The Calla Lilies Are in Bloom Again...
Such a strange flower. Suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day and now I place them here in memory of something that has died.
That line, uttered by Katharine Hepburn in 1937's Stage Door, quickly became synonymous with the actress. One need only adapt that clipped, upper crust voice and mention the bloomin' of those calla lilies for people to know exactly who you're impersonating. No other line is as popular in conveying what a unique star she was. (Well, a strong case could be made for some from On Golden Pond, you old poop. But by then even she seemed to be doing a Katharine Hepburn impression. And none of those have the history of this one.)
The line was used in the film for the play that Hepburn's character makes her theatrical debut in. It came from an actual Broadway flop that Hepburn starred in called The Lake. Just how bad was the show? In Dorothy Parker's review of it, she said, "Miss Hepburn runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." The play was so wildly atrocious that Kate herself paid the director to halt production. But, it was a learning experience for Hepburn.
When they decided to use it in the film, Hepburn proved that despite the seeming haughtiness and snobbishness people perceived in her, she was still able to laugh at herself and poke fun at her previous failings --–especially in the rehearsal scenes where she mechanically goes though the motions. Later in the film, when she says the line on opening night, she surprises everyone with how great an actress she actually is. The public, like her fellow actresses in the film, had underestimated her. (By the way, if you haven't seen Stage Door–you must! You owe it to yourself as an Actressexual. It's all about a theatrical boarding house and co-stars Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and Ann Miller!)
So, the next time you're doing your Katharine Hepburn impersonations for your movie-loving friends (and, really, who doesn't love a good Kate impression. Hell, Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for it...), remember those calla lilies and make Kate proud.