Friday, January 21, 2005

Kate Remembered, by A. Scott Berg

This book came to me as a Christmas present from my mother. I can't say that I've ever really been a fan of Katharine Hepburn. To be honest, I get sick of hearing people raving about how wonderful she was. It seems if you're a movie star and half way intelligent or decent as a human being they laud you to the skies. Surely there are millions of Katharine Hepburns the world over, it's just they're not famous.

This was a really enjoyable book. The author, A. Scott Berg, has written extensively about Hollywood and knows his subject. In 1983 he met and became friends with Miss Hepburn, frequently staying at her house. The biography is a mixture of memoir and a chronology of her work as an actress.

There was heaps I didn't know about Katharine Hepburn, and must admit to now being more intrigued to find out some of her films. What I admired most about her was she persistently flung herself at difficult and challenging acting jobs throughout her career, even repeatedly taking on Shakespeare as a stage actress. What other actresses of her generation did such a thing. She even played Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It. Can you imagine any one more perfect to play that cross dressing, male willed heroine?

Katharine Hepburn had a hard core of common sense. She kept her own house and independent lifestyle all her life. She didn't get in a flap because she couldn't marry Spencer Tracy, but rather kept a cool head.

She had a sharp intelligence and articulate mind, no doubt the result of her life long devotion to reading. Check out this remarkable response, given in her eighties, to the question of whether she believed in Jesus Christ:

'I believed he lived,' she said without hesitation. 'And I believe he was an exemplary human being who walked the earth�.and if more people practiced what he preached, this world would be a better place. And I'd say a lot of people have done terrible things in his name. But was he the son of God? Well, I don't think I could honestly say�..'

It was painful to read of the last years of her life, lingering on and on and on well into her nineties, without any apparent joy in life. Also, it was shocking to read about Warren Beatty trying to coax her (successfully, after much trying) for a bit part in one of his stupid movies. (He got her to say this numb line, 'fuck a duck'. Really.) Couldn't he leave the poor woman alone and allow her some dignity? What a creep.

Michael Jackson fans should turn to page 214 for an eye popping 12 page description of a visit by the star. MJ was 25 at the time, at the height of his Thriller fame. It's the weirdest thing I've ever read. Michael seems like an evil child - oh so sweet, but entirely manipulative. He barely says anything throughout the dinner, doesn't know much about Hepburn's films, despite professing to be a fan. Near the end of the dinner he asks to speak privately to Miss Hepburn, and suddenly the other guests hear her saying, 'Absolutely not! Out of the question'. Michael wanted a photo of him with Katharine. (He had a professional photographer waiting out in his car.) When this failed he asked if she knew Greta Garbo, and if she could organise a meeting, to which Miss Hepburn gave another definite no.

A really enjoyable book. Check it out!

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