Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. Raised in Connecticut by wealthy parents, Hepburn turned to acting after graduation. Favorable reviews of her work on stage in 1932 brought her to the notice of Hollywood. After a few early film successes, including her first Academy Award, for Morning Glory, Hepburn endured a string of flops, which led to her being voted “box office poison”.
She arranged with playwright Philip Barry to write a play with her in mind, one that smoothed over her prickly public image. This play, The Philadelphia Story, turned out to be a huge success on Broadway. Securing the film rights for herself with the help of Howard Hughes, Hepburn sold them to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on the condition that she reprise her leading role as Tracy Lord. The hit film adaptation revived her flagging career.
Throughout her six-decade career, Hepburn co-starred with screen legends including Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story), Humphrey Bogart (The African Queen), John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn), Laurence Olivier (Love Among the Ruins) and Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond). Her most successful pairing was with Spencer Tracy, with whom she made a string of hit pictures, starting with 1942’s Woman of the Year. The last of their nine films together was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), which was completed shortly before Tracy’s death.
Hepburn holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins with four out of 12 nominations. She won an Emmy Award in 1976 for her lead role in Love Among the Ruins, and was nominated for four other Emmys, two Tony Awards and eight Golden Globes. In 1999, she was ranked by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.
To honor Hepburn, a theater was built in Old Saybrook, Connecticut; Hepburn lived and died in the Fenwick section of Old Saybrook. In October 2007, the town of Old Saybrook received a check for $200,000 from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Historic Restoration Grant for this theatre, totaling one million dollars received in grants for the project. During the spring of 2009, the state-of-the-art Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater was opened.
On September 8 and 9, 2006, Bryn Mawr College, Hepburn’s alma mater, launched the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, dedicated to both the actress and her mother. At the launch celebration, Lauren Bacall and Blythe Danner were awarded Katharine Hepburn Medals for “lives, work and contributions that embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress.”
Hepburn lent her name to some liberal social and political causes, particularly family planning. In 1985, she received the Humanist Arts Award of the American Humanist Association, presented by her friend Corliss Lamont.
49th StreetHepburn, who resided in a brownstone located at 244 East 49th Street in the borough of Manhattan of New York City, was honored posthumously by neighbors in her community, Turtle Bay. First, a garden near her home was dedicated in her name in 2004. The garden contains 12 stepping stones (representing her 12 Oscar nominations) each inscribed with quotes. One reads