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A Year with Kate: One Christmas (1994)

Episode 52 of 52: In which we say a fond farewell to Kate.

How, from where we started, did we ever reach this Christmas?

After 52 weeks, 62 years, and over 90 hours of movie-watching, we have arrived at the end of Katharine Hepburn’s career, and likewise the end of A Year With Kate. Never when I started this series did I believe that it would grow as it has. My intention when we began was simply to honor an actress I loved. From that humble beginning, A Year With Kate evolved into a series on celebrity and stardom, a box office tracker, a promoter of hair-brained hair theories and balloon puns, a Hollywood history blog, and above all a forum for everyone from superfans to newcomers to celebrate and debate classic movies.

There is so much to say (including many thank yous), so this last goodbye is being split into two. Next week we’ll have time for us. Today, appropriately enough on Christmas Eve, we will toast Katharine Hepburn with her final film, One Christmas.

Cocktails, conclusions, and a Christmas wish after the jump.

An elegant elderly woman sits at the center of a Christmas party. Well-dressed partygoers flit around her, occasionally summoning the courage to speak to the intimidating octogenarian. It’s a pretty enough ending, but somehow unimpressive for Kate the Great. It’s just so entirely Christmas Special Ordinary. There is, however, no doubt as to the identity the woman around whom the party (and the film) turns. Despite her age, and the wobble in her head and the warble in her voice, the moment Katharine Hepburn speaks, the room stops. She may be quieter, she may be slower, but Katharine Hepburn remains, as ever, completely unique.

In so many ways, I wish One Christmas was not the last Katharine Hepburn film. I want to be clear: neither Kate nor the film is bad, just aimless.  It’s an actively average TV movie based on a Truman Capote short story about a boy (T.J. Lowther) who spends Christmas with his con artist father (Henry Winkler) in New Orleans. One Christmas is too ordinary to have such an extraordinary designation as The Final Katharine Hepburn Film. She should be having a hero’s send off, not teaching small children the meaning of Christmas.

But Katharine Hepburn is not celebrated because of one film in 1994. Katharine Hepburn, like all great legends, is an amalgamation of many disparate parts. In her time, Katharine Hepburn was a starlett, a musical comedy star, box office poison, and a commercial smash. She fought leopards, she fought studio pushback, she fought waffle irons, she fought the Blacklist. She won awards and jeers. She broke records and set trends, despite being almost aggressively anti-fashion. She was an athlete, an old maid, a lawyer, an aviatrix, a queena peasant, and once she even played a hick. She was never, ever boring (even if her movies sometimes were). She set new records for awards and opened doors for new actresses. There will never be another Katharine Hepburn. Sixty two years in the spotlight almost don’t seem like enough.

I’d like to end this with Kate’s own words, spoken in her last scene in One Christmas. Eyes failing and memory fading, she must have known this would be her last movie. Here is Kate’s final speech on film, delivered to her audience with a smile and a laugh:

I’ve always lived my life exactly as I wanted. I’ve tried to please no one but me me me--and very likely displeased a great number of people in the process. But I’m entirely content I can sit back in my old age and not regret a single moment or wish to change a single thing. What I wish for you my dear: a life--a life with no regrets. For you.

Thank you, Kate. Thank you, Nathaniel. Thank you, readers. For you.

Merry Christmas,
Anne Marie

 Previous Week: Love Affair (1994) -In which Katharine Hepburn gives her blessing to Annette Bening and my inner actressexual weeps with joy.

Next WeekEpilogue - In which we rank films, learn Life Lessons, climb Mount Hepburn, and wrap this up with the party it deserves!

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Reader Comments (35)

What a beautiful finish to my favorite (of many favorites) series on the site. Thank you so much.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

What a phenomenon Hepburn was, and regardless of the quality of her last film, her significance endures. Kate lived her life with an independence that inspired many women and I want to thank you for bringing her to life on this blog.

Anne Marie - You did your subject and yourself proud with each of your articles.
I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and may you have a wonderful holiday.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

As if Santa himself smiled on me this week I managed to find both a VHS copy of One Christmas at the local library and a complete version of A Bill of Divorcement on Youtube! That leaves Grace Quigley as the only Kate film I haven't seen, it sounds dreadful but for completeness sake I'll continue to search.

