Episode 16 of 52 as Anne Marie screens all of Katharine Hepburn's films in chronological order.
In which Katharine Hepburn wins it all back and then some.
For Classic Hollywood stars whose images so often transcended or eclipsed the films they appeared in, there often emerges one film that becomes image-defining. This film has the power to stretch forward and back in time, coloring biographical details and even other performances by that actor. It’s the film that will show up in retrospectives and Turner Classic Movies montages, be quoted by fans and impersonators. For Bette Davis, it’s All About Eve. For Gloria Swanson, it’s Sunset Boulevard. For Katharine Hepburn, it’s The Philadelphia Story.
What sets Kate and The Philadelphia Story apart is how deliberately this star-defining was done. Davis was a last-minute replacement for Claudette Colbert, and Swanson was on a list of Pre-Code potentials that included Mae West. But from the beginning, nobody but Kate was Tracy Lord. The part was written for her by Philip Barry, purchased for her by Howard Hughes, and performed by her first on Broadway, then on tour, then finally back on the silver screen again, less than two years after she’d departed. Tracy Lord is Katharine Hepburn, and Katharine Hepburn would spend much of her career playing variations on Tracy Lord.