I recently finished reading Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn, a unique autobiography complete with tell-all history and distinguishable voice. Hepburn shares her life story in quick bursts of remembrance beginning with her childhood in Hartford. She then recounts her college years and theater beginnings followed by the early Hollywood screen tests which would catapult her to film fame and then legacy. All the while sharing details about her famous relationships with men, including her 27 year affair with Spencer Tracy (which really was a simple and beautiful love story). If you’re a fan of her films, I recommend giving this autobiography a read. The book revisits nearly every movie she was in, from casting to premiere, and the inside peek at the woman behind the talent makes watching them again all the more enjoyable. She really was a fascinating firecracker. Here are a few of her insights in her own words…
On her mother – “the greatest gift she gave us was freedom to be noisy, to yell. No nags. Do it? Yes, do it! And tell me about it.”
On young love – “I took one look at him and I was stricken with whatever it is that strickens one at once and for no reason when one looks at a member of the opposite sex.”
On looking at reviews – “I never look at notices. So they don’t exist. Or at movies that I have made. They don’t exist. My past sins, so to speak.”
On helping others – “If you are going to help anybody who is in trouble, this is not a two-hour-a-day job. It is a twenty-four-hour-a-day job. You won’t do anything else if you decide that you are going to resurrect and rearrange a human being.”
On the power of thought – “You’ve got to dream up everything. I believe in miracles. I believe that here we are and we can be in severe physical trouble. But if our spirits aren’t in severe physical trouble, then we can rise up out of it. That’s what we’ve got that the animals really haven’t got.”
On being wrong – “He was not afraid to be wrong. That is a terrible disease.”
On growing old – “Heard a funny thing the other day. Someone asked someone who was about my age: “How are you?”
Answer: “Fine. If you don’t ask for the details.”
That’s about it. Isn’t it?”
On the meaning of love – “LOVE has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and you cannot help giving.”
On Spencer’s acting – “Who was he? I never really knew. He had locked the door to the inside room…I only suspected that inside that room was a powerful engine which ran twenty-four hours a day at full speed. It turned out some remarkable people–yes–all those different people.”
On Spencer’s death – “He looked so happy to be done with living, which for all his accomplishments had been a frightful burden to him. So quiet. He who had turned and turned in that bed. No one able to help him really. One builds one’s own jail.”
As soon as I finished the book I consulted my friend (and resident Hepburn expert) Ben on what movies I should watch now that I’m a full-fledged fan of this feisty star! I’ve watched several Katharine movies with Ben over the years; A Bill of Divorcement, Bringing Up Baby, Stage Door–but the book really made me want to watch more! He suggested The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Spencer Tracy’s last film), The Glass Menagerie, and The Philadelphia Story. Looks like I’ll be busy!!!
P.S. Now I’m reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants and it’s so interesting to see how things have changed (and HAVEN’T) for women in the entertainment industry. The overwhelming similarity between the two women? They don’t spend time trying to be someone they are not simply because there are men in the room.
Are you a Katharine Hepburn fan? What’s your favorite of her films? Have you read her autobiography? Would you? I think you’d be surprised how much you can hear her throughout the book.