Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn
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Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  786 ratings  ·  64 reviews

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

One of Publishers Weekly's 100 Best Books of the Year

Katharine Hepburn was her own creation--an ambitious, vulnerable woman who charmed the public with the image of an East Coast aristocrat, wearing pants and freely speaking her mind. But that show didn't come easily to her, or without tremendous effort and concealment....more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Picador (first published October 1st 2006)
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The author states near the beginning of this book that he is not really a fan of Kate or her films. He doesn't come right out and say why he is writing this book. Several other reviewers here have pointed out that this author has also written a book about how homosexuals have shaped Hollywood. In this book he spends a lot of time speculating as to different people's sexual orientation. While it appears there are times he has solid evidence for his speculation there were several times where he se...more
Malcolm David Logan
Dec 13, 2007 Malcolm David Logan rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: militant gay activists
I suppose every biography has some sort of agenda but really is the most important thing about Kate Hepburn her sexuality? The book seems bent on proving not only that Kate was by turns gay/bi/asexual, but also that everyone in Hollywood in the forties was gay, or at least seriously thinking about experimenting that way. Poor Spencer Tracy comes in for the harshest scrutiny with allegations that his well-known boozing was the result of not only being a blatant adulterer but a tortured closeted g...more
Okay, even though I essentially love everything I read, this one was a little tiresome and repetitive at times. Nevertheless, I found it compelling enough to make it all the way through 500+ pages of details about Kate's love life and cantankerous ways. Seems she probably was at times a closeted lesbian (even to herself), at other times fairly asexual, yet other times dabbled in men. I can tell you this, she hung out with some really butch women for someone who wasn't a lesbian. The author seems...more
Lisa Findley
I went into this book knowing the Hepburn myth: feisty aristocrat, tragic love affair with Spencer Tracy, always did it her way. Mann takes on this myth with gusto: her family eventually got rich, but started out basic middle-class; she had many more intense female relationships than her on-again, off-again relationship with Tracy; like every other movie star, she made many compromises to make it big. I appreciate the way Mann investigates the myth without chucking it all out as hooey, and the w...more
I learned a lot, it was well-written, and well-researched, but it was so hard to stick with it. For one thing, he spent a lot of time giving mini-biographies about all of the people in her life. That's fine for her parents, but I really don't need the life-story of her college roommate. And as for the other famous people in her life, if I want to know about them I'll just read their biography. The other thing I didn't like is that despite always telling us that sex was not important to Kate and...more
Mark Gaulding
This is a landmark book, in my opinion. I have never read a more compelling and convincing biography. I think this books was really the culmination and triumph because of the author's other two fantastic books: Wisecracker & Behind the Screen. The latter is a landmark book in and of itself, revealing the prominently queer Hollywood before The Code was instituted. Wisecrack, about silent film star William Haines, continued the scholarly study of this shameful period in Hollywood history. Ms....more
Surprising. Evidence that Hepburn, like many of her Hollywood counterparts in fact lived private lives that general public knew little to nothing about. In that way, you almost feel like a voyeur reading these stories about Kate Hepburn's "true" life. But here is where I think the author toes perhaps a little too close to being a hypocrite. He says that Hepburn knew how to work the celebrity machine to say exactly what she wanted it to say, but there are numerous gleams in the text where it seem...more
Yet another book I couldn't put down - read the majority of it one night - finished up the next evening. Author does a great job of discerning between previous "facts" that have been published erroneously over the decades that are now considered the truth about who Hepburn was, her interactions with friends, family, associates, fellow actors, long term liaisons, and her extensive travels over her lifespan which encompassed nearly the entire 20th century.

I've read nearly every book published on...more
Kathryn Shevelow
I loved this biography--I don't often read Hollywood bios, but this one was fascinating for its account of the Hollywood world that Hepburn belonged to. But what I found most fascinating was the story of Kate's earlier history, with her feminist mother, her unusual (to put it mildly) father, and the radical-bohemian-lesbian-gay circles, especially in Greenwich Village, that Hepburn knew as a child. Mann's a thorough, careful researcher, and a good story teller. This is a long book, but I enjoyed...more
Nancy L.
Fascinating, well-reasoned, and beautifully written biography about someone who was rapidly receding into the mists of legend, much of it her own creation. I loved Mann's earlier book ( wisecracker) and he's exceeded even that fine book.

