movie set to movie set. For every George (II oak side table (est: $3 5,000; she used one ıs a bar in the “rear sitting room’’, where she mtertained her friends with Famous Grouse ınd water), there is a giant carved swan (est: (3 5,000) a, typically unusual, love token that ihe had given to Spencer Tracy. There are ‘Private Property” and “Look Out For Children” signs that she nailed to a fence in her drivewoy. (The last seems to be a bit of Hepburn esque joke. She never did have any jhildren of her own. “I woııld have made a berrible pareııt,” she said. “The first time my :hild didn’t do what I wanted, I’d kili him.” Stili, it isn’t dear if her satisfaction at being ;lüldless was Hepburn makiııg an active choice m* Hepburn making the best of thiııgs.)

Some of the lots make you gasp, like an Art Oeco platinum and diamond brooch, a present from Hughes, that she rare(y wore, although is a bronz e büst that Hepburn sculpted herselt quite a good likeness, ofSpencer Tracy (est: $3 5,000). If you watch closely, you can spot the head sitting on his desk in Guess Who’s Corning To Dinner. “The ideal American man is certainly Spencersports loving, man’s man, strong looking, big şort of head, boar neck and so forth,” Hepburn said in 1963 of her lover of three decades, who was, everyone agrees, a womaniser and a drunk. “And 11 hınk I represent the woman. I needle him, and I irritate him, and I try to get around him, and if he put a big paw out and put it on my head, he could squash me. And I think that is the romantic ideal picture of the male and female in this country.” Hepburn had good taste: very much the kind of good taste you would espect of a smart lady who came of age in the Twenties, a woman educated at Bıyn Mawr, with bluestocking, bohemian leanings.

Her personal style, her sense of fashion, wasn’t ali that different from that of other great artists and grandes dames of her generation Mart ha Graham, say, or Georgia O’Keeffe. She collected African statues, small stone figures from Egypt, a Spanish colonial madonna, mineral specimens, florist’s frogs for arranging the mountains of cut flowers she kept on any available tabletop. She is present in ali this potsam and jetsam and it is a very likeable presence. She avoided parties, didn’t fraternise with actors, preferred eating brownies to drinking highballs, and was blessed with generosity and integrity; as well as a passionate gratefulness for being alive. She could also be, not to put too fine a point on it, a pain in the ass.

But Hepburn herself would have been the first to chuckle and say, dust to dust. “It’a life isn’t it?” she wrote. “You plow ahead and make a hit. And you plow on and someone passes you. Then someone passes t hem. Time levels.1*
she did pin it on an ascot on one of her costumes for the film of Without Love (est: $15 20,000 the auction’s
top end). Seeing ali these treasures up close, picking them up and tumingthem över in your palm, is startlingly intimate, like extending your hand and touching her aubum hair.

Some of the lots make you laugh, like an African head (est: $5 700), which, according to Lee Dunbar, Hepburn first spotted at a dinner party at a friend’s house. She bluntly asked if she could have it, and when the hosts declined, stomped off in a well mannered version of a huff. They sent it över shortly after.


Katharine Hepburn Biography

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