Catherine Shoard ratings Kate: The Girl Who Was Simply Katharine Hepburn by William J. Mann
That Katharine Hepburn swung both methods just isn’t, on expression, too large a bombshell. She called herself ‘Jimmy’. She won her first tennis competition aged 16. She invested three years with somebody called Phyllis. ‘we place jeans on 50 years back and declared a kind of center road, ‘ she said, aged 70.
There have been other tips, too – ‘I would personallyn’t provide 10 guys for just about any one girl, ‘ she once insisted. ‘All guys are poops. ‘
No, the surprise of William J. Mann’s jumbo revisionist biography is simply just exactly just exactly how people that are many her were similarly inclined. First from the wardrobe is Katharine’s cousin, Tom, simply 15 as he killed himself, most likely being outcome of their intimate confusion. Save from Kate’s short-lived industrialist spouse, Ludlow Ogden Smith, all her boyfriends had been bisexual, including Howard Hughes, John Ford and also Spencer Tracey.
Her platonic pals, too – Binkie Beaumont, Bobby Helpmann, Noel Taylor – were, like Hepburn’s longest-standing male chum, George Cukor, energetically homosexual. Likewise her biographers: A. Scott Berg, Garson Kanin and Mann himself (whose past publications consist of a biography of John Schlesinger and Behind the Screen: just exactly just exactly How Gays and Lesbians Hollywood that is shaped).
Even though it is not therefore astonishing that Hepburn really liked ladies, it really is a surprise exactly how many of those she clocked up. Her very very very first event is at university by having a dedicated girl called Alice Palache. She quickly managed to move on – via a couple of guys – to Laura Harding, with who she had a long-lasting love topped up throughout the years with Brokeback Mountain-style nation jaunts.
There clearly was Nancy Hamilton and Frances deep, Constance Collier and Elissa Landi, plus others that are countless. Exactly exactly just just How on the planet did she keep all this work through the press? Semantic hopscotch, apparently: ‘lesbian’ was, for Hepburn, a certain term to explain a really butch woman, maybe maybe not her type at all (though by the appearance for the pictures, a number of her enthusiasts had been regarding the tough part).
Hepburn was aided, too, by the reality she did often fell for males, and by her dislike that is general of – the chasteness of virtually all her relationships suggested she did not need to lie excessively about them. Whenever she protested she hadn’t had a fling with John Ford, she had been – theoretically at least – telling the facts.
Mann believes this prizing of companionship over passion is paramount to Hepburn’s therapy. But he is additionally keen not to ever be too prurient, not to ever cheapen the tone, that it existed so we never learn the source of Hepburn’s erotic horror, just get lots of confirmation. ‘She attempted sex once and merely did not want it, ‘ claims a classic university buddy. However it appears to run much much deeper than simple distaste – evidently if she is at the flicks and a scene that is nude up, Hepburn would exit in a huff.
Still, unusual since it might appear, Hepburn’s love life struggled to obtain her. The ladies she sought out with in general felt likewise unexcited about going to sleep with some body. The males could have was in fact keener, not always with Hepburn.
Also her relationship with Tracey jogged along. She had been fond an adequate amount of him to relax and play nursing assistant through their last 5 years, time for their part after an almost equal stretch of total separation. They never shared the exact same house – Hepburn lived with a succession of girls, Tracey along with his spouse, Louise, or alone and visited by other people, in specific a chap called Scotty – nevertheless they enjoyed one another’s business.
Though they hardly ever really holidayed together, they would be only too very happy to be sure their paths crossed: ‘They’d all have actually dinner together, then Kate would set off with Fran for a ship. ‘ Amicable, then, dedicated with its way that is own a million kilometers through the epic 25-year love of Hollywood legend.
Mann brilliantly traces just exactly just how Hepburn by by herself slowly purchased in to the Hepburn/Tracey brand name – initially livid concerning the intimate fictions prepared up by her old buddy Kanin in a novel in 1971, she changed her mind to such an degree that two decades later she collaborated with him for a rewrite that is souped-up.
By the end, Mann shows, she peddled with misconception not merely for PR purposes but solace that is personal her final years, despite Phyllis’s ministrations, had been lonely and boozy, emotionally volatile and faintly hopeless.
Mann keeps the main focus of their biography remorselessly individual. He will not, he claims within the introduction, wish to rehash plot outlines from her movies, nor weigh in together with viewpoints in it, as well as first the center leaps to hear therefore. But after 200 pages of unrelieved detergent you can feel just a little swamped.
Mann may effectively debunk the different urban myths of Katharine the devoted wife, Katharine the man-eater, and, particularly, Katharine the dignified senior reclusive. However in their spot he merely produces a brand new one – Katharine the coy diva, the publicity-hungry tease, forever goading reporters to try and figure her away. ‘You’ll never ever obtain it appropriate! No body ever does! ‘ Can Mann? Perhaps – all of it appears plausible sufficient. The issue is that after 600 pages you’re simply past caring.