I love Katharine Hepburn's work and her screen persona, but I especially appreciated that he didn't produce another contribution to the hagiography about Hepburn.
What a tour de force this was.The book says a whole lot more about the author than it does about Kate.Sure,there was alot of information,albeit, second hand,hearsay,conjecture etc.What the author apparenly wants us to know is that Kate and everyone who had anything to do with her throughout her life
was lesbian,homosexual or otherwise sexually challenged BFD.What Katharine Hepburn wanted us to know is:she was,is and always will be a STAR -END OF STORY
Feb 18, 2008 Heather added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
This book was not the best biography I have read. It focused WAYYYYYY too much on the rumors of her being a lesbian. It seems like the author was trying to prove that she was and would tie each aspect of her life to show she was. I honestly had to stop reading it because that was the ongoing theme and it started to beat the dead horse.

The only interesting part was her childhood. And that is only because it didnt focus so much on her preferences.
I'm really not sure what to think about this book. The author seemed determine to prove that Katharine Hepburn was ambisexual (or bi or gay) - and much of the book seemed to focus on this aspect. The parts I did enjoy dealt with some of her travels, and how she ended up becoming the icon she is.
The interesting portions of this book are spread so thinly through so much repetitive, speculative and (for me) tiresome filler that I struggled to finish.
Too much focus on the "gay" thing. Otherwise, an interesting smack down of the currently understood legend behind the woman.
Lolly LKH
There were quite a few things I did not know, specifically the lesbian undertones of her life (what rock have I been living under). With that aside, she seems (like most celebrities )to have invented an image of who she wanted people to believe her to be. On the other hand, her true character shined through the inventions. Definitly not one you could characterize as either male nor female, she was an entity unto herself. I always find it fascinating to read about people who have influenced the l...more
Shawn Thrasher
Katharine Hepburn the book is great.. but Katharine Hepburn the actress gets a Bronx cheer from me. Wow, what an insufferably self absorbed, mean spirited, ugly person William Mann paints in this book. I'm not exactly sure this was Mann's intention (whatever did Kate Hepburn do to you Mr. Mann?) but that's certainly the impression I took away from the book. That, and also how Katharine Hepburn was a typical actor (how many synonyms for self absorbed can I come up with: egocentric, egomaniacal, n...more
No es esta una biografía que precisamente ensalce la figura de Katharine Hepburn. Ni como actriz ni como persona. El autor lo advierte en el prólogo: no es un fan de la actriz ni tampoco fue su amigo. Es solo un “reportero e historiador cultural”. Como reportero, su labor en esta historia es desmitificar a Katharine Hepburn, convertirla en un ser humano egoísta, mentiroso y que vivió mostrando una doble cara durante toda su vida. Como historiador cultural, imagino que su intención es la de demos...more
If you're reading this review, you must be a Katharine Hepburn fan. And if you're a Hepburn fan, then you've probably already read a number of biographies on her, or even her own two memoirs. What sets William Mann's massive biography apart from the rest is that he actually conducted research into Hepburn's life rather than relying on vintage articles and Hepburn's interviews that have been passed along from biography to biography as if they were fact, when, in fact, he discovered, there was a l...more
Well, I finally made it! This book is seriously nearly 600 pages long (actually, it is longer if you include the references and index, which I totally did not read! It is meticulously researched and Mann backs everything up very thoroughly. I honestly felt like I was doing homework while I was reading this. "Gotta finish that Katharine Hepburn biography before the next class!" Thank God there was no deadline or I would've just given up.

Which isn't to say the book isn't enjoyable. I love reading...more
now, i didn't know ANYTHING about katharine hepburn before i read this. i was watching "the aviator" and decided HEY! I ALWAYS MEANT TO GET AROUND TO FINDING OUT ABOUT HER! so off i went to the library, where i picked up this book and her autobiography (which i might not end up reading).

it was really interesting how this author took a very strong KATHARINE HEPBURN WAS AMBISEXUAL stance in this--and even more interesting was the fact that he also wrote a book called "behind the scenes: how gays a...more
This book was an indepth depiction through letters and people that Katherine Hepburn knew, mostly people, of the myths vs. facts regarding her life. I learned she just as fragile in personal relationships especially with men as she was strong in her ground-breaking acceptance of women living on their on terms with a career in film/theatre. It was fascinating to watch this tomboy of a girl develop into one of the most influential and amazing actresses of our time and on the other side of it, her...more
Joy H.
Added 4/20/13.
I read this after I finished reading this author's bio of Barbra Streisand. I like William J. Mann's writing.

I've already read 2 other bios of Hepburn. I can't get enough of her. LOL

I could see that this book was thoroughly researched. The author points out throughout the book that Hepburn needed and craved success. She worked at it all of her life.

The book is quite a tome to get through.

PS-The Goodreads reviews of this book are excellent. Read them if you want to know more about t...more
Andrea Dowd
Kate Hepburn is a fascinating actress and complicated woman. Added to that fascination is the mystery, illusion, and fairytales made up by both the Hollywood Studio machines and Hepburn herself.

I haven't completely finished this book because it is so dense and now that I've delved into her first 50 years, I'm getting a bit bored by all the repetition of Mann and the reiteration of Hepburn's love of women. I'll scan the remaining 100 pages but this book is great for anyone who wants to get as cle...more
May 16, 2008 Icarus is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Currently reading and is very fascinating. I'm not sure yet whether I'm more curious or disgusted by the amount of time the author spends focusing on Katharine's sexuality and her relationships with other women and homosexual male friends. Being slightly 'different' myself, it is interesting to read about such an amaing woman. But the author focuses so much on this aspect of her that it gets a little monotonous (much like Michael Moore's filmsm while good, become a tiresome attack on conservativ...more
This bio was a bit more heavy handed than his Liz Taylor bio. Bottom line (spoiler alert!) - Kate was more attuned and attracted to women than men and Spencer was slept with men. And the relationship between the two of them was a friendship and companionship that was morphed in the public eye into the great romance. That's fine but he just kept coming back to it over and over and over. Otherwise, a view of an indomitable woman who learned how to play the game of Hollywood really well. I would be...more
This was a compelling book. I have been a Hepburn fan for a long time. I enjoyed her memoir "Me" and read Scott Berg's book soon after her passing. Mann's extraordinarily comprehensive book is a much-needed critical look at Hepburn's career that provides a more objective perspective than Berg's interesting book (a memoir of their friendship, which Berg said was intended as a personal narrative). It's also a fascinating study of the golden age of Hollywood, with a wonderfully colorful cast of cha...more
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I find it hard to believe that Hepburn would write her autobiography based on a persona that she created and that this book is the REAL story. (Even if she was someone else onscreen, which I do believe possible.) Katharine Hepburn was a remarkable woman, actress, activist. Her personal life is really none of our business. It's too voyeuristic to me. Check out her autobiography or Scott Berg's biography instead - both are much better reads.
It was interesting enough to finish, and I would probably give it 3 stars for the last few hundred pages that cover the last years of Hepburn's life. The significant focus of the first several hundred pages of the biography seemed to be a minute examination of Hepburn's sexuality, or lack thereof, followed examination of others in Hollywood. That part of the book is closer to 1 1/2 to two stars, and nearly caused me to abandon reading it.
I am not normally a fan of the biography genre, but for this subject I decided to make an exception. It is enormously well-researched and, from the depths of an English Lit. dissertation, I can appreciate that. At times, the prose feels a bit like the author is already envisioning the commercial breaks of a History Channel special, but the pacing and storytelling is remarkably enjoyable. I feel like I learned a lot.
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Also writes children's books under the pseudonym Geoffrey Huntington.
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