You're right One Christmas is an average TV movie with Henry Winkler miscast in the lead but on the plus side it does have Swoosie Kurtz and Julie Harris as well as Kate. As far as Kate goes she's required to do little more than grumble and grouse until she softens somewhat towards the end. Her palsy is severe enough at this point to be ever present and impedes any real characterization but despite her fragility her star power is as bright as ever. Being a Christmas movie though it's a perfect wrap-up to the series!

It might not be the capper her career deserves. It's rare that the great ladies get to exit in something really classic, Ingrid Bergman had Autumn Sonata and then there was Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be but that was hardly planned! At least it was some nightmare as befell poor Veronica Lake in Flesh Fest or Joan Crawford with Trog!!

Can't believe we've come to the end of the series. It's been fascinating and Anne Marie you've done an awesome job week after week finding interesting items about every film, and that I'm sure wasn't easy for some of these. Looking forward to next week's wrap-up.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas!!

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Oops, that was supposed to be that the film WASN'T some career ending nightmare like the one's that Misses Lake and Crawford wrapped their filmographies with.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

An amazing, amazing series - thanks heaps, Anne Marie - I really hope you can do something similar again.

Perhaps Stanwyck?

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Happy Holidays and Congrats! Have loved reading the series all year.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Wonderful write-up as always, Anne Marie! I don't think you could have possibly planned it any better than having this one just happen to fall on Christmas Eve!

In many ways, I wish she hadn't ended her career with all these TV movies, all of which were pretty beneath her. But then again, they're hard to dislike completely because the fact that she did them is so very true to her - if she wanted to act on film, then she was damn well going to do it, age and ageism be damned! Besides which, if she hadn't done them, then we wouldn't have had this delightful retrospective since she wouldn't have had as many credits as there are weeks in a year!

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

It's hard to believe that she lived almost 10 years more after this last film. What an extraordinary woman!

And great job Anne Marie.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

Must... not.... weep.... must.. not.....

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

mice [ost

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterankit

Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for watching along when you could. (Joel6, how did you track down One Christmas so quickly??) This series has been the weirdest, best thing I've been a part of so far, and that's in large part because of you.

Question for next week: would you like a Top 10 List Kate movies, or a full ranking of all 52? I expect to read your rankings next week too. There will be some more news as well, hint hint. ;)

Thank you all again so very very much.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

What a coincidence! Yesterday I caught on TMC "Katharine Hepburn: All About Me" and watched it all over again thinking about all the great work you've done this year.
Congrats and thank you!

(go with the full ranking, why not?)

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I haven't commented on this series but have been reading it all year long, it's been fantastic and very illuminating. Well done and thank you Anne Marie

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRami

"There will be some more news as well, hint hint. ;)"

I sincerely hope that this doesn't mean we'll get another series with an actress your self-appointed co-author is obsessed with, cause I just can't take another whole year with the vanity of Joel (or someone else of his kind).

And to answer your question, I think a Top 10 list is enough, especially since I'm sure that we'll then meet that dreadful Philadelphia Story again. Additionally, not all of the 52 movies are theatrical releases and A Year With Kate has already made me realize how shallow, unvaried and not all too challenging way too many Kate films are. Yes, Anne Marie, you've turned me from a Hepburn fan into an agnostic and I just don't want to see her questionable filmography in its entirety again.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Thank you for doing this, Anne Marie! I'd love to see a full list of the 52, personally. :)

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Willy -- i hope you're not referring to me as a "co-author" because this series is all Anne-Marie's. She wrote it. I only produced it and sometimes edited it. The authorship is all hers. and for me at least one of the best parts of the series is that this is an actress that I am NOT obsessed with. So it was cool to have a different obsession mixing it up. And seriously why so negative, yipes. And during a moment of celebration too.

Merry Christmas!

THANK YOU ANNE MARIE. this was an amazing ride to go on.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Anne Marie-I'd love to see a full ranking of all 52. As far as finding One Christmas, it was purest chance (luck).
Happy Holidays!

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Merry Christmas, Anne Marie, and thanks!

I suggest ranking the theatrical releases and TV movies in two separate lists.

Should I start humming "It's a Family Affair" yet? ;-)

(He wasn't referring to you, Nathaniel. Read again...)

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Ah, Willy, a Hepburn fan ( now former) calls Philadelphia Story dreadful?

