Kate Remembered

>> Sunday, March 16, 2014

I bought this shortly after Katharine Hepburn died back in 2003. It was a bit of a shock when she passed because after a while you begin to think that certain people really might live forever. I started this and read certain sections all the way back then, like the Michael Jackson segment. I never finished and only got one-third the way through.

Ten plus years later I finally finished, reading the whole thing in less than one week. The small fact that I was out sick for a day and a half probably helped, but this really is a quick read even though its not far from 400 pages.

I've known the general gist of her life before this book from tv interviews and magazine pieces when she was alive. I don't know that this book does more than that since it is partly an autobiography of A. Scott Berg as well. But I did get a better sense of who she was in her later years when the author knew her. I think it's a little bit hard knowing that we don't really have an equivalent celebrity of her stature in the public eye. The closest I can think of offhand is Meryl Streep.

Knowing she's gone, I miss her calling-it-as-it-is statements that were my favorite moments in the book, such as this one:
That night, as rain pelted the windows at Fenwick, I asked Miss Hepburn if she regretted not having children of her own. "I would have been a terrible mother," she said point-blank, "because I'm basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people from going off and having children."
Too true! And a statement I can totally relate too!

And then she totally calls out those actors who are just whiners.
While she sought the limelight all her life, Hepburn believed actors received too much attention and respect. "Let's face it," she said once, "we're prostitutes. I've spent my life selling myself--my face, my body, the way I walk and talk. Actors say, 'You can look at me, but you must pay me for it.'" I said that may be true, but actors also offer a unique service--the best of them please by inspiring, by becoming the agents for our emotional catharses. "It's no small thing to move people," I said, "and perhaps to get people to think differently, maybe even behave differently." I pointed out to Hepburn that she had used her celebrity over the years for numerous causes--whether it was marching in parades for women's equality or campaigning for Roosevelt, speaking out against McCarthyism, or supporting Planned Parenthood. "Not much, really," Kate said. "I could've done more. A lot more....It really doesn't take all that much to show up for a dinner with the President or to accept an award from an organization so it can receive some publicity. Oh, the hardship! Oh, the inconvenience! Oh, honestly!"
And when I finished reading that paragraph, I have to admit that my first thought was that Angelina Jolie is probably the only celebrity of our time that, at least that I can think of, who may be up to Hepburn's standards. I certainly wouldn't consider Mia Farrow a possibility.
"I never really cared for Frank (Sinatra)," Kate later told me, "and you must never ask me about the girl." I later learned that she considered Mia Farrow's father, an Australian-born writer-director named John, so "depraved" that there was "no way that girl could have any moral structure to her life."
Besides all that, I think her attitude as a working woman is still--and probably always--one to emulate.
Hepburn never completely understood why there were so few women directing; there were, after all, many women writing scenarios and editing film. For that, she did not blame the men who ran the studios so much as the women who chose not to challenge them. "It never occurred to me that I was a second-class citizen in Hollywood," Hepburn later recounted, "--nor that women had to be."


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