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In her remarkable 62-year career, Katharine Hepburn starred in over 40 films, appeared in over 10 Broadway plays, and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning four. Her relationship with actor Spencer Tracy is one of Hollywood's most famous romances; it lasted 25 years until Tracy's death in 1967-never mind that Tracy was married to another woman. In her life Hepburn was an icon of feminism and New England-style forthrightness; as an artist she was a national treasure. Hepburn's death on June 29, 2003, at the...
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In her remarkable 62-year career, Katharine Hepburn starred in over 40 films, appeared in over 10 Broadway plays, and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning four. Her relationship with actor Spencer Tracy is one of Hollywood's most famous romances; it lasted 25 years until Tracy's death in 1967-never mind that Tracy was married to another woman. In her life Hepburn was an icon of feminism and New England-style forthrightness; as an artist she was a national treasure. Hepburn's death on June 29, 2003, at the age of 96 did little to silence the almost -century-long conversation about her. But one topic remained taboo, despite Hepburn's reputation as being fearlessly honest. Was Katharine Hepburn a lesbian? This biography directly addresses and documents the numerous accounts of Hepburn's lesbian affairs, including her relationships with Laura Harding, Jane Loring, Elissa Landi, Irene Mayer Selznick, Phyllis Wilbourn, and others. In addition, it provides an eye-opening re-examination of the star's most noted "love affairs." Parrish details how Hepburn spun her relationship with billionaire Howard Hughes to appear to be a romance, when in fact it wasn't, and most explosively reveals what caused Hepburn to accept a masochistic, platonic relationship with alcoholic, bisexual actor Spencer Tracy, and to allow it to be characterized as one of the "great loves of the twentieth century." Extensive research and interviews with numerous friends, journalists, and acquaintances separate myth from fact to reveal the real, sometimes conflicted, frustratingly complicated, and always amazing woman behind the painstakingly self-crafted image.
James Robert Parish is the author of 20books on Hollywood, including biographies of Whoopi Goldberg, Gus Van Sant, Rosie O'Donnell, and Whitney Houston. He lives in Los Angeles.
Posted March 26, 2006
James Robert Parish has a writing career of more than thirty years, and has written an amazing 101 books, according to the Library of Congress website. When I saw his ¿Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story¿ I must admit I was somewhat bemused. Given the number of books already written about her, I frankly couldn¿t see what new Parish, prolific and experienced as he is, might have to contribute about the actress. Once I read his book my initial reaction was certainly proven wrong. He has plenty to contribute to our knowledge about the woman. Notice I said ¿woman¿ not ¿actress.¿ Parish¿s approach is far different from the other Hepburn biographers. He provides much more insight into Hepburn the woman as opposed to repeating the same, over-told stories about her career in films. As an example, let me cite something which really stuck me. We¿re all familiar with Hepburn¿s ¿attitude¿ as an ¿independent¿ woman. That was a badge she wore proudly, and boasted of often. It¿s a hallmark everyone feels compelled to mention about Hepburn. Her independence in films, her independence in her life and her work ethic, her independence of men. Parish has some interesting quotes from Hepburn about how she deferred her every opinion ¿ from clothes to food ¿ to Spencer Tracy. Spencer didn¿t like this Spencer didn¿t like that Spencer preferred this to that Spencer wanted it done this way. Spencer, Spencer, Spencer. Much later in his book is the startling quote from Hepburn that Spencer was the ¿most unselfish man¿ she¿d ever met. The comment fairly boggles the mind, since she¿d practically let Spencer dictate ever minute thing in their relationship. Independent woman? Ha! What a timid little mouse she was where Spencer was concerned. There are lots of such dichotomies about Hepburn that Parish reveals, which I think her other biographers have completely overlooked. He doesn¿t pass judgment on Hepburn for them Parish just presents them and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about the actress. Read his book carefully and you¿ll soon discover that the Hepburn of legend varies greatly from the ¿real¿ woman. I can¿t say this is the only Hepburn book you should read, but here¿s my qualifier: if you haven¿t read Parish¿s Hepburn biography and it¿s not part of your Hepburn ¿library¿ then you are not acquainted with the ¿real¿ Katharine Hepburn.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2006
While I've never been a fan of Katharine Hepburn's, I've always admired the work of James Robert Parish, and he does not disappoint in this richly detailed biography of the 4-time Oscar winner. He takes us, step-by-step, from her birth in 1907, through her dysfunctional family life, her affairs with men and women, her unprofessional and immature behavior with colleagues, her attempts to rewrite her life story, to her passing in 2003.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2006
Katharine Hepburn's sex life may not seem like a worthy topic for an entire book, but KATHARINE HEPBURN: THE UNTOLD STORY makes the case that this superstar's sexual orientation informed her performances, her choice of roles, and the way critics and the public perceived her. Author James Robert Parish also shows how Hepburn's offscreen life was shaped by the era in which she lived. Fans who do not want to hear that Hepburn was bisexual or that her affair with Spencer Tracy wasn't all that it seemed may not appreciate this investigation. Others should enjoy reading the many 'Golden Age' anecdotes (some I've never heard before) and seeing the rare photos (I assume some have never been before published). And what could have been seamy and exploitative becomes compelling and well-crafted. This book is recommended!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 7, 2005
Parish, who has dominated the field of show business biographies for so long, has dared to do what Scott Berg only hinted at and no other biographer dared: depict Hepburn through the lens of her hidden sexuality, as well as explore the same of other players in the motion picture industry of the time. Those who object to this kind of scrutiny will simply ignore the fact that to this day, stars often battle their own sexual needs with the marketing of their public images. This is an important and respectful book on a fascinating woman.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 10, 2005
The law says you can¿t defame someone after she¿s dead, which is good news for ¿Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story¿ in which author James Robert Parish makes a pretty fair case for Kate¿s bisexuality, if not lesbianism. But that¿s the purpose behind Advocate Books¿ publication of this consummately researched, elegantly written biography of the screen iconoclast. Using previously closeted material, Parish untangles the web of cover stories and mythology that Hepburn carefully spun while she was alive, not only naming her probable lovers (one of whom was quite possibly NOT Spencer Tracy) but also adding resonance to her career choices. Although Parish enacts his publisher¿s obligation to mention whether someone was gay or bi, no matter how tangential they may have been to Hepburn¿s life, he delivers a compassionate portrait of a woman who chafed at the constraints of society even as she challenged them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 14, 2006
When one reads a book about a favorite Movie Star,the first thing is to become part of the times in which this person lived,worked and played. I feel Mr. Parish takes us to a past that most of us can not dream of. The people and places that make up Katharine Hepburn's childhood and early life were astounding,first in her mother's circle and then in the context of who lived and frequented the Hartford area during Hepburn's formative years. This sets the tone for one's life and is usually just glossed over by most writers. The last years that the public knew nothing about made this story all the more poignant. It was a very well researched book and I never felt that Mr. Parish disliked his subject nor did I feel that he tried to insert himself into the flow of the material. Katharine Hepburn will always be an icon to us, because of her humaness.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 2, 2005
This is a fascinating look at the woman behind the legend. Hepburn's career spanned much of the 20th century and included many ups and downs. This book takes us behind the icon with a look at her childhood, family and many relationships/friendships with men and women. This is very enjoyable reading and includes much behind the scenes information on the making of her countless films and plays. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about one of the most unique women in Hollywood historyWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2005
James Robert Parish, one of the most proflific and passionate of our film scholars, has tackled a fascinating and difficult subject. Katharine Hepburn has been one of the most admired and written-about figures in twentieth century popular culture. Admired as much for her off-screen life as her iconic movie persona, Hepburn zealously guarded her private life. Parish goes beyond the 'official' story to opine on the very likely possibility that Hepburn was either gay or bisexual. It is a difficult task since virtually all of the possible witnesses are deceased, but he presents the available facts and opinions in a flavorful text rich with the details of Hepburn's personal and professional lives and the times in which she lived. Numerous biographies and memoirs of Hepburn exist, but this first important biography following her death moves into areas (particularly regarding Hepburn's sexuality) that no biographer has attempted. The effect does not tarnish Hepburn, but only enhances the portrait of a powerful, compelling, and contradictory figure who will continue to fascinate.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2005
