Rob Harmon’s Picks 5/13/14

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksKatharine Hepburn’s Birthday

Last Wednesday I got out of work early and the weather was so beautiful that I felt like I just had to go… somewhere. Thinking ahead to this week I found myself driving down I-95 to Old Saybrook—it’s not far—where I got directions to Fenwick, down by the water. I had been there before but a long time ago. It was a mellow day and not much was going on: people were playing golf, the tennis courts being repaired, seagulls flapping in the breeze, etc. It was a nice day for a walk.

The pioneering actress Katharine Hepburn is gone, unfortunately, and her traces are easier to find amongst her large filmography than it is where she used to live at her family’s home in Fenwick, or anywhere else for that matter. Luckily, Best Video is stocked with movies by this most iconic of Nutmeggers and this week marks what would have been Hepburn’s 107th birthday (Monday, May 12th, to be exact), so what better way to celebrate?

Katharine Hepburn won a total of four Oscars in her long and storied career, for MORNING GLORY (1933), GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967), THE LION IN WINTER (1968), and ON GOLDEN POND (1981), and was nominated for a further eight, but awards do not do justice to her abilities as an actress.

Hepburn brought a rare combination of intelligence and gumption to the dramatic arts in Hollywood, equally at home in light romantic comedies and serious drama. Whether she intended it or not, she was trailblazing as a feminist icon, both in terms of style—brazenly wearing trousers in the 1930’s when such attire was frowned upon for women, for example—and gaining better roles for women—orchestrating her own “comeback” from the damning title of “box office poison” in 1938 with near-complete control over the film version of Philip Barry’s Broadway hit THE PHILADELPHIA STORY in 1940.

Today she is equally feted as actress, writer and source of pithy bon mots  (she wrote two books and is the subject of innumerable others, including a collection of quotes and sayings to live by), fashion trend-setter (her sartorial style is the subject of a recent book and a current costume exhibition at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford), romantic (her 25-year relationship with Spencer Tracy was something of an open-secret in Hollywood, and the fruitful on-screen partnership spawned 9 films), and Connecticut Yankee and all-around exemplar of independent living at a time when women in Hollywood—and women in general—were generally denied such freedom.

Below is an opinionated and not-wholly-scientific Top 13 List of Katharine Hepburn’s Best Movies:

1. HOLIDAY (dir. George Cukor, 1938)
2. BRINGING UP BABY (dir. Howard hawks, 1938)
3. ADAM’S RIB (dir. George Cukor, 1949)
4. The Philadelphia Story (dir. George Cukor, 1940)
5. The Lion in Winter (dir. Anthony Harvey, 1968)
6. WOMAN OF THE YEAR (dir. George Stevens, 1942)
7. LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (dir. Sidney Lumet, 1962)
8. STAGE DOOR (dir. Gregory La Cava, 1937)
9. SUMMERTIME (dir. David Lean, 1955)
10. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (dir. John Huston, 1951)
11. ALICE ADAMS (dir. George Stevens, 1935)
12. LITTLE WOMEN (dir. George Cukor, 1933)
13. PAT AND MIKE (dir. George Cukor, 1952)


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