Drawing on a series of recordings made over many years, beginning in the mid-1970s, acclaimed biographer Charlotte Chandler has written the most intimate and personal biography ever published of Hollywood legend Katharine Hepburn.
Introduced by George Cukor, who directed Hepburn in such classic films as Little Women, The Philadelphia Story, and Adam's Rib, Chandler socialized with Hepburn at the Cukor estate, where the star was then living in a cottage on the grounds. Hepburn agreed to allow Chandler to tape their conversations, during which she spoke candidly about her personal and professional lives. She described finding the body of her adored older brother, an apparent suicide at fifteen, and assuming his birthday as her own. She told Chandler intimate details of her marriage and divorce from Ludlow Ogden Smith, "Luddy," who remained a friend, and of her affair with pilot Howard Hughes. She said that she enjoyed diving nude off the wings of his seaplane when they went swimming together. Her warmest recollections were of her twenty-seven-year affair with Spencer Tracy.
Chandler also interviewed others who knew and worked with Hepburn during her long career, from Cukor to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, Christopher Reeve, and many others. All of them described an actress who was supremely talented, professional, and confident, who always knew where she was going.
By the time she retired, Hepburn had won a record four Best Actress Academy Awards and had been nominated twelve times. Her acting career spanned six decades, and she was universally acknowledged as one of the finest -- if not the finest -- actors in film history. Her range wasenormous: She acted in serious drama and in screwball comedies with equal skill. As she revealed to Chandler in their conversations, her family was a great influence on Hepburn. Her mother was a suffragette and her beloved father a doctor. She would eventually retire to the home where she grew up (although it had been rebuilt after it was destroyed in a storm), symbolically affirming the family values that shaped her personality. She was careful to distinguish her personal and professional lives, telling Chandler that she thought of herself as "Kathy," a childhood name (she had called herself "Jimmy" for a while in childhood), but regarded the public Katharine Hepburn as "the creature."
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