Episode 11 of 52 wherein Anne Marie screens all of Katharine Hepburn's films in chronological order.
In which Katharine Hepburn becomes a feminist icon (as if she wasn't already).
You are all the coolest. Part of the joy of doing A Year With Kate during the many bleak movies these past few weeks (we're so close to the good ones!) has been watching everyone react, especially the repeat commenters. Thanks especially to Dave in Alomitos Beach, who has saved my ass twice with reader suggestions. Last week, when I opined that A Woman Rebels is lousy and I didn't know how to talk about it, Dave hit upon some good points from his computer in Alomitos Beach:
Well, "A Woman Rebels" could be the story of Katharine Hepburn in real life I guess. What WAS going on in her real life? Was this the Howard Hughes years? Or the Leland Hayward years? Who knows... in fact, why DID they insist in putting Katharine in all of these godawful period movies? I'd also like to know why they cast her with all these milquetoast leading men.
Well Dave, I hunted through the many biographies on my ever-growing shrine, Mount Hepburn, to search for your answers...
First, what was going on in Katharine Hepburn's life? Answer: A fair amount. Her mother was pushing harder for a birth control bill after her first defeat in 1934. Katharine Houghton Hepburn was actually amazing, and may have contributed to Kate's decision to play Pamela Thistlewaite in A Woman Rebels. Birth control was definitely something Pamela could have used as a single-mother-turned-magazine-editor-turned-disgraced-woman.
As for whom Kate was seeing, it depends on who you ask. Either she was getting over her agent Leland Hayward, falling hard for the married, alcoholic, Irish Catholic John Ford (sound familiar?), beginning to jet around the country with Howard Hughes, or using all of them as a beard while she dallied with Jane Loring. It really just depends which biography you pick up.
Next, the question most relevant to A Woman Rebels: why did they insist on putting Katharine Hepburn in all of these godawful period movies? Answer: I don't know. Nobody seems to know. In fact, after viewing A Woman Rebels, one RKO exec is said to have asked the very same question (according to the biography that matches her with John Ford). In 1936, she also did Quality Street and a touring play of Jane Eyre, both of which failed miserably. Even more confusing: while she made these period pieces, her modern woman fashion choices (i.e. her pants) were being marketed as well!
The brass at RKO definitely couldn't make up their minds about Kate. Were they trying to recreate Little Women's success over and over again? Were they trying to soften her harder "modern woman" edges? Were they still stuck on this American Garbo idea? Whatever the reason, the result was the same. Of all the period pieces she made for RKO, the only successes were Alice Adams and Little Women. You'd think a studio (or its star) would learn.
As for that last query about her milquetoast leading men, my only comment is this: thank goodness for drunk Irishmen and boys from Bristol.
Now I have a question: What do I write about Quality Street next week?
Next Week: Quality Street - In which Katharine Hepburn is an old maid at 30 and sometimes I hate Old Hollywood.