Katharine Hutchinson Biography & Facts
Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. Hepburn's career as a Hollywood leading lady spanned more than 60 years. Known for her headstrong independence and spirited personality, she cultivated a screen persona that matched this public image, and regularly played strong-willed, sophisticated women. Her work came in a range of genres, from screwball comedy to literary drama, and she received four Academy Awards for Best Actress—a record for any performer. In 1999, Hepburn was named by the American Film Institute the greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema.
Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while studying at Bryn Mawr College. Favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Her early years in film brought her international fame, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for her third picture, Morning Glory (1933), but this was followed by a series of commercial failures culminating in the critically lauded but commercially unsuccessful comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938). Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star. That comedy film was a box office success and landed her a third Academy Award nomination. In the 1940s, she was contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy, which spanned 26 years and nine movies and extended to an unacknowledged off-screen affair.
Hepburn challenged herself in the latter half of her life, as she tackled Shakespearean stage productions and a range of literary roles. She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, such as in The African Queen (1951), a persona the public embraced. Hepburn earned three more Oscars for her work in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). In the 1970s, she began appearing in television films, which later became the focus of her career. She made her final screen appearance at the age of 87. After a period of inactivity and ill health, Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.
Hepburn famously shunned the Hollywood publicity machine and she refused to conform to society's expectations of women. She was outspoken, assertive, and athletic, and wore trousers before they were fashionable for women. She was briefly married as a young woman but thereafter lived independently. With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn epitomized the "modern woman" in the 20th-century United States, and is remembered as an important cultural figure.
Early life and education
Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut, the second of six children. Her parents were Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879–1962), a urologist at Hartford Hospital, and Katharine Martha Houghton (1878–1951), a feminist campaigner. Both parents fought for social change in the US: Thomas Hepburn helped establish the New England Social Hygiene Association, which educated the public about venereal disease, while the elder Katharine headed the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association and later campaigned for birth control with Margaret Sanger. As a child, Hepburn joined her mother on several "Votes For Women" demonstrations. The Hepburn children were raised to exercise freedom of speech and encouraged to think and debate on any topic they wished. Her parents were criticized by the community for their progressive views, which stimulated Hepburn to fight against barriers she encountered. Hepburn said she realized from a young age that she was the product of "two very remarkable parents", and credited her "enormously lucky" upbringing with providing the foundation for her success. She remained close to her family throughout her life.The young Hepburn was a tomboy who liked to call herself Jimmy and cut her hair short. Thomas Hepburn was eager for his children to use their minds and bodies to the limit and taught them to swim, run, dive, ride, wrestle, and play golf and tennis. Golf became a passion of Hepburn's; she took daily lessons and became very adept, reaching the semi-final of the Connecticut Young Women's Golf Championship. She loved swimming in Long Island Sound, and took ice-cold baths every morning in the belief that "the bitterer the medicine, the better it was for you". Hepburn was a fan of movies from a young age and went to see one every Saturday night. She would put on plays and perform for her neighbors with friends and siblings for 50 cents a ticket to raise money for the Navajo people.
In March 1921, Hepburn, 13, and her 15-year-old brother Tom were visiting New York, staying with a friend of their mother's in Greenwich Village over the Easter break. On March 30, Hepburn discovered the body of her adored older brother dead from an apparent suicide. He had tied a curtain tie around a beam and hanged himself. The Hepburn family denied it was suicide and maintained that Tom's death must have been an experiment that had gone wrong. The incident made the teenage Hepburn nervous, moody, and suspicious of people. She shied away from other children, dropped out of Oxford School, and was tutored privately. For many years she used Tom's birthday (November 8) as her own. It was not until her 1991 autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life, that Hepburn revealed her true birth date.In 1924 Hepburn was admitted to Bryn Mawr College. She initially agreed to attend the institution to satisfy her mother, who had studied there, but ultimately found the experience to be fulfilling. It was the first time she had been in school for several years, and she was self-conscious and uncomfortable with her classmates. She struggled with the scholastic demands of university, and once was suspended for smoking in her room. Hepburn was drawn to acting, but roles in college plays were conditional on good grades. Once her marks had improved, she began performing regularly. She performed the lead role in a production of The Woman in the Moon in her senior year, and the positive response it received cemented Hepburn's plans to pursue a theatrical career. She graduated with a degree in history and philosophy in June 1928.
Breaking into theatre (1928–1932)
Hepburn left university determined to become an actress. The day after graduating, she traveled to Baltimore to meet Edwin H. Knopf, who ran a successful stock theatre company. Impressed by her eagerness, Knopf cast Hepburn in his current production, The Czarina. She received good reviews for her small role, and the Printed Word described her performance as "arresting". She was given a part in the following week's show, but her second performance was less well received. She was criticized for her shrill voice, and so left Baltimore to study with a voice tu.... Discover the Katharine Hutchinson popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Katharine Hutchinson books.