Katharine Houghton Hepburn was an American actress in film, stage, and television. Her career as a Hollywood leading lady spanned over 60 years.
Katharine Hepburn was one of the most celebrated and influential actresses in Hollywood history. She had a career that spanned over six decades, during which she won four Academy Awards for Best Actress, a record that remains unmatched. She was known for her independent spirit, her distinctive voice, and her unconventional style, often wearing trousers before they were fashionable for women. She starred in a variety of genres, from screwball comedies to literary dramas, and often played strong-willed, sophisticated, and sometimes unconventional women. She also had a long and successful partnership with Spencer Tracy, both on and off screen, making nine films together between 1941 and 1967. Hepburn was born in Connecticut to wealthy and progressive parents who encouraged her to pursue her interests and talents. She began acting on stage while attending Bryn Mawr College and soon moved to Broadway, where she attracted the attention of Hollywood producers. Her third film, Morning Glory (1933), earned her the first of her four Oscars, but she also faced some commercial failures and was labeled as “box office poison” in the late 1930s. She revived her career by buying the rights to The Philadelphia Story (1940), a play in which she had starred on Broadway, and selling them to MGM on the condition that she would play the lead role. The film was a huge hit and earned her another Oscar nomination. Hepburn continued to work with MGM throughout the 1940s and 1950s, making some of her most memorable films with Tracy, such as Woman of the Year (1942), Adam’s Rib (1949), and Pat and Mike (1952). She also ventured into more challenging roles, such as playing a missionary in The African Queen (1951) opposite Humphrey Bogart, for which she received another Oscar nomination. In the later stages of her career, Hepburn took on more mature and complex roles, such as playing Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968), for which she won her third Oscar in a tie with Barbra Streisand. She also won her fourth and final Oscar for playing an aging wife in On Golden Pond (1981), co-starring with Henry Fonda. Hepburn also appeared in several television films in the 1970s and 1980s, such as The Glass Menagerie (1973) and Love Among the Ruins (1975). She made her last screen appearance in 1994 at the age of 87. Hepburn was widely admired for her talent, her personality, and her legacy. She was named the greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute in 1999. She also received numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1990 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 1990. She died in 2003 at the age of 96.