Kate Remembered | Synopsis
For seven decades Katharine Hepburn played a leading role in the popular culture of the twentieth century - reigning as an admired actress, a beloved movie star, and a treasured icon of the modern American woman. She also remained one of the most private of all the public figures of her time.
Kate Remembered | A Timeline
Kate Remembered | Excerpt
I’ve never felt so intimidated ringing a doorbell. Even though she and I had become friendly in the past few months over the telephone and I was standing at her front door in New York City at her invitation, I was genuinely nervous about our first meeting. And I’ve never been especially starstruck. But this was different. Katharine Hepburn was the first movie star I had ever noticed, and she had been my favorite ever since—the only actor whose plays and movies I attended just because she was in them.
On that Tuesday—April 5, 1983—I arrived at Third Avenue and Forty-ninth Street with fifteen minutes to spare. So I walked around a few neighboring blocks until 5:55 p.m. Then I slowly walked east on Forty-ninth Street until I was a few doors from Second Avenue—number 244. I stood on the sidewalk for another minute and a half, until the second hand on my watch ticked toward twelve. I opened the little black iron gate, stepped down into the well at the curtained front door, and pressed the button. The bell let out a ring so shrill, I could practically feel all four floors of the brownstone shake.
Nobody answered. After a long pause, a short woman with black hair poked her cherubic face out of an adjacent door, the service entrance, and said, “Yes?”
I said I had a six o’clock appointment with Miss Hepburn. Was I at the wrong door? “No, no,” she said. “I’ll let you in.” She came to the front door, and I heard two heavy locks tumble. This was Norah Considine, who cooked and cleaned. She said Miss Hepburn was expecting me.
I entered the vestibule and left my raincoat on a bench at the foot of the steep, narrow staircase, with its metal pole for a handrail. Another woman appeared from the kitchen—gray-haired, bony, with a neckbrace; and we introduced ourselves. She was, as I presumed, Phyllis Wilbourn, Hepburn’s companion and majordomo. “Oh, yes. Go right up,” she said in a sandy-throated English accent. “Miss Hepburn’s expecting you.” At the top of the landing, I could look into the rear living room, where the last of that day’s light was coming in from the garden.
Before I had even entered the room, I heard the unmistakable voice from inside. “Did you use the bathroom?”
“I’m sorry?” I said, now standing in the doorway and seeing Katharine Hepburn for the first time.
She sat to the right in a comfortable-looking chair, her feet in white athletic shoes propped up on a footrest. She appeared to be amazingly fit for a seventy-five-year-old then recovering from a serious car accident. She looked restored and relaxed, her skin tight against the legendary cheekbones, her eyes clear, a soothing pale blue, her hair a ruddy gray, all pulled off her face and pinned up into her trademark knot. She wore no makeup and flashed a big movie-star grin, exuding charm and energy. She was wearing khaki pants, a white turtleneck under a blue chambray shirt, and she had a red sweater tied loosely around her neck. As I approached her, I tried to take in as much of the room as I could—the high ceiling, pictures on the walls, a fire blazing in the fireplace, nothing ostentatious except for a huge bouquets of flowers everywhere.
“Did you use the bathroom?” She asked again, before I had reached her.
“Well, don’t you think you should?”
“No, thank you. I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Well, I think you should probably go back downstairs and use the bathroom first.” I repeated that I didn’t think it was necessary but that I would do my best.
Two minutes later I returned; and as I reached the top of the stairs, she asked, “Did you use the bathroom?”
“Well, actually,” I said, “I did, thank you.”
“Good. You know my father was a urologist, and he said you should always go to the bathroom whenever you have to . . . and you see, you had to. So how do you do? I’m Katharine Hepburn.”
Kate Remembered | Press
CBS NEWS - FEB 11, 2009
Just a few weeks ago, an American treasure, actress Katharine Hepburn, died at her Connecticut home. The four-time Academy Award winner's film career spanned more than six decades.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -
“The great heart-stealer does it again. A true gift for anyone who loved and admired the late Katharine Hepburn.”
LOS ANGELES TIMES -
“A graceful and affectionate portrait.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE -
“Hepburn puts on a hell of a performance throughout.”
“[An] affectionate, engrossing tribute. Leave it to Hepburn to make a grand exit.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES -
“Hepburn’s observations about everyone from Louis B. Mayer to Howard Hughes and Sean Penn are sharp, funny, and poignant.”
BOSTON HERALD -
“Readers of Kate Remembered…will learn about Katharine Hepburn’s meteoric rise, her slumps, her many affairs, her offbeat family, and what she thinks of everyone from Bob Hope to Meryl Streep. Mostly, they will get a chance to experience what the star was like, with an intimacy far greater than any dirt-digging tell-all.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY -
“Touching…[an] unusual and unusually fitting account…of a life lived outside the usual in virtually all things.”
“Hepburn sounds off plenty in Berg’s fond recollection of their close twenty-year friendship. The actress comes across as smart, feisty, independent…A worthy look at a candid Kate.”
THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD -
“Kate Remembered is her last performance, and one of her most touching. That it comes to us from beyond the grave should not be a shock. That’s the sort of thing a goddess does.”
THE SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON) -
“Magnificent…A peach of a memoir. Berg and Hepburn have a similar chemistry on the page to Tracy and Hepburn on screen.”
“Intimate, thoughtful, and considerate. Kate Remembered is an intensely personal book, and that’s a good thing: This is Katharine Hepburn filtered through Scott Berg, and…part of the fun of the book is seeing how these two bright, confident personalities interact: The wisecracks fly like spitballs, but beneath it all, Berg and Hepburn are obviously simpatico.”
“Berg’s writing is so intimate that readers may feel they are hiding behind a curtain as they listen to the stories he elicits from his subject.”
RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH -
“[Hepburn’s legion of fans can spend some happy time with her in…Kate Remembered. It’s a work of love that…offers new insights into the kind, prickly, brilliant, brusque, beautiful, one-of-a-kind woman. [A] loving and generous memoir…The millions who loved Katharine Hepburn through her movies will love this book.”
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (LONDON) -
“A haunting insight into the twilight of fame, with shades of Sunset Boulevard, shades of The Aspern Papers. Berg is…an astute and subtle observer, always willing to take a back seat while greater egos strut their stuff. The result is a memoir with never a dull page.”
THE COURIER-JOURNAL (LOUISVILLE, KY) -
“By virtue of Berg’s access and his powers of observation, you are brought inside the home of Hepburn from the time she is in her mid-seventies. Through the strength of her personality, which shines even in print, you hear her speak her own lines in her own voice, not lines written for her. If you are a Hepburn fan you have to read this book.”
DALLAS OBSERVER -
“Fans will read Kate remembered…and find within its pages a woman very much like the actress’s on-screen persona: cranky and charming, tough and thoughtful, independent and in love with those who can keep pace with stiff drinks and stronger conversations.”
THE BUFFALO NEWS -
“The unorthodox friendship between actress and writer—one of a number of close friendships that sustained Hepburn through her last years—is wonderful to read about, simultaneously relaxing, entertaining, and touching. The book is irresistible, and I see no reason to try to resist it…uproarious…nostalgic…charming…gritty.”
THE NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE -
“Exhilarating…Kate Remembered reads like an extended conversation with this remarkable woman…An engrossing, three-dimensional account of a contradictory woman who was determined to be a star while keeping the world at bay. Because of Berg’s extraordinary access, a reader is bound to feel the thrill of being able to enter Hepburn’s private realm.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER -
“Katharine Hepburn had definite ideas about just about everything, including how to arrange logs in a fire. So reveals memoirist A. Scott Berg, who received these instructions from her: ‘Not too close to each other. Make them fight for the flame.’ Revealing words. For, as Berg shows…Hepburn had plenty of fire and plenty of fight in her, and she was notoriously careful in not allowing others to get close to the flame. [A] pleasant memoir….and it serves as a useful manual for any actor looking to increase his or her odds of survival in the business.”
THE HARTFORD COURANT -
“A witty, gracefully written book about her life that is part biography, part memoir, and wholly a work of live. [Berg’s] familiarity with Hollywood and skill as a writer is evident in Kate Remembered, which seamlessly combines his personal reminiscence with fascinating details about Hepburn’s childhood, remarkable career, and final years.”
FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM -
"A compulsively readable…look at an elusive legend.”
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER -
“An affectionate, often affecting memoir.”
EDMONTON JOURNAL -
“Rebel, feminist, free thinker, recluse, survivor, great actress. A. Scott Berg attempts to capture all these descriptions of Katharine Hepburn in his mesmerizing account of an extraordinary life. In the end, she comes across as a fascinating figure with standards that guided her all her life. As for Berg, he is always in control, resulting in an ultimately satisfying style imbued with sincerity and complete honesty.”
BIRMINGHAM POST (UK) -
“A loving memoirs of someone who became a friend, a rare thing between biography writers and stars in this age of kiss and tell. It is also remarkably candid.”
PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY -
“Even those who’ve read many Hepburn biographies will find Berg’s immersion in the actor’s world engrossing, full of crisply voiced takes on old Hollywood and intimate looks at her everyday life.”