This post was written in conjunction with the 2013 Summer Reading Classic film book Challenge hosted by Out of the Past. This is my fourth contribution.
For “The Private World of Katharine Hepburn,” photographer John Bryson was able to go where no man, or camera, had ever gone before – into the private world of classic film queen Katharine Hepburn. This is possibly my favorite Hepburn bio/memoir. I’ve always loved how pictorial records give readers a visual of how the stars really live. Bryson’s photographs show the homelier, more down-to-earth Hepburn that she was outside of the spotlight. “The Private world of Katharine Hepburn” is a compilation of photos of the second half of Hepburn’s life, from the mid-1970s when she was filming ROOSTER COGBURN (1975) with John Wayne through the 80s and GRACE QUIGLEY (1984).
If readers are interested in behind-the-scenes photos and trivia, there are plenty to be found in the chapters about ROOSTER COGBURN, THE CORN IS GREEN (1979), ON GOLDEN POND (1981), and GRACE QUIGLEY (right). The section entitled “On the Boards” has images of some of her later theatre work on the New York stage. However, my favorite chapters are devoted to what I like to call the “East coast Hepburn,” the old broad chopping firewood, climbing trees, gardening, cooking, standing on her head, sailing, and swimming in the freezing cold Long Island Sound.
Though the book is filled to overflowing with great pictures, Bryson has also included some of the personal conversations he had with the great star. The ever-loquacious Hepburn talks about her parents, her upbringing, acting, life in general, and of course, Spencer Tracy. The captions for each picture are as amusing and informative as the pictures themselves.
If you like classic Hollywood, movie-making, Katharine Hepburn, or all of the above, this is a must-own book. It’s the type of book you can leave on your coffee table as much for your own enjoyment as for guests. I never tire flipping through the pictures, as if it were an old photo album of my own. That’s what John Bryson has accomplished with “The Private World of Katharine Hepburn” – without intruding, or gossiping, or being impertinently vulgar – he has made Katharine Hepburn feel like a member of the family.