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Katharine Hepburn - a tribute

Story by: Jack Foley

Hollywood legend, Katharine Hepburn, has died, at the age of 96.

The star of countless classics, including The African Queen and On Golden Pond, passed away on Sunday night (June 29, 2003), at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut

She had suffered various health problems in recent years, including Parkinson's disease.

Her career in Hollywood spanned six decades, during which she starred alongside many of Hollywood’s greats, including James Stewart, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and her long-time, love Spencer Tracy.

She won an unequalled four Oscars for Best Actress - for her roles in Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981) - and received a further eight Academy Award nominations.

The American Film Institute named her the greatest actress of all time in 1999 and she is fondly remember for her independent spirit and ability to mince words. One of her greatest quotes was ‘if you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased’.

As a mark of respect, the lights will be dimmed along Broadway in New York on Tuesday, while the many tributes to her life and career were led by American President, George Bush, who said:

"Katharine Hepburn delighted audiences with her unique talent for more than six decades. She was known for her intelligence and wit and will be remembered as one of the nation's artistic treasures."

Hepburn was born in Connecticut in 1907, one of six children. She was educated by tutors and at private school, and her first job was at a stock company in Baltimore.

She made her stage debut in New York in 1928, in the play These Days, and married socialite, Ludlow Ogden, in the same year - although the couple divorced in 1934.

She was also romantically linked to millionaire, Howard Hughes, with whom she had a four-year affair, but the love of her life was Tracy, with whom she spent 27 years and made nine films. Their relationship only ended with his death in 1967.

Hepburn’s first Hollywood film was A Bill of Divorcement, in 1932, and she won her first Oscar for her third movie, Morning Glory, the following year. Her second came five years later, when she teamed up with former co-star, Spencer Tracy, in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, with Syndney Poitier.

But not everything about her early career was plain sailing. Her fourth film, Little Women (1933), may have been the most successful picture of its day, but stories were beginning to leak of her haughty behavior off-screen and her refusal to play the ‘Hollywood game’.

When she returned to Broadway, in 1934, to star in The Lake, the critics turned on her, and audiences deserted her.

From the period 1935-1938, she had only two hits: Alice Adams (1935) and Stage Door (1937), while a number of flops, including Mary of Scotland (1936), and the now-classic, Bringing Up Baby (1938), saw her become labelled ‘box-office poison’.

She went back to Broadway to star in The Philadelphia Story (1938), and was rewarded with a smash, prompting her to quickly buy the film rights, so she was able to negotiate her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars.

The film version of The Philadelphia Story (1940) was a box-office hit, and Hepburn, who won her third Oscar nomination for the film, was bankable again.

In total, she appeared in more than 50 films, but it was her role in The African Queen (1951), in which she starred opposite Bogart, which brought her the biggest fame.

Her first book - The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind - made her a best-selling author at the age of 77.

She appeared in her last film, This Can't Be Love, in 1994.

Another tribute was paid by Elizabeth Taylor, her co-star in 1959's Suddenly, Last Summer, who said: "I think every actress in the world looked up to her with a kind of reverence and a sense of, 'Oh boy, if only I could be like her'."

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