Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)
- Myrna Loy, The Animal Kingdom, 1931. Years later in Gone With The Wind, Vivien Leigh was caught between two men - Clark Gable and Leslie Howard. Here, it is Howard stuck between two women: Harding and Myrna Loy. They were nearly Hepburn (or Karen Morley) and Irene Dunne.
- Elissa Landi, The Warrior’s Husband, 1933. The play made Hepburn on Broadway, won her a top agent (lover, nearly husband) Leland Heyward - and a secret test for John Ford- “disappointing - not my kind of gal at all.” (He was later her lover over several years). He chose Landi. Kate wrote her a fan letter - and the two (alleged) bisexuals later became lovers in Hollywood, calling themselves:Jimmy and Elissa.
- Barbara Barondess, Queen Christina, 1933. Lust at first sight when Greta Garbo met Hepburn, climbing naked out of director George Cukor’s pool in 1932. The resultant affair lasted nine years - until Garbo quit Hollywood. Kate was so smitten she strived to play the queen’s funny, sexy maid. Director Rouben Mamoulian was all for it - producer Walter Wanger felt it would be too distracting. And when MGM boss, LB Mayer, saw the way Barbara’s maid rubbed the tired queen’s legs, he cut it. “We’re not making a lez picture!”
- Ginger Rogers, In Person, 1935. “Dreadful script,” said Kate. “I pulled it off,” crowed Ginger, “because I have talents as a comic. I’m very versatile. Dancer, dramatic actress and comedienne. Some big names can hardly get through a dramatic role, much less do anything else. ”It was about then that Hepburn kicked her hated rival in the shins...
- Joan Crawford, The Gorgeous Hussy, 1935. RKO obtained the Samuel Hopkins Adams’ novel a year earlier as a Hepburn vehicle - before off-loading it to MGM where LB Mayer withdrew his invite for her to be President Andrew Jackson’s confidante and adviser. The problem was that, suddenly, everything The Magnificent Yankee touched flopped (except her supposed AC and DC lovers). And so, Peggy O’Neal Eaton went from one hussy to another - Jean Harlow to Crawford.
- Florence Eldridge, Mary of Scotland, 1936. Kate was set for Mary but director (and lover) John Ford had trouble finding an Elizabeth. Even Ginger Rogers was tested! “Katharine of Arrogance” suggested playing both roles. “But if you played both queens,” asked John Carradine, “how would you know which one to upstage?”
- Barbara Stanwyck The Mad Miss Manton, 1938. With Bringing Up Baby flopping (oh yes it did!), RKO dropped Miss Hepburn for Missy Stanwyck. And it was an even bigger flop.
- Ann Shirley, Mother Carey's Chickens, 1938. Box-office poison or not, this dreadful RKO programmer was “a deliberate insult!” That was the idea: Do it - or leave! Kate bought her contract and quit the studio. Third husband of Shirley (best known forAnne of Green Gables, 1934) was the bisexual Czech actor Francis Lederer - who Hepburn had fired and replaced by Charles Boyer in Break of Hearts, 1935. (Hayley Mills re-made Chickens as Summer Magic for Disney, 1963).
- Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
- Carole Lombard, In Name Only, 1939. Set for Kate-Cary Grant until Bringing Up Baby flopped (oh, yes it did) and she (not he) was labelled Box Office Poison. In most movie books, this is, exclusively, Kate’s label - although in his Bottom Ten list of “poisonalities” (May 30 1937), exhibitors’ leader Harry Brandt also cited: Astaire, Crawford, Dietrich, Garbo... and Hepburn’s alleged lover, Greta Garbo.
- Merle Oberon, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
- Bette Davis, Dark Victory, 1939. Rewind one year... and RKO was chasing the Broadway flop for Kate - just as MGM figured it’d be a great Garbo vehicle. Warners won the battle and Davis an Oscar nod... losing to Vivien Leigh in the role hungered after by both Kate and Bette: Scarlett O’Hara. Spencer Tracy also refused what could have been the first of their films together- nine, in all, during their tumultuous life until his death in 1967. However, their Bogart-Bacall-esque love story was a myth created by Kate, a useful coverfor them continuing to have numerous other bisexual lovers.
- Claire Trevor, Stagecoach, 1939. When they were lovers (during 1936-1939), John Ford showed Kate a magazine story he’d read, Stage To Lordsburg - he wanted her in his movie version.John Wayne became a star in the Western and Ford told him: “Kate Hepburn is the kind of woman a mancould almost leave his wife for.”
- Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman, 1940. Passed - in order to make her Philadelphia Story. “I didn’t want to play a soap-opera about a shop girl.” And as for her replacement, “the invading preying mantis”: “If you have anything good to say about [her], don’t say it in my presence.” “Miss Ginger Snaps,” as Kate called her, won the Oscar. “Prizes are nothing,” snapped Hepburn. “My prize is my work.” They’d co-starred in Stage Door, 1937, Kate usurping Ginger’s top billing. They took it in (angry) turns to be Queen of RKO and Kate hated Ginger since finding her and Kate’s lover, director George Stevens, naked in a tub. Rehearsing, he said.
- Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1940. “I realise you don’t want me,” said Roz to director Howard Hawks. Certainly, the loathed Columbia czar Harry Cohn preferred Irene Dunne - for every role that came his way!
- Maureen O’Hara, How Green Was My Valley, 1940. An Irish Angharad… !! After paying $300,000 for Richard Llewellyn’s Welsh Germinal, head Fox Darryl Zanuck wanted Laurence Olivier and Hepburn for the central, touching romance of the pastor Gruffyd and Angharad. They became Walter Pidgeon and O’Hara - in “a stunning masterpiece,” said New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. It went on to beat Citizen Kane to Best Film and became the third (of four) unequalled directing Oscars for John Ford.
- Ingrid Bergman, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1941. Spencer Tracy’s original idea, rejected by MGM, was to have the good doctor’s very properfiancee (Turner) and the evil Hyde’s whore (Bergman) played by the same actress...
- Lana Turner, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1941. …“And I was the girl he had in mind,”said Kate.“At this time we had never met. It still seems the most fascinating idea - thrillingand very modern.” Tracy got his way - in a fashion. Ingrid, booked as the fiancee, swopped roles with Lana... and became his lover.
- Betty Field, Kings Row, 1941. Olivia De Havilland and Ida Lupino rejected the neurotic Cassandra that Bette Davis craved. (She suggested Field for the part). Hepburn, Laraine Day, Marsha Hunt, Priscilla Lane, Joan Leslie, Adele Longmire, Susan Peters, Gene Tierney were also seen for "the town they talk of in whispers," full of murder, sadism, depravity. And worse that had to be axed from Henry Bellamann’s 1940 novel: sex (premarital), sex (gay), incest, suicide... Peyton Place 16 years before Peyton Place!
- Paulette Goddard, Reap The Wild Wind, 1941. A reprise of Gone With The Wind... She lost a Southern belle (“pursued by both John Wayne and Ray Milland”) at the last minute... to another Scarlett O’Hara contender, Or, “Chaplin’s whore,” as Kate generously referred to her. “I’ve never met the bitch but I know that... I won’t be able to stand her.” Particularly when Spencer Tracy started two-timing her with Paulette. Despite an invite to partner Duke in 1953, it was another 33 years before Kate finally co-starred with Wayne: Rooster Cogburn, 1975.
- Barbara Stanwyck, The Gay Sisters, 1941. Fretting that she’d have to look older than Mary, who already “photographed old,” Bette Davis told head Brother Jack Warner to shove it… to someone else. He called up Hepburn, Irene Dunne and tried to borrow Norma Shearer, MGM’s First Lady. The problem was solved when Astor split for The Maltese Falcon. Except by then, La Barb was signed.
- Rosalind Russell,Take A Letter Darling, 1942. No, said Kate (or Katie) to Hollywood, Kath to family and friends. By the way, Fred MacMurray was the secretary.
- Irene Dunne, A Guy Named Joe, 1943. “He wanted Kate, not me,” Dunne told Roddy McDowell in 1971. Impossible. She was starring in Without Love on Broadway. There were times when the famous lovers were apart for years. “We ironed everything out., Tracy and me,” said Dunne about her “most difficult” film. Such a favourite of Steven Spielberg’s that he re-made it, in 1989. As badly as he renamed it: Always.
- Joan Fontaine, Frenchman’s Creek, 1943. Kate was due to be Daphne Du Maurier’s heroine, Donna Sty Colmb - “A Lady of Fire and Ice,” screamed the posters, falling for a piratical “Rogue of Steel and Gallantry.” Then, she Keeper of the Flame with a certain Spencer Tracy in 1942, second of their nine films.
- Joan Fontaine, Jane Eyre, 1943. Producer David O Selznick fluctuated between Fontaine, Hepburn and Vivien Leigh for the titular governess. Idem for the byronic Mr Rochester, until dropping Ronald Colman, Alan Marshal, Walter Pidgeon for Orson Welles. DOS then sold his whole package - director Robert Stevenson, writers John Houseman, Aldous Huxley - to Fox.
- Greer Garson, Madame Curie, 1943. It was the biopic season… and as usual, MGM was thinking big. Greta Garbo and Spencer Tracy discovering radium as the Marie and Pierre Curie. That was in 1938. And their daughter, Eve, found the august Aldous Huxleu’s version of her book too glamorous - ie, casting Garbo as Mum was taking the shine off Dad, whoever played him. MGM voted Garson and Walter Pidgeon and made it a massive hit with such crass advertising as… “Mr & Mrs Miniver Together Again in Another Screen Hit!"
- Elizabeth Taylor, National Velvet, 1944. Producer Pandro Berman (a Kate fan from their RKO days) tried to buy the Edith Bagnold book for her in 1935. Paramount beat him to it and later sold the rights to MGM - where Berman wound up working, He got it back and saw numerous potential Velvet Browns. Including Pat Arno, Alix De Kauffman, Leslie Ruth Howard, Patsy Lee Parsons, Gene Tierney. Oh, and Shirley Catlin… the future UK politician Baroness Shirley Williams None matched Taylor’s sheer determination. When told she was too short in her test (directed by Fred Zinnemann!), Liz promised to put on three inches before shooting. And she did! A star is born, agreed the critics.
- Jane Wyman, The Lost Weekend, 1944. Director Billy Wilder asked Hepburn to play Helen St James. She was keen but had to pass being committed to Without Love with Spencer Tracy.
- Merle Oberon, ASong To Remember, 1945. Inevitably, the trousers-loving Katie was named for George Sand in the mid-30s. She fortunately escaped the (Cornel) Wilde Chopin.
- Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge, 1946. She passed on being Tyrone Power’s socialite fiancée in order to support her lover Spencer Tracy’s1945 return to Broadway in The Rugged Path.
- Lana Turner, Green Dolphin Street, 1946. According to MGM files, Elizabeth Goudge’s turgid romance (set in New Zealand, amid earthquakes and Maori uprisings) was bought with Hepburn in mind for Marianne. She left it well alone, while poor Van Heflin ad eagerly signed on, hoping to rekindle his Broadway love-affair with Kate.
- Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra, 1946. Theresa Helburn of the Theatre Guild offered the film of Eugene O’Neill’s play to Kate - with the promiseof her lover, Garbo, as her mother. The playwright agreed Kate would be a fine Lavina butthat 1930s’ movie censorship would castrate his work. Certainly, MGM’s LB Mayer was aghast at the very idea of Garbo as a mother in, er... “Isn't this play about incest?” Opposite Katina Paxinou as mum, Russell won an Oscar nomination and thought she’d won - getting up too early only to slide back down as she heard Loretta Young had won for The Farmer’s Daughter.
- Gene Tierney, The Ghost and Mrs Muir, 1947. She took three weeks to tell director and ex-lover John Ford- back from WWII - that she couldn’t make his comedy. (Ford quit, too). Kate was too busy tending another soggy Irish boozehound, Spencer Tracy. As LA gossip put it, they were more sisters than lovers.
- Barbara Stanwyck, BF’s Daughter, 1948. BF, indeed! Labeled “pink” for attending a rally for the first (and last) Progressive Party candidate, Henry Wallace (Roosevelt’s first vice-president), Hepburn suddenly found she was no longer Charles Coburn’s daughter. And the Republican Stanwyck was - opposite one of Kate’s ex-lovers, Van Heflin, as Barbara’s husband.
- Ingrid Bergman, Joan of Arc, 1948. King Kong producer Merian C Cooper tested “that horse face” as early as1934. RKO felt colour cost too much... until 14 years later.
- Deborah Kerr, Edward My Son, 1949. She was in London with him, but backed off playing Spencer Tracy’s alcoholic wife - as, indeed, he should have refused the British millionaire role.
- Leueen MacGrath, Edward My Son, 1949. During the production, director George Cukor suggested that play Tracy’s secretary - and accept third billing. Oh, yeah, sure.
- Rosalind Russell, A Woman of Distinction, 1950. Delighted with Kate for rescuing State of the Union, 1948, Frank Capra asked her to join his next screwball number - but MGM was not going to loan her to Columbia. So we missed an ironic pearl... when Hepburn, of all people, asked another character (about electricity, of course): Are you AC or DC? !!
- Joan Bennett, Father of the Bride, 1950. “It’s hopelessly weak for me.” Hepburn once again refused to be Spencer Tracy’s wife in one of his biggest hits. She was livid when the “beautiful but vapid” (and pregnant) Joan took over. Kate hated Joan for obviously arranging the visit of her sister, Constance, during a Little Women lunch-break - when she slapped Hepburn’s face “for stealing Morning Glory from me.”
- Geraldine Page, Hondo, 1953. John Wayne’s one and only 3D Western. Katie eventually joined his penultimate movie, Rooster Cogburn, 1975. "It was like leaning against a great tree,"
- Jean Arthur, Shane, 1951. Director George Stevens’ first trio was Montgomery Clift, William Holden and Hepburn. He nearly canceled his classic Western when none were free. He finally asked: Who else is available? Three minutes later he had bagged: Alan Ladd, Van Heflin and Jean (in her last movie). Shot during July-October 1952, it wasn’t released until 1953 due to Stevens’ lengthy editing and Paramount losing faith… until Howard Hughes tried to buy it!
- Elizabeth Taylor, Elephant Walk,1954. Among the many refusing to take over following Vivien Leigh's breakdown in Ceylon.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
- Lucille Ball, Forever Darling, 1955. No, no, Kath was not about to replace The #1 TV Wifeof the #1 TV Husband… Lucille and Desi Arnaz simply dusted off the plot many years after first, The Thin Man couple of Loy and William Powell, then Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (like who else?) passed on being the splitting couple saved by an angel... Didn’t work: the Arnazes divorced five years later. (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn).
- Dorothy Maguire, Friendly Persuasion, 1956. Director William Wyler usually got what he wanted. Not this time. Due as her Quaker husband, Gary Cooper wanted Ingrid Bergman - and hated the movie.
- Sophia Loren, The Millionairess, 1960. Before she played the role on stage, George Bernard Shaw wanted her in a movie version. Her mother “worshipped” every word GBS wrote but Kate felt “the first act was good, the second act was worse and the third was absolutely hopeless. So I said no.” She did the play in the West End, before Broadway, in 1952 - another long separation from Spencer Tracy. (While he romanced Gene Tierney). The film idea cropped up anew in 1953 - and was shelved. (Sophia and Tracy both, wereconsidered unbankable when due to join Frank Capra’s Big Deal in 1960).
- Shirley MacLaine,The Children’s Hour, 1961. Opposite Doris Day - as lesbian schoolteachers. Rather too close to Kate’s secret sex life with Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Laura Harding, Judy Holliday, Irene Mayer Selznick, Susan Steele., etc. And the list goes on…
- Audrey Hepburn, The Children’s Hour, 1961. Surely she was way too old - at 54 - for either role. Shirley and Audrey were hardly in the full bloom of youth thmeselves, at 27 and 34.
- Wendy Hiller, Toys in the Attic, 1962. “This turgid drama and his avid actors... get completely out of hand and run wild in a baffling confusion of theatrical bursts and attitudes.” Owch! That was the NewYork Times critic Bosley Crowther. As fpr Hiller, she “makes so many switches… it is hard to grasp the cause of her affection and her evident sibling jealousy.” Double owch! Obviously, director George Roy Hill was out-of-his-depth and could not have better controlled the studio’s first, dream-wish cast. Hepburn, Gene Tierney and… and Vivien Leigh!
- Paula Prentiss, Man’s Favourite Sport, 1963. Or The Girl Who Almost Got Away when Howard Hawks first figured on reuniting his Bringing Up Baby team of Grant and Hepburn. At 59, Grant was worried about romancing Paula Prentiss, aged 24.
- Olivia De Havilland, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, 1964. Joan Crawford fell “ill” during (or due to) the Baby Jane reunion. When asked to take over, Kate did not even bother to reply. Bette Davis vetoed her, anyway, and Robert Aldrich's other suggestion (Vivien Leigh) and sent for her (only) Hollywood friend.
- Vivien Leigh, Ship of Fools,1965. When producer-director Stanley Kramer would not use Spencer Tracy as well, Kate declined. Then, for them both, Kramer created Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - Tracy’s last hurrah.
- Giulietta Masina, Giulietta degli spiriti (US: Juliet of the Spirits), Italy-France, 1965. Masina cooled her career after abad experience with French realisateur Julien Duvivier. He told her that Fellini didn’t know how to direct her (!), and gave her a Marilyn make-over for Das kunstseidene Mädchen - which, for someone who didn’t rate Fellini, was a Berlin-set re-hash of the Fellini couple’s Nights of Cabiria. (And internationally known as The High Life… La Dolce Vita was The Sweet Life). To help make up for that (and a few affairs), Fellini wrote this gift for her but certain Cineriz company suits yawned. “We want a Hollywood star.” It is not known if Hepburn was aware of topping their list. Or whether she also yawned. As Fellini did.
- Rosalind Russell, Rosie! 1967. Universal bought the Ruth Gordon-adapted play, A Very Rich Woman, for Kate, but living well off the allowance her father handled, she remained off-screen for five years, nursing Spencer Tracy, and totally embroidering the “truth” of their love story.
- Noel Coward, Boom, 1968. “Not a bad idea,” said exiled US director Joseph Losey. Except Hepburn was insulted by Liz Taylor’s invitation to play her bitchy neighbor, The Witch of Capri. (They had been aunt and neice in Suddenly, Last Summer,1959). Joe’s agent, Robin Fox, suggested Coward. He also refused. “Listen, you old fool,” Losey told him, “you'll get $75,000 for two weeks’ work. You’re not young, your reputation is safe - what harm can it do?” And Coward turned courageous.
- Geraldine Page, Look Homeward Angel, TV, 1971. Kate gave up attempts to set up a movie of the Broadway play (a 1958 hit with Anthony Perkins) when she could not persuade Warren Beatty to join her.
- Maggie Smith, Travels With My Aunt,1972. “I got fired a week before we were going to shoot.I don’t know why exactly. All very political.” Her director pal, George Cukor declared: “MGM behaved badly with her- Mr. Whoever-It-Was-Then [James Aubrey]. They were shits. They thought she was running things. She behaved impeccably. But they were just stupid. Petty. Idiotic. I wanted to leave but...” Kate told him :“Don't you be impracticable,you’ve worked on it for two years.” It became a funny, lovely picture, he said. About “a real old cow,” said Maggie.
- Ingrid Bergman, A Matter of Time/Nina,1976. Vincente Minnelli’s last film was his first to star daughter Liza. Ingrid’s daughter, Isabella Rossellini, was also cast.
- James Cagney, Terrible Joe Moran, TV, 1984. Cagney’s 65th and last movie (forCBS TV) had once been an idea for Hepburn - as a wealthy, ex-tennis star, embittered by family estrangement and finding a little affection in old age from a grandchild. Jimmy, went out fighting - a mite punchy, alas - as an ex-boxing champ.
- Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage To India, 1984. Almost 30 years after their Summertime, Kate was the first thought of legendary UK director David Lean for what proved his final film - even to the extent of allowing Mrs Moore to hail from New England. Dame Peg disapproved of Lean’s autocratic ways and told him: “I’m 75 and beyond doing another film in India.” He told her: “I'm 75, too.” Ah…!
- Maggie Smith,The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, 1987. Maggie strikes again… Before director Jack Clayton achieved his dream, John Huston had planned his with Kate as Brian Moore's Irish spinster.
- Mona Washbourne The Bluebird, 1976. Why? No explanation has been found. But then Katharine Hepburn never enjoyed media questions. “I welcome death. In death there are no interviews!"
- Olympia Dukakis, Steel Magnolias, 1988. Bette Davis caught the off-Broadway play – all gossipy one-liners at a Louisiana beauty parlour - and immediately tried setting up a movie. She would be Ouiser Boudreaux, of course, with Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor as Claire and Truvy. Producer Ray Stark had other plans. Younger.