Katharine Hepburn – a woman of substance

With the 85th Academy Awards looming larger-than-life, the Into Vintage team found themselves debating the virtues of worthy winners.

Katharine_Hepburn_Publicity WikicommonsKatharine Hepburn’s name topped our list, not just because she is the most awarded actress of all time, but because she had the conviction to be true to herself and stand up for what she believed in, all of which put her at the forefront of equality and the feminist movement.

Throughout her celebrated career Hepburn was winner of four Academy Awards for Best Actress, and nominated a total of twelve times in this category. She remains the only female ever to have won this many Academy Awards.

Hepburn’s rather unconventional and extremely independent lifestyle helped to change the perceptions of 20th century women, so much so that she was named Top Female Hollywood Legend by the American Film Industry in 1999.

She was raised during the progressive era by wealthy parents who encouraged her to ‘speak out, sharpen her mind and engage with the world’. Hepburn exercised these traits with confidence until the tragic death of her brother Tom, who was found dead, hanging in his room in 1921. It took considerable time for her to overcome the debilitating depression that followed, until she once again found her headstrong and outspoken demeanour. These characteristics assisted her during her earlier acting forays while still a student.

It wasn’t long before she caught the attention of Hollywood and made her first film in 1932. Just one year later she won her first Academy Award for her part in Morning Glory! Her career was well on its way and she was publicly acknowledged for her beauty, eccentric wit and strength of purpose which was evident in all her roles.

While her unconventional behaviour included shunning the Hollywood publicity machine, ironically it also drew attention to her.

Katharine Hepburn was also conspicuous by her athletic nature, her refusal to wear make-up off-screen and her insistence on wearing trousers (slacks) well before it was acceptable, let alone fashionable for women to do so.

Other avant-garde behaviour included her brief marriage at a young age, later followed by a 27 year affair with co-star Spencer Tracey who remained married to his estranged wife throughout. Like all relationships, this one had its ups and downs, but Hepburn placed her career on hold while she nursed him in his final years until his death in 1967. She also refused to see the movie Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, despite winning a Best Actress Academy Award for it, because it was the last movie Tracey appeared in before his death.

It has been suggested that her unorthodox ways worked against her for a period in the early ‘30s when her career hit an all time low and she was branded ‘box office poison’. However in true Hepburn style, she took sole charge of her own comeback by managing the rights of and overseeing production of her role in the film The Philadelphia Story. And she never looked back.

At the age of 83 Hepburn didn’t let a progressive neurological disease get between her and her final screen appearance. She remained vocal and active almost through to the end. Katharine Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.

Inspired? So are we! You can dress like a star with clothing, styling, hair & make-up tips all available at this year’s Love Vintage Shows.  Don’t miss out.

Image sources from top:
Creative Commons, Public Domain
Creative Commons, Public Domain

Creative Commons, Public Domain



Katharine Hepburn publicity still




Katharine Hepburn performs in ‘Little Women’




Katharine Hepburn in ‘Summertime’



One thought on “Katharine Hepburn – a woman of substance

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