After years of being an
outsider in Hollywood, Katharine Hepburn found herself on top in the
late 1960's and early 1970's. Where she was once considered too
outspoken, and at the same time, too reclusive, she was being hailed as
one of the true great actresses.
As the counter culture
movement took full swing, Hepburn was praised as a leader. Her
behavior, which was once frowned upon, was keeping her career going,
while many of her contemporaries were finding minimal work in B-movies
and as supporting players, or else retiring from acting, and even
never attended an Oscar ceremony, or for that matter, took any interest in
anything to do with her own great accomplishments, Katharine Hepburn was
always there for the men in her life. The strong and independent
spirit, was the great woman, behind many great men.
In 1940, The
Philadelphia Story, the property that she had acquired the rights to,
elevated the status of the film's co-stars, Cary Grant and Jimmy
Stewart. In 1951, Humphrey Bogart finally got his long overdue award
for The African Queen.
Spencer Tracy was concerned, Katharine answered to his every need.
"I would have done anything for him," she said. "Food
- we ate what he liked. We did what he liked. We lived the
life which he liked. This gave me pleasure, the thought that this
was pleasing him." Despite her success in the 60's, Hepburn
actually did very little in the way of movie making, stating later that
Spencer's ill health kept her from working.
The one and
only time that Katharine Hepburn did make an appearance at the Academy
Awards was in 1974 to present the Thalberg Award to Lawrence Weingarten,
the famed producer, who brought to life such classics as The Broadway
Melody. He was also behind several Tracy-Hepburn classics, including
Adam's Rib and Pat and Mike.
Hepburn took to the stage, the theatre erupted in applause by a crowd that
was on their feet immediately. "I'm very happy I didn't hear
anyone call out 'It's about time!' ... I'm living proof that someone can
wait forty one years to be unselfish."
Hepburn appeared with John Wayne in one of his last films, Rooster Cogburn.
Wayne was already suffering from cancer during filming of the sequel to
his classic Oscar winner, True Grit, but with Kate in tow, he was able to
turn in a respectable performance. Kate was quite impressed with the
man, and went on to defend his conservative politics. "He is so
tall a tree that the sun must shine on him whatever the tangle in the
trees, in a classic Barbara Walters interview, Hepburn laughed off what
she felt was the ludicrous routine of TV interviews. She told
Barbara that she was waiting for the question "What kind of tree are
you?" to pop up. Walters entertained the idea and allowed Kate
to answer the question. "I'd probably like to be an oak.
They have great strength," she responded. Kate walked away from
the interview unscathed, but the "What kind of tree are you?"
question continued to haunt Barbara Walters many years.
Katharine Hepburn appeared in On Golden Pond. Originally a stage
play, the film would star the estranged father and daughter team of Henry
and Jane Fonda. All of the players were excellent, with Henry and
Kate standing out for their touching portrayal of an aging
Tracy, John Wayne and even Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda was ill when he
made the movie with Katharine Hepburn. He was rewarded with the Best
Actor Oscar that year, and his daughter, Jane Fonda, accepted, in what
would be one of the most touching moments in Oscar history.
Hepburn, however, would take some of the glory for herself that night,
winning her record breaking fourth Academy Award for Best Actress.
As usual, she wasn't there to accept. In her absence, Jon Voight
took to the stage. "I don't think there's anyone here or
watching who doesn't appreciate the amount of love and gratitude
represented by this Oscar selection tonight. We all send our love to
why she never attended the ceremony, she replied, "It has to be
because I'm afraid I'm not going to win. If I were an honest person,
which obviously I am not, I would refuse to compete ... but I do say to
myself 'I wonder if I'm going to win it ...?"