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Entries in Katharine Hepburn (53)

Wednesday
Jul302014

A Year with Kate: The Rainmaker (1956)

 Episode 31 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn lets her hair down and rolls in the hay with Burt Lancaster.

 It makes a certain kind of sense that The Rainmaker, which is the last of Kate’s Spinster Films, should be the most archetypal of this phase of her career. N. Richard Nash’s screenplay about a silver-tongued conman (Burt Lancaster) who promises water to a town and love to an old maid (Kate) works almost as a genre checklist: Lonely Single Woman? Check. Scenes establishing that most folks find her plain? Check. Handsome outsider who sees the beauty in her? Check. Life affirming rendezvous? Check. Throw in a metaphor about the drought-stricken land and Lizzie’s lovelorn heart, and you have The Rainmaker.

Make no mistake, Lancaster and Hepburn elevate The Rainmaker. Their acting styles clash--Kate’s Old Hollywood manner butts against Lancaster’s charismatic, physical style (which he’d later hone for the incredible Elmer Gantry). Apparently, the two actors disagreed on the set as well. As a result, though both are compelling, they’re never connected in their scenes together. This works in the film’s favor. It’s completely believable that Starbuck and Lizzie are two people who can love each other for a night, but don’t like each other enough to truly fall in love for good. Their dreams are too different; they don't see each other for who they really are.

The best thing about having a film as unsubtle as The Rainmaker is that it relies heavily on its stars, both in acting talent and in star image. Much of this series has been devoted to identifying, attempting to dissect, and--as often as not--flat out worshipping Katharine Hepburn’s star qualities. We’ve touched on everything from Kate’s beauty to her tomboyishness to her charisma and comedic chops, but we’ve neglected one physical trait which was as defining to later Kate as her famous cheekbones: her hair. More specifically, this is about Katharine Hepburn’s hairography, in the key scenes where she unwound the topknot and let it all hang loose.

My official Katharine Hepburn Hair Theory after the jump

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Wednesday
Jul232014

A Year with Kate: The Iron Petticoat (1956)

Episode 30 of 52:  In which you’d think Katharine Hepburn would have learned to stay away from accents by now.

The 50s were a time of great growth for Kate. The studio system collapsed and stars became more autonomous (Kate had left MGM after Pat & Mike) and Kate used the opportunity to break out of the glamorous-but-dull mold she'd been thrust into. She pursued scripts, directors, and collaborations that electrified her onscreen and off. She toured in Shakespeare, worked with Oscar-nominated directors, and forged a career renaissance even as her contemporaries flailed. Yes, the films she made contained the dreaded "S" word, but if her ladies were single, they were also single-minded and smart. Kate could have been pushed to the side. Instead she found great roles and challenged herself with the opportunities a collapsing system afforded. If her films seem troublesome now, the craftsmanship and artistic growth of this period cannot be denied.

And then there's The Iron Petticoat.

Folks, I sprained my shoulder on Friday and ended up in the emergency room. Despite the pain, I would almost rather go through it again than re-watch The Iron Petticoat. It’s that bad. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jul162014

A Year with Kate: Summertime (1955)

Episode 29 of 52: In which David Lean's beautiful romantic classic gives Katharine Hepburn an eye infection and me a headache

I admit it. The spinster movies confuse me. When Nick and Nathaniel invited me on the podcast (Have you listened to the podcast? Go listen to the podcast), I stated outright that I don’t like Summertime. As a fan, I take almost personal offense hearing my idol continuously called “plain” or (at best) “interesting-looking.”

But as a cinephile, David Lean’s 1955 love letter to Venice engages me. I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for a scopophilic travelogue cinematography. And trains. And Technicolor films that overuse the color red. And judging from last year's Hit Me With Your Best Shot submissions for Summertime, many of you share my inner conflict.

Summertime is more a mood piece than a plot-driven story. David Lean exorcised most of the third act from Arthur Laurents’ original play, Time of the Cuckoo, in order to create a sweetly romantic view of Venice, love, and September romance. Kate plays Jane Hudson, a secretary from Akron, Ohio who comes to Venice for… something. Adventure, maybe? Hanging out the window of the train to the city with her 8mm camera rolling, Jane proves herself immediately to be a curious and active observer.

Red goblets be damned; that 8mm camera is most important object in David Lean's movie. [More...]

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Monday
Jul142014

Podcast: Katharine with a side of Bette!

In this special edition of the podcast, Nathaniel welcomes two Katharine Hepburn buffs Nick Davis and Anne Marie Kelly to talk about their (shared) first Actress Obsession. Naturally Kate the Great isn't the only diva that finds her way into the conversation. Expect supporting roles or cameos: Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, Tennessee Williams, Deborah Kerr, Spencer Tracy, Audrey Hepburn, George Cukor and more...

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

00:00 Intro. Plus Middle School drama: Hilariously "intense" early obsessions
13:00 Types, Genres, and Suddenly Last Summer
17:00 Her autobiography and films she loathed like Dragon Seed
22:00 Chemistry and co-stars
33:00 Revisiting unsatisfying movies -- raise a cocktail to this peculiar cinephile habit
40:00 The Spinster & The Magic Penis
47:00 Bette Davis and why we compare them. Silliness before the sign off.

Further Reading
Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Summertime 
Nick's Hepburn Oscar Profile
A Year With Kate: Pat & Mike
A Year With Kate: Dragon Seed 
A Year With Kate: Christopher Strong
Me: Stories of My Life (Book)
The Making of the African Queen (Book)
Alex Von Tunzelmann & Self Styled Siren (Twitter) 

Kate with a side of Bette

Wednesday
Jul092014

A Year With Kate: Pat and Mike (1952)

Episode 28 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn proves hitting like a girl is a good thing.

Guess what! My dad met Katharine Hepburn. Decades before I was born, unfortunately, which seems like poor parenting on his part. Anyway, my dad was a professional tennis player in the early 1970s. Since he looked cute in shorts and was charming company (two traits I inherited from him along with his humility), he’d get invited to parties before tournaments in LA and Las Vegas. At one such party, he met Kate the Great. Dad’s words:

“I recall her as being very petite, wonderful husky voice, would look at you directly when speaking… Like so many actors, actresses etc., incredible charisma… Incredible spunk but not an outstanding athlete... By the then Hollywood standards, she may well have been great.”

Please keep in mind that this meeting was twenty years after Pat and Mike, so it’s possible my dad’s opinion may have been different if he’d seen her play in her prime. And have no doubts, Katharine Hepburn may have been 45 when she picked up a tennis racket and a golf club for Pat and Mike, but she was definitely still in her physical prime. Pat and Mike, Kate and Spencer Tracy's seventh film together, is a showcase for KHep’s mad sports skills.

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