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16 August 2012

Our Miss Fantastic on TCM this Friday: Katharine Hepburn on SUTS

This post is written in conjunction with the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Sittin' on a Backyard Fence and ScribeHard on Film. A full day of Katharine Hepburn films will air on TCM on August 17.

Turner Classic Movies had selected an amazing line-up of movies for Miss Hepburn's day on Summer Under the Stars this year. As the self-proclaimed KH aficionado in the blogosphere, I'm going to rate Friday's movie selection to help the plebes decide which Hepburn films to DVR. You're welcome!

1.) ADAM'S RIB (1949)

If you haven't seen this film yet, it's time you did - this is definitely an essential. Arguably the best Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn film, Adam and Amanda Bonner are lawyers who take opposing sides in a court case in which a woman tried to shoot her unfaithful husband. Hepburn and Tracy are romantic and flirtatious and very funny. The best thing about this film, historically, is that Hepburn is shown as a successful career woman, and at no point does the film try to argue that she should be in the kitchen raising children. She's allowed to be really good at her job, yet she is just as female and sexy as ever.

2.) LITTLE WOMEN (1933)

This is by far my favorite film version of Louisa May Alcott's American classic. My friend Megan argues that this version is too sentimental and she much prefers the Margaret O'Brien one. But I think director George Cukor has really captured the heart and sole of the March family. Hepburn's real-life tomboyishness translates brilliantly to the Jo character. I cannot recommend this movie, or the book that it's based on, enough.

Hepburn, a former history major of Bryn Mawr College, did her research for playing the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine. This film about Queen Eleanor's relationship with England's King Henry II and their three sons is full of wit, with verbal quips flying like arrows in this historically dysfunctional royal family. The film won three Oscars, for best music, best screenplay, and leading actress (Hepburn's third of four well-deserved Oscar wins). 


My personal favorite, this screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Cary Grant has me in stitches every time I watch it. When happy-go-lucky Susan (Hepburn) and professorial David (Grant) continue to run into each other, she falls in love and goes out of her way to keep him near her, even if it means getting arrested while chasing a pet leopard across the Connecticut countryside.

5.) PAT AND MIKE (1952)

Hepburn pushes Tracy around in PAT AND MIKE
The first film Hepburn and Tracy made after the popular ADAM'S RIB (1949) is less romantic, but equally amusing. Hepburn plays multi-talented sportswoman Pat Pemberton and Mike Conovan (Tracy) is her agent, watching her every move to see that she stays in shape for every big game. This film is chock full of your favorite character actors and also features a number of real-life American sportswomen, including Babe Didrickson Zaharius, Gussie Moran, Betty Hicks, and many others.


Hepburn and Tracy's final picture together also stars Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton. She plays their 23-year-old daughter Joey who wishes to marry African American doctor John Prentice, played by Sidney Poitier. The film made waves in 1960s America, which was being revolutionized by the Civil Rights movement. Great performances all around, especially from Hepburn and Tracy who both give the most touching performance as the democratic married couple trying to come to terms with changing times.

7.) WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942)
In their first film together, Hepburn and Tracy play newspaper writers who fall in love and marry. But the couple struggles to make their marriage a success because Tess's job as an international political correspondent interferes with her time with Sam. This is another film showing Hepburn as a successful professional woman, in this case even more successful than her sportswriter husband. Unfortunately, in 1942 this meant that she must be tamed by the film text in order to become more acceptable as a progressive woman. This movie is incredibly sexy, even though I'm not crazy about the ending.

8.) MORNING GLORY (1933)
Katharine Hepburn's first Oscar win is not remembered as one of her great films, but it is worth a watch. It was only her third film, and in many ways it tells her personal story as a young woman trying to find success in the theatre in New York City. Co-stars Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Adolphe Menjou, and C. Aubrey Smith. 

I really like this radical movie about Lady Cynthia Darrington, an aristocratic English aviatrix. This is the only film in which Hepburn is directed by a woman, one of the few female directors in Hollywood at the time, Dorothy Arzner. As one of her earliest films, it contributed to audiences image of her as a wealthy, independent, autonomous woman. This movie also includes the scene with Hepburn in her famous moth costume.

10.) MARY OF SCOTLAND (1936)
Although Hepburn really enjoyed working wiht director John Ford, she hated the simpering Queen Mary and would have much preferred to play Elizabeth. This stodgy costume drama lacks sex appeal and only added to Hepburn's reputation as "box office poison."

