Katharine Houghton Hepburn Defies Convention to Carve a Star of Her Very Own
Harry Smith narrates this account of the life and career of Hollywood screen legend Katharine Hepburn, from her 1907 birth, in Hartford, Connecticut, a daughter of Katharine Houghton Hepburn and Doctor Thomas Norval Hepburn, who also own a beach residence in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, at which young Katharine for many years escapes for solace, until its 1938 hurricane destruction.
Tragedy strikes the Hepburn family in 1921, when Katharine discovers her elder brother, Tom, who accidentally hangs himself, causing Katharine to retreat into depression for years to follow.
Katharine attends the Oxford School and, upon graduation, attends Bryn Mawr College, from which she is suspended for rowdy behavior, but not before she enters its Drama Department to decide upon an acting career, and subsequently returning to graduate in 1928.
In 1928, Katharine enters Broadway, to begin her stage career, appearing in small roles for the next four years. She also marries Ludlow "Luddy" Ogden Smith although the short-lived marriage won't become very close other than Luddy's providing financial assistance to fund her career.
1932 becomes an important year, as Katharine receives recognition for her role in the Play "A Warrior's Husband," and heads to Hollywood to test for John Ford. Not hired by Ford, Katharine tests for George Cukor, who hires her for her first screen role, in "A Bill of Divorcement," on the basis of her delicate placement of a glass upon a table.
RKO-Radio Pictures signs Katharine Hepburn to an acting contract, for which she makes 16 films over a six-year period, garnering an Academy win for Best Actress (1933), and while some of her films draw in the audiences, quite a few flop, and she is labeled "Box Office Poison," largely because of her indifference to the press and autograph seekers.
During this period, Miss Hepburn also flops on Broadway, in an awkward production of "The Lake," causing her to retreat to Connecticut.
Playwright Philip Barry comes to the rescue, by tailoring the leading role in his "The Philadelphia Story" for Katharine, whom Broadway finally receives well in the role, and so she purchases the film rights with a loan from old flame Howard Hughes, to prevent any other actress to be cast in its lead, as she bargains with MGM for production.
The resulting film revitalizes Katharine Hepburn's career, and although she doesn't receive Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable as her requested co-stars, she is paired with Spencer on her next film, "Woman of the Year," they playing professional equals, but upon meeting Spencer, and launching a close enduring friendship, she is said to seek his advice on future career moves.
This episode follows Katharine and the Hepburn-Tracy screen team through the next 25 years, through "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," as her star rises to legendary status along the way and far beyond, in many a memorable film.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Dorothy Loudon (Actress), Anne Edwards (Biographer: "A Remarkable Woman: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn"), Robert Houghton Hepburn (Brother), Anthony Harvey (Director), and Garson Kanin (Screenwriter/Director), with Harry Smith (Host and Narrator). Katharine Hepburn appears in archive interview.
Still Photographs include Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton Hepburn (Mother), Doctor Thomas Norval Hepburn (Father), George Cukor, David O. Selznick, Leland Hayward, Ludlow Ogden Smith (former Husband), Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, Frances Dee, Jed Harris, Howard Hughes, Philip Barry, Louis B. Mayer, Clark Gable, Louise Tracy, John Tracy, Susie Tracy and Lauren Bacall.
Archive film footage includes David Manners, John Barrymore, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, James Stewart, Cary Grant, John Howard, Ruth Hussey, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Peter O'Toole, and Henry Fonda.
Five of Katharine's Broadway Plays are discussed here: "A Warrior's Husband" (1932), "The Lake" (1933-34), "The Philadelphia Story" (1939-40), "Coco" (1969-70), and "The West Side Waltz" (1981-82).
Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Katharine Hepburn through the years, in scenes from a John Ford screen-test (1932), A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Stage Door (1937), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam's Rib (1949), The African Queen (1951), Pat and Mike (1952), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), On Golden Pond (1981), and This Can't Be Love (1994) (TV).
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