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July 01, 2003

So long, Kate

Glancing at the list of more than 50 films in which Katharine Hepburn appeared, I realize that I've seen very few of them--six to be exact. And yet, if you'd ask me who my favorite actresses are, I'd have put her right below Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn at the top of my list. And I can't even say that of those six films, there were more than a couple that I really enjoyed. Sure Philadelphia Story, Holiday and Bringing Up Baby were great films, but, well I am completely incapable of not loving any movie with Cary Grant, so I'm not sure how much I can attribute my inclinations toward those films on the female lead. On Golden Pond, on the other hand, was just an emotionally manipulative Kleenexfest. And as much as I want to love it, The African Queen never left me more than lukewarm.

So, now that I've established that Katharine Hepburn has never been the instrument of my loving a film, I guess the obvious question was why did my eyes fill with tears yesterday morning as I heard on Morning Edition that she'd died. Actually, it's because she looked so much like my paternal grandmother as a young woman. I've got a picture somewhere, taken on a beach, of this beautiful, graceful woman, all legs and cheekbones, holding a baby version of my father. I've had more than one person ask me why I had a framed picture of Katharine Hepburn on my dresser.

My grandmother was a Catharine as well, and between those two commonalities, my image of Katharine and my image of Catharine have always been closely associated in my head. I also think that something of the delicacy with which each of those great women expressed themselves helped strengthen that association. So, even though I can't remember more than a handful of scenes that Katharine played, I have a really strong reaction to seeing her onscreen. It's funny, too, because I felt like growing up, I saw so little of my Granny, and yet I have powerful and strong memories of talking to her. To me, Catharine and Katharine represented a headstrong, graceful, intelligent femininity that I always wanted to develop in myself (and surely never will).

I said goodbye to Catharine a few years ago. I'd like to imagine, if it's not too hokey, that as we say goodbye to Katharine, she'll be greeted by her soul sister with a good strong bourbon and ginger ale and a toast on behalf of those of us who admired them both.

Posted by paulette at July 1, 2003 02:16 PM | TrackBack
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A beautiful post. But you err, saying you "surely never will" display a C/Katherinesque "headstrong, graceful, intelligent femininity." You to a "T."

Posted by: jay on July 1, 2003 03:48 PM

You know your grandfather would disagree with you. He'd point out that your granny was much more beautiful - and she was.

Posted by: Another Kate on July 2, 2003 06:25 AM
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