11.) SONG OF LOVE (1947)
Music majors love this biopic about Robert and Clara Schumann and their friend Johannes Brahams. Although Hepburn does an adequate job as the famous classical pianist, she is less credible as the mother of seven.

Fail. Co-stars Edith Evans, Yul Brenner, and Danny Kaye. Triple weird. And Hepburn might be able to do eccentric, but no one will ever believe she's mad. She's just not that good of an actress. And everyone knows she's really with it mentally. Of course I've seen this movie, but I don't even know what it's actually supposed to be about. TCM did right to schedule this gasser at 3:45 am. Only hard-core Hep, Brenner, Evans, and Kaye fans will stay up for this one.

I really hope you enjoy Katharine Hepburn's day of glory on TCM. Can't wait to hear what everybody watches! Please don't forget to complete the survey near the top of the right sidebar of this blog. I REALLY value your feedback!


  1. All these movies are fantastic, and all of them testaments to Kate's extraordinary talent. I'm so glad they're showing the first Kate movie I saw, Bringing Up Baby! Instant love! But, I wish they were showing The African Queen and The Philadelphia Story, these are two of my faves! :) You should host a Katharine blogathon, Maggie!

    1. I think Bringing Up Baby was probably my first Hepburn movie too! That's a great idea about hosting a KH blogathon. I might look into that - and you'll def. be invited. Congrats, btw, winning the writing contest!

  2. Haha! Love your comments on The Madwoman of Chaillot. I can't believe I've seen almost every one of these movies. Well, KH is certainly a great maybe not so hard to believe.

  3. Hi, Margaret! Love that you added a link to your wonderful review at my's a link back at you on my take on how Kate came to terms with her failures...and successes. And I totally agree....the ending of WOMAN OF THE YEAR is crazy-making. First of all, will SOMEONE fix that strap!!! My first Katharine movie was Philadelphia Story, too...and I was hooked! Warmly, Kay

    1. Yes, I've totally bookmarked your article - very much looking forward to it!

  4. Margaret -

    For obvious reasons I couldn't wait to read your entry for today's SUTS!! AND you do not disappoint! FABULOUS post on one of the most fabulous stars!
    I haven't seen number 9 thru 12 on your list! The others I love.


  5. I commented - LOVE THIS! Where's my comment? URGH!


  6. If I lived in America, I'd have spent the whole day in front of TCM! In the list the movie I'd be more excited to watch is Christopher Strong.
    what makes my heart almost melt is the fact that I'm a History major, just like Kate.:)

    1. I know how you feel - I'm not in America right now either, but what I do is check the TCM schedule each day and try to get my hands on at least one of the movies some other way and watch it. That helps me keep up with everyone else on the blogosphere!
      And aren't history majors AWESOME! woot!

  7. Margaret~ I totally agree that you should host a KH blogathon. How fabulous would THAT be?!! And as you can read from my #SUTS blog write-up today, my favorite of today's KH line-up is Bringing Up Baby. Cracks me up every single time! It was my 1st KH film followed shortly by The Philadelphia Story. Thanks for always sharing your love of KH- I'm in the fan club with you!

  8. Is it true Hepburn had an affair with John Ford while making Mary of Scotland? Joseph McBride's Ford biography made much of their relationship.

    Anyway I'm sorry I missed this. A few titles I like or have been meaning to catch up on. I think I have The Lion in Winter TiVo'd so I'll try and watch that again soon.

    1. I don't really know, frankly. I think it's definitely a possibility. She certainly respected him, but she also respected his marriage (he was happily married - Tracy had been separated from his wife for years before he and Miss Hepburn started their affair). So I think if they DID have an affair, she would have been so discreet about it at the time, so as not to hurt his wife, that there's really no way for us to prove it now. Either way, I'm not TERRIBLY interested in who she slept with because it doesn't really change my opinion of her as an individual.
      Lion in Winter is good. I'll be posting an article soon about CHRISTOPHER STRONG, which I also recommend. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Hey Margaret, my hand's raised for a KH blogathon too! The first Katharine movie I remember watching, when I was a kid, was The Philadelphia Story and I'm still hooked. I also absolutely love Holiday. It's one of my favorite movies - a study of enjoying life. I liked Summertime, too. Oh, when she cried in it, I cried; she really hurt and I felt it with her. Great post, Margaret!


Can't wait to hear your thoughts!