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Archive for the ‘Katharine Hepburn’ Category

Katharine Hepburn from the Bryn Mawr College Yearbook 1928.

Katharine Hepburn from the Bryn Mawr College Yearbook 1928.

Alice Palache first met Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn in 1924 when they were classmates at Bryn Mawr, an all-women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The friends were a study in contrasts. “Palache,” as she was called, was popular, a great student, athletic, active in student council, and from a conventional home in which her dad, a Harvard professor and staunch Episcopalian, considered it sacrilegious for her to play with friends on Sunday. “Kath,” on the other hand, was a loner, one of the worst students in the class, and did whatever she pleased. She dressed as a boy, smoked scented cigarettes in her tower dorm room, and jumped into the cloister fountain – naked – to wake herself up after cramming all night for an exam.

This gallant good-time girl, her blazing red hair dragged back into a charwoman’s bun, wore baggy, unflattering cast-off clothes rumored to be held together with safety pins.”

Katharine Hepburn, age 21, performing in the dramatic production of "The Woman in the Moon," Bryn Mawr College, 1928

Katharine Hepburn, age 21, performing in the dramatic production of “The Woman in the Moon,” Bryn Mawr College, 1928

In their junior year, Kath invited Palache to visit her family home in Hartford, Connecticut. In between games of tennis, Kath and Palache spent time with Kath’s parents, Dr. Thomas Norval Hepburn and Mrs. Katharine (“Kate”) Houghton Hepburn. Both of Kath’s parents were highly-educated – Dad was a surgeon, Mom had 2 degrees from Bryn Mawr and was a prominent suffragette – and were militant public crusaders on the burning social issues of the day.

Dr. Thomas Hepburn and Katharine Houghton Hepburn, parents of Katharine Hepburn. Undated photo

Dr. Thomas Hepburn and Katharine Houghton Hepburn, parents of Katharine Hepburn. Undated photo

Katharine Hepburn's mother, Katharine Houghton Hepburn, was a prominent suffragette from Connecticut.

Katharine Hepburn’s mother, Katharine Houghton Hepburn, was a prominent suffragette from Connecticut. She is shown as “Mrs. Thomas N. Hepburn” in the photo at top center. Photo ca. 1925.

Dr. Hepburn’s dressing room was the center of the family home. Kath and Palache joined Dr. and Mrs. Hepburn there for  heated discussions. The family debated topics alien to Palache’s childhood home such as prostitution, venereal disease, and birth control. At times, Dr. Hepburn would be soaking in the tub during such discussions or, perhaps, shaving at the sink. The girls sat on a Queen Anne sofa in his dressing room as Dr. Hepburn would nonchalantly stride back and forth across the cork flooring wearing absolutely nothing.  Almost as shocking as the casual nudity – a naked man in his forties parading in front of his teenage daughter and her girlfriend – was Mrs. Hepburn’s attitude. When she would enter the room, she would hug and kiss her very naked husband, while declaring to the young women,

I find him beautiful,” while adding that the doctor “had no seat.”

Katharine Hepburn came from anything but a conventional home.

Katharine Hepburn, Bryn Mawr Class of 1928, is seen third from right in the dramatic production,"The Truth About Blayds," by A. A. Milne. At an all-girls college, Ms. Hepburn had the opportunity to play male as well as female roles.

Katharine Hepburn, Bryn Mawr Class of 1928, is seen third from right in the dramatic production,”The Truth About Blayds,” by A. A. Milne. At an all-girls college, Ms. Hepburn had the opportunity to play male as well as female roles.

Source: Leaming, Barbara. Katharine Hepburn. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1995.

Source: Bryn Mawr College Archives Online

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"Audrey Hepburn with Hat," drawing by Al Hirschfeld

"Audrey Hepburn with Hat," drawing by Al Hirschfeld

Albert “Al” Hirschfeld ( 1903 – 2003) was an American caricaturist best known for his simple black and white satirical portraits of celebrities. He had the unique ability to capture a person’s likeness with few and simple lines. His eight-decade career included drawing the entire casts of Broadway plays to include alongside reviews in The New York Times and illustrating the covers of newstand TV Guide issues.

Hirschfeld achieved additional fame  for hiding the name of his daughter, Nina, in most of his drawings. The name “Nina” would be scrawled in the lace of a sleeve, the locks of an actress’s wavy hair, or somewhere in the background. On occasion, “Nina” would show up more than once in a drawing. In those cases, Hirschfeld would then add a number next to his signature, designating how many times “Nina” would appear. On a few rare occasions, Hirschfeld would write “Nina” flopped, creating a reverse image of the name.

 

Al Hirschfeld with daughter Nina, 1961

Al Hirschfeld with daughter Nina, 1961

“Though Nina was a popular feature in his illustrations, with many enjoying the game of searching for them, on more than one occasion Hirschfeld would lament that the gimmick had overshadowed his art. On occasion he did try to discontinue the practice, but such attempts always generated harsh criticism. Nina herself was reportedly somewhat ambivalent about all the attention.

In…[an] interview with The Comics Journal, Hirschfeld confirmed the urban legend that the U.S. Army had used his cartoons to train bomber pilots with the soldiers trying to spot the NINAs much as they would spot their targets. Hirschfeld told the magazine he found the idea repulsive, saying that he felt his cartoons were being used to help kill people. In his 1966 anthology The World of Hirschfeld, he included a drawing of Nina which he titled ‘Nina’s Revenge.’ That drawing contained no Ninas. There were, however, two Als and two Dollys (‘The names of her wayward parents’).”

Paul Newman, drawing by Al Hirschfeld

Paul Newman, drawing by Al Hirschfeld

 

Marilyn Monroe, drawing by Al Hirschfeld

Marilyn Monroe, drawing by Al Hirschfeld

 

The Beatles "Abbey Road," drawing by Al Hirschfeld

The Beatles "Abbey Road," drawing by Al Hirschfeld

 

Katharine Hepburn by Hirschfeld

Katharine Hepburn by Hirschfeld

 

Cary Grant by Hirschfeld

Cary Grant by Hirschfeld

To see more Hirschfelds, click here.

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