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Roxana Anton

Katharine Hepburn - What Movies to Start With?

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Roxana Anton
Roxana Anton

Some of you might consider Classic Hollywood old-fashioned and boring.

It's not like that: some films and actors are so fresh and charming, still in our times!

This is the case of Katharine Hepburn.

Since May 12th she was celebrating her birthday (she would have been 114: Happy Birthday, dear Classic Lady of the screen!), and since she is one of the greatest female icons on the planet, you might get curious, and want to see one or two of her films.

And obviously, do not waste your time disliking them.

But which one? Where to start?

I watched a few of her most famous films in chronological order of their appearance date, as I wanted to acknowledge Katharine's evolution in time, along with the roles, and her life experience in general.

I still believe as of today that Katharine Hepburn was one of the most remarkable, expressive, and strong actresses ever born.

Not a wonder she is no.1 on Classic Hollywood's Actress list.

Katharine filmed about 43 movies, but here are a few to start with, that you will find online for free and will enjoy 100% if you don't know much about her and you are reluctant (or simply curious) about her acting skills.

Alice Adams (1935)

A romantic drama film adapted from the novel Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington.

A remarkable jewel of cinema, almost forgotten today, and - if you want - an icon for feminism, for the struggle of women to obtain a good, deserved role in society, all along with marrying the love of your life.

Why I strongly recommend this film: it's about a young woman who desperately tries to integrate into a cold society where only money and social position count.

Katharine's interpretation is, by far, one of the best seen on screen in the Classic Hollywood era.

She did such a remarkable role, although almost forgotten, that only for this, I would have handed her an Academy Award. One of those roles that show her true acting skills, in their complexity.

Holiday (1938)

A delicious comedy, bringing together Katharine and Cary Grant.

This American romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor, tells the story of a man who has risen from humble beginnings, only to be torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée's family. (source: Wikipedia)

Stage Door (1937)

This is probably my favorite Katharine Hepburn's movie from her classic period. So far.

Apparently, it's a "usual" story of a guest house for young actresses in search of good stage roles and a good acting career.

But as the story goes deeper, we find out the dramas hidden in a young actress's life, desperately trying to make something of her, being distributed in that special role of a lifetime, that can completely change one's destiny.

I won't unveil the plot, I will only say that the movie brings together Katharine and the amazing Ginger Rogers.

And that, towards the end, you will truly understand what happens in an actress's psychology, and how a very normal young woman, who wanted to escape the pressures of a rich family and a demanding father, can transform into a huge theatre actress.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

A truly funny comedy, written specifically for Hepburn, and tailored to her personality.

It brings together Hepburn and Grant, again, while they get into a lot of trouble, absurd situations, and misunderstandings, trying to handle a dangerous leopard (actually, two).

The movie was a flop in its time, and Hepburn was labeled as "box office poison" by the Independent Theatre Owners of America. Her career would not recover until The Philadelphia Story two years later. (source: Wikipedia)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

This American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, stars Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, and features Hepburn's niece Katharine Houghton.

The film is highly significant from social, cultural, humanitarian aspects, and I will let you see it without further comments, except the fact that it earned Katharine another Oscar, in her 4-times winning career.

On Golden Pond (1981)

A family drama film starring Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and daughter Jane Fonda.

The film is indeed touching, profound, and perfect if you want that warm, peaceful feeling of two people who love each other and stay together, despite difficulties.

The role played by Katharine earned her the last Oscar of her amazing career.

But leaving that apart, this is a very good movie, not to miss, please.
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Now, that you are introduced to Katharine Hepburn's world, you can watch the movie that is considered to have launched her, and made her a big Hollywood, eternal Star.

Directed by the famous George Cukor, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Ruth Hussey, based on the 1939 Broadway play of the same name by Philip Barry, the film is about a socialite whose wedding plans are complicated by the simultaneous arrival of her ex-husband and a tabloid magazine journalist. (source: Wikipedia)

The film is considered one of the best examples of a comedy of remarriage, a genre popular in the 1930s and 1940s, in which a couple of divorces flirt with outsiders, and then remarry.

Hepburn acquired the film rights to the play, which she had also starred in, with the help of magnate Howard Hughes, to control it as a vehicle for her screen comeback. (Wikipedia)

I haven't yet seen Morning Glory (1934), and The Lion in Winter (1969), the other two movies that earned Katharine her other two Oscars, but I will certainly do, in the close future.

And, next on my list, is The African Queen.

Which Katharine Hepburn movie is your favorite?
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain