Tag Archives: Elizabeth Taylor

Katharine Hepburn – from ‘box office poison’ to ‘greatest female star’ of hollywood

Katharine Hepburn – from ‘box office poison’ to ‘greatest female star’ of Hollywood.

written by Souranath Banerjee

After inquiring onto whom i am writing about today, one of my dear friend asked me ‘Did you mean Audrey Hepburn? I know Marilyn MonroeElizabeth Taylor, even Sophia Loren but who is Katharine Hepburn?’

Hepburn5Well, i don’t blame my friend since firstly he is not too much into Hollywood movies and secondly, lets face it – Katharine Hepburn’s visual image is not as popular as some of her contemporary heroines mentioned above.

Katharine Hepburn was neither a style-icon like Audrey Hepburn, nor a diva like Marilyn or a sexy siren like Elizabeth Taylor or Sofia Loren.

But undoubtedly she was one damn good actress!

A career that ran for more than six decades, in which she was nominated 12 times for the Oscars in the ‘Best Actress’ category and won 4 of them. This is the record maximum number of Oscars won by any performer (actor/actress) till date.

Hepburn4In 1999, Katharine Hepburn was named by the American Film Institute as the ‘greatest female star in Hollywood History’, beating popular actresses like Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman for the top spot.

Her career though began with initial success wasn’t all smooth and up-hill throughout her life.

Within a couple of years into Hollywood, Katharine won her first Oscar for her performance in Morning Glory (1933). It was her third film!

But then her career took a down fall and most of her films didn’t do well in the box-office. And on top of that she had problems with the press. She was too straightforward (often rude) to the reporters and the american audience didn’t seem to like her attitude. 

Hepburn-Stewart-posterEventually her unpopular image was blamed for most of her film’s failures and the Hollywood big-shot Production Houses reacted to it.

Katharine Hepburn was soon termed as the ‘box office poison’ and her film offers quickly dried out.

But it was certainly not the end of her career; far from it.

She planned her mega-comeback with the help of Howard Hughes (her partner at the time) who bought her the rights of the famous play The Philadelphia Story.

the-philadelphia-story-posterKatharine eventually sold the film-rights of the play to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on condition that she would be the star of the film. She also choose the director (George Cukor) and the stars Cary Grant and James Stewart.

In the film The Philadelphia Story (1940) she skillfully crafted her character so that the audience would laugh at her and eventually sympathize. And that’s exactly what happened!

The film became the top grossing movie of that year; she was nominated for the Oscars for her brilliant performance but more importantly she was welcomed back by the press and the audience.

lion-in-winter-posterAnd then there was no looking back for Hepburn. Throughout the 50s and the mid 60s she gave one hit after another – The African QueenSummertime, The RainmakerSuddenly, Last SummerLong Day’s Journey Into Night and many more. For most of these films she was nominated at the Oscars!

But her real success came in the late 60s when she bagged two back to back Oscars for the films Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968). She scooped another Oscar towards the end of her career for the film On Golden Pond (1981). 

Tracy-Hepburn-posterHepburn was a very private person, never liked to be bothered by reporters or her fans. Her twenty-seven years relationship with Spencer Tracy was kept a secret from the public for a long time!

Though married once early in her life Hepburn never had any children. She believed that motherhood to be a full-time commitment and said she was not ready for it.

She was claimed to be an headstrong person who was honest and blunt with her comments. She had great work ethics and was always enthusiastic about her projects.

Hepburn3Films, theaters, television – she kept herself busy with work till the last years of her life.

On June 29, 2003 when Katharine Hepburn died (at the age of 96), American president George W. Bush said Hepburn “will be remembered as one of the nation’s artistic treasures.” 

Her witty remarks were always impressive.

“I strike people as peculiar in some way, although I don’t quite understand why. Of course, I have an angular face, an angular body and, I suppose, an angular personality, which jabs into people.” 

PS – Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film The Aviator (2004) which was made on life of Howard HughesCate Blanchett‘s portrayed Katharine Hepburn. And that makes Cate the first performer to win an Oscar for playing a real-life Oscar Winner!

A few famous scenes from the film The Philadelphia Story.

Elizabeth and Richard – the most popular couple of Hollywood!

Elizabeth and Richard – a love story never to be forgotten.

written by Souranath Banerjee.

It all started in the sets of ‘Cleopatra’:

The year was 1962 and the most expensive Hollywood drama of that time ‘Cleopatra’ was under production.

The film casted handsome Richard Burton who was 37 and married to Sybil Williams, and the ravishing beauty Elizabeth Taylor, who was 30 and was married to Eddie Fisher (her forth marriage till then).

It is said that their first on-screen kiss lasted so long that the director actually had to ask them if he might say the word ‘cut’. It was the start of one of the craziest and most sensational love stories the world has ever witnessed.

The Vatican denounced the couple (as they were both married and openly having an affair) and termed their relationship as “erotic vagrancy”. But this whole Vatican episode just added to their popularity – by then they were the highest paid and most talked-about couple in the world.

In 1963 ‘Cleopatra’ was released and in 1964 Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor got married (for their first time). Their love story was always the priority for the press – they appeared in 11 films together, married and divorced twice to each other and lived their lives in the lavish Hollywood style.

Now when I use the word ‘lavish’ I really mean it. For example – in 1969 Richard Burton bought a diamond for Elizabeth Taylor for 1.1 million dollars which received a worldwide publicity and since then famously known as the Taylor-Burton Diamond.

‘Who’s afraid of Virginia wolf’

Certainly ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf’ is their best film together; both Burton and Taylor were nominated for the Oscars – Elizabeth won the award for best actress (her second time) while Richard missed out yet again. (Richard Burton’s luck wasn’t the best when it came to Oscars; he was nominated seven times but never won any).

Directed by Mick Nickolas the film focuses on certain equations between married couples. In the film Elizabeth (Martha) and Burton (George) portray a love and hate relationship, they are married and they often show their love by insulting and torturing each other. Drunk to their core most of the times, they play vicious games which leads to dangerous alleys from where there is no turning back.

Now it is rumored that Burton and Elizabeth played their real life characters in the film ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf’; that they actually enjoyed abusing each other openly, as if it was a form of a foreplay.

Perfect casting huh!    

Chance of a third marriage?

It was rumored that Elizabeth wanted to marry Burton for a third time when they were working together in a stage production of Noel Coward’s Private lives. But that was not meant to be.

The two of them though obsessed with each other still enjoyed their dose of arguments and insults. One night Elizabeth was too drunk (or may be just to spite Burton), she didn’t turn up for the theatre performance. Burton was outraged to such heights that he made a sudden decision to marry his make-up artist Sally Hay. This episode is very well recreated in the recent TV movie Burton and Taylor.

The best on-screen and off-screen couple of Hollywood, their love story is like an adult fairytale, mad enough for the world to remember through ages.