Katharine Hepburn was born in 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut, to a family that combined the rather snobbish attitudes of the Yankee upper class with unconventional ideas, notably atheism and women’s liberation. After attending Bryn Mawr, she acted in some stage plays, then made her way into the movies. Independent to the point of arrogance and a clever businesswoman, she was thought of as box-office poison in the 40s. Her acting career has been exceptionally long, with both hits and misses; she has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve times, and won four times, setting a Hollywood record. She married once and had numerous relationships, most notably with Howard Hughes and Spencer Tracy. Today she is regarded as a screen legend, and as the epitome of the strong, independent woman who is more admired today than when she was young.
Ms. Hepburn, your book reads as if you were speaking rather than writing. I wonder if you dictated it, and then had it transcribed? In any case, it seems more like a monologue, a soliloquy, than a conversation with the reader.
Oh, it’s a dialogue all right. Didn’t you read the Prologue? It’s the “power behind the throne…[my] character”, having her say throughout most of the book. Although the “lucky side of the coin…‘the great big beautiful doll’” speaks up from time to time as well . The pretty girl that made her way into the movies is starting to get rather old now, and she’s certainly done some odd things along the way, some not terribly bright things. But the strong part of me, the character, is the part that’s always managed to keep both sides of me on track, to keep me true to myself. As I said in the Prologue, I got that side from my parents, and from my grandparents, for that matter.
You mention that when you were in Wales, filming “The Corn Is Green”, you realized that lovely young actresses like Toyah Wilcox might take the spotlight away from you, as you did from older actresses when you were an ingénue. “Who’s going to look at you, Kathy?…Is it your turn now, Kathy?” . Do you think that’s when the character side of your personality got the upper hand over the “self-conscious beauty”? .
I always valued character over beauty. “When I was a kid, I always hoped that someone would say, ‘What beautiful eyes you have,’…but no one ever said it to me”. I did have an eye job done , although that was partly practical, not just cosmetic. As I said at the time, “it really is just a question of maintenance…I’d like to sell myself as an object as long as it’s practical”. Beauty was a means to an end. It was how I made my living, not who I was.