Hepburn, Katharine

Hepburn, Katharine, 1907–2003, American actress, b. Hartford, Conn. She made periodic stage appearances from 1928 on and debuted in the first of her 43 films in 1932; in her early roles she was usually cast as rather brittle, one-dimensional characters. With the classic romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940), she softened her image and began playing more interesting women who were also more evenly matched to their romantic partners. Hepburn also established her lifelong image as a high-spirited, intelligent, witty, idiosyncratic, and sophisticated woman, a persona mirrored in her private life. In Woman of the Year (1942) she found her ideal leading man (and life partner) in Spencer Tracy, whose solidity balanced her sophistication in a total of nine comedies spanning 25 years. Their other films include State of the Union (1948), Adam's Rib (1949), and Pat and Mike (1952).

Hepburn won four Academy Awards, for Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). Among her other outstanding films are Little Women (1933), Alice Adams (1935), Stage Door (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The African Queen (1951), The Rainmaker (1956), Long Day's Journey into Night (1962), and The Trojan Women (1970). For television she did Love among the Ruins (1975), in which she costarred with Laurence Olivier, and several other productions. Later stage appearences include Coco (1969) and The West Side Waltz (1981).

See her autobiographical writings, The Making of The African Queen (1987) and Me (1991); A. Edwards, A Remarkable Woman (1985); G. Kanin, Tracy and Hepburn (1988); B. Leaming, Katharine Hepburn (1995); A. S. Berg, Kate Remembered (2003); W. J. Mann, Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn (2006); Katharine Hepburn: All about Me (television documentary, 1993).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies