TCM Leading Ladies: Katharine Hepburn

TCM – Saturday 2 August, from 8.30pm


The story focuses on Philadelphia socialite Katharine Hepburn and the love triangle that develops even though she is on the brink of her second marriage. Hepburn is engaged to stuffy coal company executive John Howard (George Kittredge), but things turn topsy-turvy when her ex-husband, Cary Grant (C. K. Dexter Haven), and newspaper scandal reporters James Stewart (Macaulay Connor) and Ruth Hussey (Elizabeth Imbrie), arrive on the scene. The Philadelphia Story is the perfect comedy, brimming with witty lines and superb performances. Hepburn bought the film rights of the Philip Barry play and she was guaranteed the right to select director, screen writer and fellow co-stars. As a result she chose her favourites: director George Cukor, close friend and witty Hollywood screen writer Donald Ogden Stewart and actor James Stewart, who was emerging as a fine young talent. The film proved a box-office smash, claiming two Oscars®.


Sparks flew when Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy first met in the MGM commissary. Hepburn, wearing 4-inch heels, said, “I’m afraid I’m a little tall for you, Mr. Tracy”, he replied, “Don’t worry, Miss Hepburn, I’ll cut you down to size.” This off-screen wit transcended itself on-screen and a dynamic union was created that would last 25 years. In this stylish comedy total opposites Tracy, playing a rough-edged sportswriter, and Hepburn, an international affairs correspondent, unexpectedly fall in love. But their marriage is shaky, as Hepburn wrestles with her commitment to her man and her job. Though the movie was Hepburn’s baby, Tracy insisted on top billing, explaining to the disapproving scriptwriter, “This is a movie, chowder-head, not a lifeboat.” This was the pair’s first film together.

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