Catherine Shoard product reviews Kate: The Girl Who Was Simply Katharine Hepburn by William J. Mann
That Katharine Hepburn swung both means just isn’t, on representation, too large a bombshell. She called herself ‘Jimmy’. She won her first tennis competition aged 16. She spent three years with somebody called Phyllis. ‘we place jeans on 50 years back and declared sort of center road, ‘ she said, aged 70.
There have been other tips, too – ‘I would personallyn’t provide you with 10 guys for just about any one girl, ‘ she once insisted. ‘All guys are poops. ‘
No, the surprise of William J. Mann’s jumbo revisionist biography is simply just just exactly how people round her were similarly inclined. First from the cabinet is Katharine’s bro, Tom, simply 15 as he killed himself, most likely being consequence of his intimate confusion. Save from Kate’s short-lived industrialist spouse, Ludlow Ogden Smith, all her boyfriends had been bisexual, including Howard Hughes, John Ford as well as Spencer Tracey.
Her platonic pals, too – Binkie Beaumont, Bobby Helpmann, Noel Taylor – were, like Hepburn’s longest-standing male chum, George Cukor, energetically homosexual. Likewise her biographers: A. Scott Berg, Garson Kanin and Mann himself (whose past publications incorporate a biography of John Schlesinger and Behind the Screen: exactly just just exactly How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood).
Even though it is not therefore astonishing that Hepburn actually liked females, it really is a shock how many of these she clocked up. Her very very very first event is at university with a girl that is devoted Alice Palache. She quickly managed to move on – via a couple of males – to Laura Harding, with who she had a romance that is long-term up over time with Brokeback Mountain-style nation jaunts.
There is Nancy Hamilton and Frances deep, Constance Collier and Elissa Landi, plus countless other people. Exactly exactly just just How on the planet did she keep all of this through the press? Semantic hopscotch, apparently: ‘lesbian’ was, for Hepburn, a certain term to explain a really butch girl, maybe not her type after all (though because of the appearance associated with the pictures, a few of her fans had been from the tough part).
Hepburn was aided, too, because of the reality she did often fell for guys, and also by her basic dislike of sex – the chasteness of just about all her relationships designed she did not need certainly to lie a lot of about them. Whenever she protested she hadn’t possessed a fling with John Ford, she had been – theoretically at least – telling the facts.
Mann believes this prizing of companionship over passion is paramount to Hepburn’s psychology. But he is additionally keen to not be too prurient, to not cheapen the tone, so we never learn the foundation of Hepburn’s erotic horror, simply get plenty of verification so it existed. ‘She attempted sex once and simply did not enjoy it, ‘ states a college friend that is old. Nonetheless it generally seems to run much deeper than simple distaste – evidently if she is at the films and a nude scene flickered up, Hepburn would leave in a huff.
Nevertheless, uncommon because it might appear, Hepburn’s love life struggled to obtain her. The ladies she sought out with in general felt similarly unexcited about going to sleep with somebody. The guys may have was keener, not always with Hepburn.
Also her relationship with Tracey jogged along. She ended up being fond an adequate amount of him to relax and play nursing assistant through their last 5 years, going back to their part after an almost equal stretch of total separation. They never shared the house that is same Hepburn lived having a succession of girls, Tracey together with his spouse, Louise, or alone and checked out by other people, in specific a chap called Scotty – nonetheless they enjoyed one another’s business.
Though they hardly ever really holidayed together, they would be just too thrilled to be sure their paths crossed: ‘They’d all have actually dinner together, then Kate would stop with Fran on a ship. ‘ Amicable, then, dedicated in its way that is own a million kilometers through the epic 25-year love of Hollywood legend.
Mann brilliantly traces just exactly just how Hepburn by herself slowly purchased in to the Hepburn/Tracey brand name – initially livid concerning the intimate fictions prepared up by her old buddy Kanin in a guide in 1971, she changed her mind to this kind of level that two decades later on she collaborated with him for a rewrite that is souped-up.
By the finish, Mann shows, she peddled with misconception not merely for PR purposes but individual solace – her final years, despite Phyllis’s ministrations, had been lonely and boozy, emotionally volatile and faintly hopeless.
Mann keeps the main focus of their biography remorselessly individual. He cannot, he states within the introduction, would you like to rehash plot outlines from her movies, nor weigh in along with his viewpoints on it, as well as first the center leaps to hear therefore. But after 200 pages of unrelieved detergent you can feel just a little swamped.
Mann may effectively debunk the many urban myths of Katharine the dedicated wife, Katharine the man-eater, and, particularly, Katharine the dignified senior reclusive. However in their destination he merely produces a brand new one – Katharine the coy diva, the publicity-hungry tease, forever goading reporters to attempt to figure her away. ‘You’ll never ever obtain it appropriate! No body ever does womens feet sex! ‘ Can Mann? Perhaps – all of it appears plausible sufficient. The issue is that after 600 pages you are simply past caring.