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Kate: the Woman Who Was Hepburn (2006)

por William J. Mann

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277675,014 (3.73)8
The first major Katharine Hepburn biography independent of her control reveals the smart, complicated, and sophisticated woman behind the image. Onscreen she played society girls, Spencer Tracy's sidekick, lionesses in winter. But the best character Katharine Hepburn ever created was Katharine Hepburn: a Connecticut Yankee, outspoken and elegant, she wore pants whatever the occasion and bristled at Hollywood glitter. So captivating was her image that she never seemed less than authentic. Previous biographies have recycled the stories she hid behind, taking Hollywood myths at face value. Mann goes deeper, delivering new details from friends and family who have not been previously interviewed and drawing on materials only available since Hepburn's death. He shows us how a woman originally considered too special and controversial for fame learned the fine arts of movie stardom and transformed herself into an icon as durable and all-American as the Statue of Liberty.--From publisher description.… (mais)
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The author states near the beginning of this book that he is not really a fan of Kate or her films. He doesn't come right out and say why he is writing this book. Several other reviewers here have pointed out that this author has also written a book about how homosexuals have shaped Hollywood. In this book he spends a lot of time speculating as to different people's sexual orientation. While it appears there are times he has solid evidence for his speculation there were several times where he seems to be strechting to get where he wants to go. Ultimately, he wants you, the reader, to agree with him that Kate was probably a lesbian.

I have two issues with this book, the author points out that especially towards the end her life Kate spent a lot of time and effort in recording her history. She wrote her memoirs and opened up to doing interviews more than ever before. Kate did not choose to be remembered as a lesbian and if she did have interests in that area she did not believe it defined her.

The second issue I have with the author is that I do not believe someone's sexual orientation defines them as a person. Ultimately it is only one aspect of who someone is. With the laser like focus this author brings to the issue I feel his analysis of people is unfairly narrow.

I do not feel this should be considered Kate's difinitive biography. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Just about every biography of Katharine Hepburn was written and influence by Katharine Hepburn herself, however, this book was undertaken after her death and the research that was used were paper trails - itineraries of ships, trains, planes, along with schedules for theater shows, etc. Mann also explored her sexuality in a way not previously defined. He insinuates at times that she was gay, transgender, bisexual, but never comes to a conclusion.

However, I'm not sure how well we can accept the stories that he tells. Someone else's life will always seem different to other people than to the person who lived it.

This book said many things about Katharine Hepburn as well as Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, and Howard Hughes but whether you care to believe it, is your choice. ( )
  cyderry | Jul 12, 2014 |
"The difference between this book and many of the other biographies of Katharine Hepburn is that it was written outside of the perview of the subject. As we come to see in this book, the do-it-by-self independent personality that so many people admire is a) constructed by Hepburn herself (and the media) and b) somewhat true regardless. Hepburn worked very hard to create and protect and use her image. One easy example of this is the number of interviews she gave, despite being known to be a media-shy recluse.
Mann decided for his book that he would try to get to the truth about Hepburn's story by following paper trails (for example - a ship she might not have been on because it left a month early) and talking to/reading the papers of friends and family who were enough out of the public eye that they did not self-edit quite as much. He compares differing stories and tries to figure out where stories started and how they changed.
The author also deals with questions about Hepburn's sexuality. He frankly discusses the close relationships with women and men, but does not try to give her a label. Hepburn wouldn't have accepted one. Was she gay? Bisexual? Transgender? It is risky to go back and try to label someone, and Mann avoids this while still illuminating portions of the star's life that other biographers have shied away from. As a reader, I especially appreciated that he presented what he found without sounding gossipy or disrespectful - Hepburn was a complicated person, and therefore, so were the results of this book.
I recommend this book to Hepburn fans, and for people interested in how the media molds information. I was worried that it might "spoil things" for me because I have been such a big fan of Hepburn, the legend, but my only regret with this book is that by getting to know a bit more about her, I am saddened by the loneliness she at times faced." ( )
  JanesList | Apr 7, 2008 |
This is a landmark book, in my opinion. I have never read a more compelling and convincing biography. I think this books was really the culmination and triumph because of the author's other two fantastic books: Wisecracker & Behind the Screen. The latter is a landmark book in and of itself, revealing the prominently queer Hollywood before The Code was instituted. Wisecrack, about silent film star William Haines, continued the scholarly study of this shameful period in Hollywood history. Ms. Hepburn has been written about so much and only a historian who had done the research that Mann did could have begun to discover the true enigmatic mystery of this screen icon. I cannot recommend this author's books enough....including his novels. The only thing I haven't read from this author's oevre is The Biograph Girl. It is in my "too read" stack. ( )
1 vote mgaulding | Mar 23, 2008 |
All Hepburn biographies are bad, but this one takes the biscuit because it is a biography with pretensions. All the crowing investigation of which Mann boasts is a deceit, and if he really had all that documentation on hand, regarding to whom I know, he didn’t read it with attention, or only looked for what it interested to him. (no wonder the 90 pages of anotations have dissapeared in the spanish edition)
All that people who he says that he has interviewed, are reduced to three people, the rest are pieces of other biographies (although he despises them all) and all those ghosts that in the text are described as “a friend said” or variations of the same introductory phrase (up to 115 times)
There are other traps like introducing data without confirming them that he repeats over and over again so that it seems that the first time he says it, he has corroborated it (for example the one about her aversion to all physical contact, that introduces it for the first time in page 70 without no type of explanation)
And the one of “we can conclude”, “probably” or “I’ts sure enough”, as well as other many similar phrases, that resound in my ears and that appear up to 69 times (yes, I’ve also counted them)
Most of Hepburn quoting are half-done or decontextualised (For many of theses excesses: http://maguei.blogspot.com/2007/08/lo-que-nos-trajo-el-tomate-y-el-cdigo.html [Spanish blog])
and the final chapter remembers me the press reports on Johnny Weissmuller during the 80s, as Tarzan shouting at a residence, shortly before he died. PATHETIC.
The author has the manners of a fascist, in addition to other many things. Reading this biography I’ve understood why Janet Maslin was enchanted with The Da Vinci Code. ( )
  Orellana_Souto | Aug 22, 2007 |
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The first major Katharine Hepburn biography independent of her control reveals the smart, complicated, and sophisticated woman behind the image. Onscreen she played society girls, Spencer Tracy's sidekick, lionesses in winter. But the best character Katharine Hepburn ever created was Katharine Hepburn: a Connecticut Yankee, outspoken and elegant, she wore pants whatever the occasion and bristled at Hollywood glitter. So captivating was her image that she never seemed less than authentic. Previous biographies have recycled the stories she hid behind, taking Hollywood myths at face value. Mann goes deeper, delivering new details from friends and family who have not been previously interviewed and drawing on materials only available since Hepburn's death. He shows us how a woman originally considered too special and controversial for fame learned the fine arts of movie stardom and transformed herself into an icon as durable and all-American as the Statue of Liberty.--From publisher description.

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