"I’m afraid I’m a little tall for you, Mr. Tracy."
"Don’t worry, Kate. He’ll cut you down to size."
Katharine Hepburn riding her bike in Hartford, Connecticut, 1952
James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story (1940)
John Huston called me, he was to be the director at first, and asked me on behalf of Katharine Hepburn to play the small part of the crazy Gabrielle in a cast full of great actors. To anyone else I would have said no because I can’t speak english so the task seemed impossible. But Hepburn had always been my idol, when I was a kid I traced out a picture of her from a violet cover of the magazine Novella up on my diary (I brought it along to show it to her, she was touched) and eventually I said: I’ll try.
We all stayed in a marvellous hotel, except Hepburn who rented a villa up on the hills and arrived on the set every morning by bike. She leads the health fanatic life, she wakes up at 6am and jumps in the freezing water: swimming-pool, sea, whatever. At 8pm, no matter what, she’s in bed. She’s on a strict diet but she has weird habits: towards 5pm she would go around with big pieces of chocolate and forced all of us to eat it. She wore pants and sweaters, like boys dress nowadays, most of which belonged to Spencer Tracy, of whom she spoke with immense sorrow, but in the present tense, as if he was still alive. Katharine is one of the most extraordinary persons I’ve ever met.
about working with Katharine Hepburn in The Madwoman of Chaillot
Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams (George Stevens, 1935)
Katharine Hepburn on the set of Alice Adams (1935)
Kate’s performance as Mary Tyrone was extraordinary, among the most formidable virtuoso displays of her career. It was a part against her nature: she moved toward sunlight; the character of Mary Tyrone moved toward the dark night of the soul. Kate personified clean, shining, positive efficiency, all warmth and quick, stabbing intelligence; Mary was filled with self-pity, desperate, hopeless, dragged down constantly into death. What Kate had to do in acting the role was strip away her natural buoyancy, her confidence, her arrogance, and meet her own suffering head on. The pain of life was a fire she quenched with showers of common sense. In playing Mary, she had to let the fire consume her. It was a case of inspired miscasting. Her innate nervousness— the fluttering of the hands, smiles tremulous through tears, words rushing forward in a torrent or decelerating into a painfully squeezed out, monotonous slowness— was marvelous for comedy; here the gestures proved equally perfect for tragedy. She reached the apex of her art in the scenes in which Mary’s drug addiction is disclosed; she becomes a gaunt, famished figure with long grey hair, spinning on the carpet of the Tyrone house like a Kabuki lion. Here all of Kate’s early struggles, her pain over Tracy, her suffering over the death of her mother and of several friends, emerged with a force so intense that it was almost unbearable to watch. Like a student observing a brilliant operation, one was forced by her to see.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATHARINE HEPBURN | May 12, 1907 - June 29, 2003
With me, it’s up every day at five. Big breakfast. I get it myself. Fruit, eggs, bacon, chicken livers, toast, marmalade, coffee. On a tray. Carry it back to bed. Lovely the silence of the early hours. Do all my studying and thinking as I eat and drink. The sun rises. You seldom see it. But light comes. Misty. Slowly clearing. Light rains. Heavenly climate for a freckled skin. Then a cold bath or shower. A bike ride if I’m read early—before the car gets there. Go to work around seven.
Katharine Hepburn in “A Woman Rebels”, 1936.
Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1938)