The Woman Who Was Hepburn

Book - 2006
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The first major Katharine Hepburn biography independent of her control reveals the smart, complicated, and sophisticated woman behind the image Onscreen she played society girls, Spencer Tracy's sidekick, lionesses in winter. But the best character Katharine Hepburn ever created was Katharine Hepburn: a Connecticut Yankee, outspoken and elegant, she wore pants whatever the occasion and bristled at Hollywood glitter. So captivating was her image that she never seemed less than authentic. But how well did we know her, really? Was there a woman behind the image who was more human, more driven, and ultimately more triumphant because ofher vulnerability? William J. Mann - a cultural historian and journalist, a sympathetic admirer but no mere fan - has fashioned an intimate, often revisionist, and truly unique close-up that challenges much of what  we think we know about the Great Kate. Previous biographies - mostly products of friends and fans - have recycled the stories she hid behind, taking Hollywood myths at face value. Mann goes deeper, delivering new details from friends and family who have not been previously interviewed and drawingon materials only available since Hepburn's death. With affection, intelligence, and a voluminous knowledge of Hollywood history, Mann shows us how a woman originally considered too special and controversial for fame learned the fine arts of movie stardom and transformed herself into an icon as durable and all-American as the Statue of Liberty.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt, 2006.
ISBN: 9780805076257
Characteristics: xxviii, 621 pages, [16] pages of plates :,illustrations, portraits ;,25 cm.


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Feb 17, 2016

I take exception to the previous poster's "warning" about the supposed falseness of Mr. Mann's bio of Katherine Hepburn. On the contrary, this is a fine book.
It is a sympathetic but never fawning, meticulously researched accounting of a great star's eventful life. It is also--and this is the crux of the aforementioned criticism, obviously--unafraid to reveal certain truths about Miss Hepburn's life, and by implication the life of her longtime friend and fellow legend Spencer Tracy, as well. The Hollywood myth machine, which invariably includes the mainstream and entertainment press, along with Kate Hepburn's associates and friends and most especially the lady herself, have taken elaborate pains over the long years of her stardom to conceal those truths.
There is nothing particularly shocking about this; closeted celebs, especially those of Hepburn's generation, learned immediately (and occasionally the hard way) that if they wanted to be successful--if they simply wanted the chance to work--they would have to play the fame game and present to the public a carefully airbrushed and constantly managed heterosexual image. There were simply too many reputations and too much money at stake to do otherwise.
Katherine Hepburn was conflicted, but also clever. Ultimately, given her temperament and ambition, she did the only thing she could, which was to fashion herself a "rebel" in ways the Hollywood industry and the ticket-buying public would not only tolerate but admire. Her brisk, no-nonsense unconventionality--some of it a pose, much of it genuine--served to keep the more "difficult" aspects of her complicated life in the shadows. And all those who wanted to stay in The Great Kate's good graces--including her biographer, A. Scott Berg, among many others--toed the line and followed the script.
Kudos to William Mann for introducing us, finally, to the real Kate; still great but all too human.

Oct 01, 2013

*WARNING* To anyone who is looking to read this book:

As an obsessed Katharine fanatic I feel it's my duty to tell you how false this book is. I read it and it was my first book on Kate; I believed some of it but even them, not knowing anything else it seemed sketchy in places.

After reading it and all of it's "shocking" secrets, I ran to read her autobiography, watch every interview, and read the Biography by A. Scott Berg who was a very close friend of Kate's and writes from a different point of view.

After all of this research (including a video on youtube which actually debunks the entire book with clips of Kate herself saying opposing things) I felt like I had been had.

Mann lies, cheats, and steals his way through a great woman's life and instead of treating her as she should be he sensationalizes and ruins her.

If you want to learn about Kate read HER book. If you're interested in a different take then be my guest and read this but please, please, don't believe or take it as a point of authority.

It's a mockery.

- Olivia -

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