If you enjoy a book in which every so-called revelatory statement or bit of innuendo is preceded or followed by 'maybe' or 'possibly', then you will like this book. Also if you like re-hashing and cut and paste jobs and no original thought or turn of phrase, this is your book. If on the other hand you are looking for a well-written, well-researched book that actually tells you something worth knowing about Katharine Hepburn, then stay away from this one. This book has an agenda -- convince the world that Kate Hepburn was a closeted gay and since Parish can provide nothing other than rumor, gossip, and supposition in that area -- it is miserable failure of a book and a waste of time. If it were possible, I'd give this book no stars.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 5, 2005
I personally can't think of another American celebrity whose life was documented so well not just by Hepburn herself in private letters and correspondence (some of which I have seen) but in the many biographies and films . The wealth of material that has come out since her death is astounding. One article I have read claims that there is even a letter out there in a private collection where Katharine was asked to take the full reponsibility of the breakdown of her marriage - she allegedly wrote the letter on the request of her husband's family . A lot of this information is available for free for somebody with access to the internet and some free time . I give the author credit that he admits in the book when he is speculating but if you wish to argue that Katharine was gay or bisexual why not go back to the sources of information that are now available and make a well argued case . I am not a biographer and I was continually frustrated by a book where so few people seem to have been interviewed and very few reputable primary sources consulted . Most of the book seems to be a rehash of other biographies where the authors also got the basic facts wrong. Getting back to the primary sources would also avoid the allegations that Katharine stage managed her relationship with Tracy . I have seen some letters where Katharine wrote about Spencer - they are incredibly moving and honest especially about his death . The Motion Picture Academy is currently cataloguing the vast amount of letters and papers that Katharine left us . I am still waiting for a well written nuanced biography of Ms Hepburn - a very complex person who deserves better than this biography.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2005
Parish's unflinching view of the late, great Katharine Hepburn may not be to everyone's liking, but, while acknowledging her unique talent and her contribution to American film and stage, he raises some significant questions about her life and her self-image. While some of his speculations about her sexual life may be questionable, Parish is able to challenge successfully the usual interpretations of Hepburn's life as put forth by both herself and many of her biographers. He points out how fervidly Hepburn described herself in terms of how she wanted the world to view her. The facts of her family's oddities, the speculations behind her brother's suicide, and the incredible effect that event had on her and her family, are all well known. Until all the material about her life that was donated to the Motion Picture Academy can be researched and digested, much of the speculation about Hepburn's adult life, her sexuality, and her loves cannot be fully determined. This reader was fascinated by Parish's marshalling of facts and speculations, but remains unconvinced of some of his conclusions about Hepburn's character. Nonetheless, the author's refreshingly unconventional view of Hepburn's life, loves, and her continuous self-interpretation is definitely worth a read by all enthusiasts of this great lady of stage and film.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 29, 2005
In his biography of Katharine Hepburn, author James Robert Parish takes a position some persons may object to: he deals with the possibility that this legendary performer may have been bisexual or even homosexual. Some persons won¿t like what he has to say. Not every book is designed for every reader. Folks who would like to explore the possibility of Katharine Hepburn¿s being bisexual or homosexual should read this book and then draw their own conclusions. However, anyone who has determined in advance that she definitely could not have been gay¿or who would be offended by the issue¿s even being raised¿really should avoid it. For the vast majority who lie in between these two poles, give the book a try. It does present enough material to cause one at least to consider the possibility. Remember, Shakespeare advised us, ¿Give every man thy ear.¿ I personally feel that everyone¿s opinion is worth exploring. The book is well worth reading because Mr. Parish does provide material that has not yet been printed elsewhere, and he has compiled his data in an interesting fashion with some key insights that I personally found enlightening. As the book is published by the Advocate (with their name featured prominently above the title on the dust jacket), I would assume that it is quite possible Mr. Parish was commissioned by the Advocate to write this book to fulfill their preconceived agenda. One thing is certain, Miss Hepburn was a master at manipulating her own image. Whatever her private feelings might have been, no printed material can be relied upon to say anything definitively about her sexuality. All points of view are valuable. My opinion is that James Robert Parish¿s Katharine Hepburn, the Untold Story is worth reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.