A revival in the memory of The Philadelphia Story actress Katharine Hepburn

Jun 28, 2024
Source: Ernest Bachrach/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Few can truly hold a candle to Hollywood leading lady Katharine Hepburn. With 12 Academy Award nominations and 4 wins for Best Actress, her golden portfolio remains a legendary record only to be aspired to to this day.

Hepburn led an outspoken yet enigmatic life, defying societal norms and inspiring a change in perceptions of women during her time. From boldly wearing pants before it was fashionable, to almost exclusively taking on roles that portrayed powerful and independent women, her reputation was exceeded only by her works throughout her six-decade career.

Browse some of her best and most memorable works below, including films, television series and Broadway shows!

The African Queen

Source: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Katharine Hepburn’s role in The African Queen earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress — and rightfully so! Her portrayal of determined missionary Rose Sayer stood its own ground against co-star Humphrey Bogart, with a powerful and passionate personality that graced the silver screen.

The film received critical acclaim, with Hepburn being praised for her performance. This is despite the fact that she became ill with dysentery during production — a testament to her determination to her craft.

Bringing Up Baby

Source: John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Despite its initial box office failure, the iconic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby remains one of Hepburn’s most memorable and hilarious films, with production reportedly having been delayed due to the cast’s laughing fits. It also starred a tame leopard — back in the good old days when CGI didn’t proliferate every movie!

Hepburn’s role in Bringing Up Baby was a perfect fit — a given, since the script was written specifically for her. Regardless, it cemented itself in culture and history thanks to a fantastic cast of performers and earned itself a spot for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990.

The Philadelphia Story

Source: Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Another film written specifically for Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story was an ingenious harbinger of success that shone a light during a dark time when she was deemed “box office poison” — a reality we can’t imagine!

By prudently acquiring the rights to the film and selling it to a studio on the condition that she would be the star, she resurrected her career and left her naysayers in the dust with an Academy Award nomination for her role as eccentric socialite Tracy Lord.

On Golden Pond

Source: Getty Images

Hepburn showed no signs of slowing down even later in her career, earning an Academy Award win for Best Actress yet again in On Golden Pond. Starring alongside famous contemporaries including Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda, her role as mother Ethel Thayer gained critical acclaim and the film was the second highest grossing of its year.

In addition to delivering a great performance, Hepburn also mentored Jane Fonda, though the two were not exactly chummy. According to Fonda, Hepburn “learned to admire me but she didn’t really like me.” A great bit of trivia for your next movie night!

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up