It seems to me that my version of this block has a bit of the rosary about it.
All Barbara Brackman had to do yesterday morning was mention Caroline Garlinghouse Houghton’s three daughters: Katharine, Edith and Marion, and all thoughts of women’s suffrage fled my fluffy little head.
That was the exact moment when my brain vapor-locked, because I knew that the eldest daughter, Katharine Houghton Hepburn (a suffragist), just happened to be the mother of Katharine Hepburn (of silver screen fame).
I dutifully finished Barbara’s blog, but much as I love writing about the women’s rights movement, I love old movies more, and I absolutely adore Kate.
Yeah, I could have gone for one of the glamour shots, but Kate was so much more than just another pretty face. On second thought, I don’t think that pretty is an adjective that should be used to describe her… pretty she wasn’t. Kate was a handsome woman, her angularity was striking. Her unique looks set her apart from other actresses of her era and was just one more item in her bag of tricks that she used to great advantage.
Of course her movies can make me laugh and they can make me cry, and sometimes I’ll even find myself doing both simultaneously, but Kate was exceptional at involving the watcher – if only vicariously – in an emotional gauntlet.
How about a top five list, done in no particular order? Trust me, picking only five was tough, because all of her movies are personal favorites.
What’s not to love when Hepburn and Grant are teamed up? Holiday (1938) is a classic meet-cute with an angle. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy meets girl’s eccentric sister. This was definitely a movie that made me laugh with delight, but if you screen it, keep that box of Kleenex handy.
While watching Alice Adams (1935), I suffered acute embarrassment, the kind where you’d just just as soon melt away, somewhat like the ice cream Alice serves up to impress Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray). Spoiler Alert: ice cream was not an outstanding choice for a leisurely dessert in a pre-central air summer heatwave.
I was so embarrassed for Alice that I was tempted to change the channel just so she could have some privacy.
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959): screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal (who had an uncredited appearance in the movie). Oh, and what a supporting cast – Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and the always eerily odd Mercedes McCambridge. This movie has more dark twists and turns than a roller coaster, and Kate nailed the performance of a cold and calculating woman. She was the personification of an overprotective, controlling mother, who always managed to turn a blind eye to her only son’s many faults.
The realization of what lengths people can go to when spurred by avarice, even turning against family, absolutely chilled my heart.
Lucky you, I’ve shared two stills from Sylvia Scarlett (1935). One of Kate as Sylvester…
…the second of Kate as Sylvia, and why yes, that would be Cary Grant costarring again. [Note: Hepburn and Grant teamed up a total of four times in Sylvia Scarlett, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday and The Philadelphia Story.]
An undercurrent of fear brought on by helping an embezzling father stay one step ahead of the law, a naive first love, and perhaps best of all, a comedic line that dances throughout the movie.
Kate costarred with Burt Lancaster (yowza!) in The Rainmaker (1956). A snapshot of a single day in the life of a plain woman who reaches the conclusion that a lonely life stretches ahead of her. Galled by bitterness when she realizes just how much her father pities her, and with no one to call her own, she sees herself an outsider, locked into a spinster’s limbo. Lizzie Curry is a woman empty of hope until Bill Starbuck, an outrageously flamboyant flimflam man steps into her life.
Now your mileage may vary when it comes to favorite movies by Kate The Great, and some of you will wonder at the absence of a single Hepburn/Tracy vehicle – even though they teamed up in nine outstanding movies – but a major consideration in my selection process was the thought, if someone had never seen a Hepburn movie, which five would I recommend?
So t-t-that’s all folks, all that’s missing is a fade to black… but I have always favored a big finish whenever possible.