I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, quite a bit of it on the road when visiting my Dad, and of course, more recently, in NYC. By far the one I’ve enjoyed the most is the Katharine Hepburn autobiography, Me. I don’t know why I’m so late coming to this delightful and candid tome; she has long been one of my heroes and her 1969 movie, The Lion in Winter, is my all time favourite. Her writing style appears to be simply a stream of consciousness although it is very well organized and covers her whole life. As you read, you can just imagine yourself listening to her tell her story. It flows so easily you could almost finish reading it in one sitting. Or maybe you just can’t put it down, so you refuse to get up until it’s done.
She starts before the beginning of her life, telling about her parents, their parents, their backgrounds, the places they lived, her siblings and the order in which they came along, who was closest to whom, and all about her growing up. Something that really comes through is how she and her siblings felt so fortunate to have had the parents they did. They grew up in an atmosphere of political change, with parents who cared about educating women about medical facts, treatments and women’s suffrage, knowing other adults involved in changing the way people thought (Emmeline Pankhurst, Alice Paul, Dr. Charles Eliot, white-slavery investigators), but feeling that they, too, the children, had opinions that counted and were worth listening to, that they could discuss without fear and that they had their parents’ confidence and backing.
Kate tells stories about her school life (Bryn Mawr), early career choices, (some good, some bad), her early marriage, comic adventures living in New York, her several beaux (Howard Hughes was one), movies and directors, and, in his turn, Spencer Tracy to whom she was devoted for almost 30 years until his death in 1967.
Many of her recollections are self-deprecating, full of humour; some are sad; all of them told with a perspective of time and what seems to be a realistic evaluation. She tells of childhood pranks gone wrong, rules and proprieties flaunted, what she found to be a caring and nurturing atmosphere among colleagues both on stage and in the movies, and many behind the scenes stories and adventures in the making of movies such as The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart, Summertime directed by David Lean, On Golden Pond with Henry and Jane Fonda, Rooster Cogburn with John Wayne, The Corn is Green with George Cukor directing, and of course her numerous movies with Spencer.
If you haven’t read this yet and are a Hepburn fan, or even if you’re not, you’ll enjoy this book immensely. It is the strong voice of a woman who lived apart from the pack with a zest rarely seen before or since.