|Credit: Naomi Gall @lilajeanvintage|
Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while studying at Bryn Mawr College. After four years in the theatre, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Her early years in the film industry were marked with success, including an Academy Award for her third picture, Morning Glory (1933), but this was followed by a series of commercial failures that led her to be labeled "box office poison" in 1938. Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star. In the 1940s, she was contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy. The screen-partnership spanned 25 years and produced nine movies.
Hepburn challenged herself in the latter half of her life, as she regularly appeared in Shakespearean stage productions and tackled a range of literary roles. She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, such as in The African Queen (1951), a persona the public embraced. Three more Oscars came for her work in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). In the 1970s, she began appearing in television films, which became the focus of her career in later life. She remained active into old age, making her final screen appearance in 1994 at the age of 87. After a period of inactivity and ill health, Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.
Hepburn famously shunned the Hollywood publicity machine and refused to conform to society's expectations of women. She was outspoken, assertive, athletic, and wore trousers before it was fashionable for women to do so. She married once, as a young woman, but thereafter lived independently. A 26-year affair with her co-star Spencer Tracy was hidden from the public. With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn epitomized the "modern woman" in the 20th-century United States and is remembered as an important cultural figure.
And now to the interview. These questions were taken from an interview on the NBC Today show with Katie Couric on 30th June 2003.
What's your most intense memory?
So going in hardcore for the first question I see... I am struggling to pick one. I have intense memories of plenty of things, so I will pick a pleasant one. I must've been about eight years old, and I was sitting on the swing attached to a pine tree that grew amongst thick green grass interspersed with the needles at a historical house next to the river at Sussex Inlet, singing 'You are not alone' by Michael Jackson and watching the way my feet swung up above the horizon of the river. I felt so free and relaxed, like I could fly. The river was so blue, and my uncle's dinghy was tied to the jetty, and when it was time to leave I had to avoid being headbutted by the goat -again- that was tied to a nearby tree. All that while my parents and relatives and their friends ate scones and drank milkshakes on the veranda.
Do you consider yourself beautiful?
There's no right way to answer that question. It's a can of worms. I will attempt it though.
As a teenager I always felt there were plenty of girls prettier than me because no one had ever told me I looked anything other than skinny (thanks mental health issues for a diet of tea and three chocolate Jaffa biscuits and whatever my mother cooked for dinner a day). It wasn't until I was an adult I mentioned how pretty I thought a girl I went to school with was and my mother blinked and was like, "You're far prettier!" which really threw me. That was the first time anyone had really said anything positive about my looks. And then people started telling me how photogenic I am, and I hear it a lot, without blowing my own trumpet there. I guess, perhaps now as I grow into myself more I do like my face and think I am capable of taking a good photo. Beautiful though might be a stretch. That's very subjective to the viewer.
Yes. I like it. I like lipstick and mascara especially, and doing my black liquid liner on the train for a challenge. In my day to day and even for more formal things I really don't do too much. I've never gotten the concept of contouring right on my own face, and I think I always apply too little of my foundation. One day I will get it right. Make up artists on the other hand delight me with what they do to my face.
But you do consider yourself a good actress, don't you?
My high school drama teacher was rather impressed by my enthusiastic 'Here!' at roll call, so, I am sure I am fantastic.
On a more serious note, in some ways perhaps I really am. I've mastered pretending I am a lot more together than I am thanks to dealing with mental health issues and having to get on with stuff when it's the last thing you feel like. But you don't get an Oscar for that. I think I am in front of the camera too. I'm communicating a visual story, whether it's just for my blog posts or for other people's products or creations. I have a lot of fun in front of a camera. I dance about between shots, even when the final product is quite serious.
In your book you write, "I loved Spencer Tracy. He and his interests and his demands came first. Food, we ate what he liked, we did what he liked. We lived a life which he liked. He didn't like this or that, I changed this and that. They might be qualities which I personally valued, it did not matter. I changed them."
What attracted you to Spencer Tracy?
Yahoo! I wrote a book. Wait, what?
Personally, I found Spencer to be the opposite of attractive. Not my taste. But I did love his quiet comedic presence. I'd never actually do those things for any lover, so my book is full of lies, clearly. I fiercely value my independence in a relationship, and return the favour. It's fine for my partner not to want to do, like or eat the same things as me. In fact, I think it's healthy. This probably only worked for Katharine and Spencer because they didn't actually live together.
What do you think attracted Spencer Tracy to you?
He's never met me, but if he were alive and got to be in my presence, I am sure it would be the way my hair is wildly fluffy first thing in the morning, and I leave my tea bags in my cup far too long, and sing unreleased Lana Del Rey songs in the shower ("You call me sunshine, you call me lavender, you say take it off, take it off!"). I pout quite effectively when I'm annoyed, and I cook an excellent steak - no, really I do! Of course, it's been suggested it could've been my bum. But I put no stock in that rumour.
In the book you say you're still not sure if he was really happy, or if he really loved you.
Well, that just speaks of my own insecurities doesn't it? You can never really know what anyone feels, you can only take their actions at face value (not their words, of course). And if someone seems to enjoy your company and you laugh together a lot, and they treat you with respect and kindness, than I guess that's love and happiness.
Why did you think the on-screen chemistry between the two of you was so good?
Our on-screen chemistry, well, put that down to my perfume. I wear Lush Sikkim Girls or Anna Sui most days, though a friend kindly gifted me a bottle of Dita's perfume and I save that for special occasions. I used to wear Chanel No 5 a lot but it seems to vanish when on my skin and I don't see the point of spending money on perfume no one can smell on you.
Are you ever sorry that you weren't able to live together as husband and wife?
Look, I always thought I'd be married by my age, so it's pretty weird to be this age and realise my longest fulfilling relationship is with shoes. I could actually build myself a small house with the shoe boxes. There's equity right there. Am I sorry I haven't married Spencer? Not at all. I think it's been good all round that I haven't co-inhabited with a corpse, in my real or shoe box house.
So there it is readers my first vinterview and what a fantastic one it is. Thanks to Ellen for a great start to the blog!