5 Things You Didn't Know About Katharine Hepburn

On May 12, 1907, Katharine Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut.  To honor the birthday of one of the most celebrated actresses of the 20th century, here are 5 things you probably didn't know about Katharine Hepburn.

ADVERTISEMENT

She Found Her Brother Dead When She Was 13 Years Old Hepburn lived a privileged childhood, but it was not without tragedy.  When she was just 13 years old, she found her 15-year-old brother Tom hanging from the rafters after strangling himself to death. The family asserted that it wasn’t suicide but instead a magic trick gone awry since Tom had tried a mock-hanging trick once before.  Regardless, the incident cast a dark shadow over the rest of Hepburn's life.

She Held The Record For Most Oscar Nominations... Until Meryl Streep Came Along With her Best Actress nomination for the film On Golden Pond in 1981, Katherine Hepburn set a record for the most nominations ever earned by an actor: 12. This record stood until 2002, when Meryl Streep was nominated for her 13th for a supporting role in Adaptation (since then, Streep’s nomination count has risen to a whopping 21). When it comes to actual wins, however, Hepburn comes out on top: Streep has three wins, while Hepburn has won four.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hepburn Once Dumped Water on Ginger Rogers On the set of Stage Door, Ginger Rogers was flaunting a new mink coat when Katherine Hepburn approached Ginger Rogers and poured water on it, explaining that if the coat was, real mink, it wouldn't shrink. It was assumed that the behavior was brought on by her jealousy of Rogers, since Hepburn’s boyfriend Howard Hughes had reportedly shown an interest in her.  Asked about the incident in an interview, Ginger Rogers said, “Don’t ask me, I haven’t the foggiest notion why she did it.”

She Had A Decades Long Affair With Spencer Tracy Katherine Hepburn's life and career were dominated by her love affair with Spencer Tracy. The couple lived together for 27 years despite the fact that Spencer Tracy was still married to his wife Louise Treadwell. Tracy left the family home in 1933, and he and Louise openly discussed their separation with the media, maintaining that they were still friends and had not taken divorce action. Tracy was unhappily married and the father of two when they met, and he remained married until the end of his life. Over the course of his relationship with Hepburn, the two lovers starred in nine films together including Pat and Mike in 1952 and Adam’s Rib in 1949.  Just a few weeks after filming their final film together Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Spencer Tracy passed away after suffering a heart attack at age 67.


She Chose To Buy Out Her Contract For "The Lake" Rather Than Finish Out The Run Katherine Hepburn made her successful Broadway debut in Art and Mrs. Bottle in 1930, and appeared in The Warrior’s Husband in 1932. Her third play however, The Lake was a major flop. Not long into its Broadway run, a 26-year-old Hepburn was so miserable—and treated so poorly by director Jed Harris—that she bought out her contract and simply walked away.