Miss Independent: the obsessive originality of Katharine Hepburn


On her own accord, Hepburn gave it her all in her 27-year clandestine relationship with groom Spencer Tracy, whom she had long admired from afar. According to Hepburn, Tracy was initially reluctant to appear in 1942 woman of the year, exclaiming: “How can I take a picture with a woman who has dirt under her fingernails and who has an ambiguous sexuality and always wears pants.”

Hepburn’s tender, vulnerable and painful side shines through as she gushes over Tracy – her genius, her humor, her intellect. She’s also candid about her private torment, her battle with alcoholism and depression, and her choice to put her own career aside to soothe and heal a man who could never rest, lying on the floor. next to him, talking to him about sleeping while he was fighting. insomnia.

While Hepburn presents their unequal relationship as solely his choice, it appears to be a classic AL-Anon relationship, with the practical and strident partner being used by a mentally ill partner. As Edwards notes, Tracy could be remarkably cruel to Hepburn, “crushing” him in front of friends and co-workers. Mann believes Tracy was actually gay or bisexual and that Hepburn exaggerated the extent of their romance.

Whatever the truth, the depth of Hepburn’s feelings for Tracy is clear. She was the one who found him dead in 1967, and her grief is palpable. “He looked so happy to end his life, which despite all his accomplishments had been a terrible burden on him,” she wrote. “I never knew him, I think. And he’s the only one that ever knew me, that was on me. I think I was a comfort to him. I hope. Dear friend.”

As Edward writes, after Tracy’s death, Hepburn proudly stepped out of the shadows, telling everyone their secret love story. It may have been revenge against Tracy’s holy widow, Louise, whose careless comment of hers, “I thought you were just a rumour,” admittedly cut her to the heart:

After almost thirty years? A rumor? What could be the answer to that? It was a deep, fundamental, deeply rooted wound that was never to be moved. Nearly thirty years, Spence and I had known each other, through good times and bad. A rumor.

The fighter

“As you go through life, you learn that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move,” Hepburn writes.

Hepburn retained her fighting spirit until the end, although she clearly softened the edges. According to Edwards, after feeling mistreated by director Joe Mankiewicz in 1959 Suddenly last summer, she’s proven she’s not one to mess with. “When Mankiewicz called the film’s final ‘cut’, Kate crossed the soundstage towards him,” Edwards wrote. “‘Are you absolutely sure that you will no longer need my services?’ she asked. ‘Yes I am sure.’ ‘Absolutely?’ ‘Absolutely.’ Then, in front of the shocked company, she leaned forward and spat right in his eye.

On the set of 1981 On the golden pond, Hepburn, 74, remembers taunting the just as loudly Jane Fonda (which she adored). “One moment in the photo, Jane had to somersault back into the water from a springboard. I would torture her saying, ‘If you can’t do it honey, I’ll do it for you,'” wrote she said, “‘It’s one of my specialties.’ You can be sure she did it herself.

She continued to work for progressive causes, campaigning for Planned Parenthood in the 1980s in honor of her extraordinary mother. She died at her family home in Fenwick, Connecticut, in 2003, surrounded by her beloved family. “You suddenly realize what a tremendous opportunity it is to be alive,” she wrote of surviving into old age. “The potential. If you can keep going, you can actually do it. So keep going, you can win. When you stop, you’re done.”


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