An Appropriate BAH HUMBUG

And Merry Christmas to you Anne Marie

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

Ah, Leslie, a judge of other people (which he/she/it certainly has always been), wishes Merry Christmas only to Anne Marie?


And just for the record, I also dislike Long Day's Journey Into Night.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Paul -- oh, thanks I see it now. anyway. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL KATE HEPBURN FANS, NOW (most of you) , FORMER (Willy) or FORMERLY AGNOSTIC (me)

wait i just wished merry christmas to myself. whaaaa.


anne marie -- can't wait till next week.

December 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Anne Marie, I'll be happy with whatever you do.......but a full ranking of the 52 could cause some serious posting numbers and push the Grinch back into his cave.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

"a full ranking of the 52 could cause some serious posting numbers and push the Grinch back into his cave"

Yeah, we all should have realized this before a certain poster decided to use the series to massage his ego for an entire year.

People who've got nothing to say should refrain from writing comments, and Christmas Day - or you, Sir Henry - won't stop me from saying so. Not after I've seen Joel parroting Anne Marie's thoughts and ideas for a full 12 months. If it didn't bother you, fine. But my enjoyment was affected by his weekly and unnecessary lenghty comments and I now dare to speak up after what I had to endure. And unlike other posters, I at least know how to keep my mouth shut from time to time. Which I assume is the main reason why you believe that a longlist or your arrogance could silence me.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Oh dear. I shall henceforth take myself to the woodshed and rend my hair and tear my garments......or is it the other way round. I can never remember.

Willy, it's Christmas. Give it a rest.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

"Give it a rest."

Now that's something one could have told other people around here a long time ago.

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Either a top 10 or all 52 ranked sounds good to me!

Have loved all of your writing Anne Marie. You have done an amazing job of covering one of covering Kate's career!

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

This was filmed in Wilmington, NC!

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Merry X*mas Anne Marie!!

Thx for the wonderful series!! Actually Kate's life is more fascinating than many o her films. The Aviator just offered us a glimpse of the potential. I'm surprised no movie or tv ever tried to adapt her life to screen...perhaps no producer dare to undertake the daunting task of adapting the life of a celebrated hollywood icon to screen?

Nonetheless, One X'mas is a fitting farewell for festive season. There will never be someone as unique and beloved like her

Looking fwd to the Top Ten list next week! =)

Merry X*mas Everyone!!!

December 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

I always thought Grace Quigley and Love Affair were her final 2 works, so thank you for enlightening me, and thank you for this incredible, fun, fascinating series!

December 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

You're amazing, Anne Marie! Thanks for all the great work you did this year covering La Hepburn!

And yes, I'd love to see all 52 ranked! A top ten isn't enough! Very selfish of me, I know.:-)

December 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDev

Thank you so much for this amazing series Anne Marie!

December 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHannibal Lester

What a beautiful ending, Anne-Marie. Well done on the series, it's truly a mammoth undertaking!

Willy, we get it. Can I suggest you take some of your own advice and just stop commenting? You've turned a wonderfully fun experience and made it bitter.

December 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

"Can I suggest you take some of your own advice and just stop commenting?"

No, you can't, especially not when you're talking to me directly. Other people around here were babbling all year long, now it's my turn.

"You've turned a wonderfully fun experience and made it bitter."

A few critical remarks and Glenn will have a nervous breakdown. Now I'm feeling flattered.

December 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Willy -- I have to ask you to please stop attacking people in teh comments. I don't like to police comments or remove them -- frankly I don't have the time and in addition to that I really value the friendly energy we usually have with people just bantering about the movie -- but once attacks turn personal I'm never sure what else to do.

Next time you feel the urge to comment a fun exercize is to stop and think "will this be perceived as rude" and if the answer is yes, just don't do it. Thanks.

Everyone Else -- if Willy or anyone else baits you, it's better to ignore them and continue to post what you wanted to say and respond to people who you do enjoy talking with. This is meant to be a fun site for people who love movies full stop. We don't all have to love each other and we can disagree respectfully (sometimes that brings up interesting points) so long as its doesn't get to a place where people are feeling uncomfortable.


December 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Personally, I have enjoyed what Joel brought to the discussion. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have continued to read his comments.

This was a really fun series, AnneMarie. Thanks and Merry Christmas to everyone!

December 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClassy

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