The greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute, Katharine Hepburn net worth was an American actress of film, stage and television. Hepburn's career as a Hollywood leading lady spanned over 60 years. She was known for her headstrong independence, spirited personality and outspokenness, cultivating a screen persona that matched this public image, and regularly playing strong-willed, sophisticated women. Her work was in a range of genres, from screwball comedy to literary drama, and earned her various accolades, including four Academy Awards for Best Actress—a record for any performer.
Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while at Bryn Mawr College. Favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Her early years in film brought her international fame, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for her third picture, Morning Glory (1933), but this was followed by a series of commercial failures culminating in the critically lauded box office failure Bringing Up Baby (1938). Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star. That comedy film was a box office success and landed her a third Academy Award nomination. In the 1940s, she was contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy. The screen-partnership spanned 26 years, and produced nine movies.
Hepburn challenged herself in the latter half of her life, as she tackled Shakespearean stage productions and a range of literary roles. She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, such as in The African Queen (1951), opposite Humphrey Bogart, a persona the public embraced. Hepburn earned three more Oscars for her work in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). In the 1970s, she began appearing in television films, which later became her focus. She made her final screen appearance at the age of 87. After a period of inactivity and ill health, Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.
Hepburn shunned the Hollywood publicity machine and refused to conform to society's expectations of women, famously wearing trousers before they were fashionable for women. She was briefly married as a young woman but thereafter lived independently. With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn epitomized the "modern woman" in the 20th-century United States, and is remembered as an important cultural figure.
According to reports, Hepburn was not an instinctive actor. She liked to study the text and character carefully beforehand, making sure she knew them thoroughly, and then to rehearse as much as possible and film multiple takes of a scene. With a genuine passion for acting she committed heavily to each role and insisted on learning any necessary skills and performing stunts herself. She was known to learn not only her own lines but also those of her co-stars. Commenting on her motivation, Stanley Kramer said, "Work, work, work. She can work till everyone drops." Hepburn involved herself in the production of each of her films, making suggestions for the script and stating her opinion on everything from costumes to lighting to camerawork.
Hepburn is considered an important and influential cultural figure. Ros Horton and Sally Simmons included her in their book Women Who Changed The World, which honors 50 women who helped shape world history and culture. She is also named in Encyclopædia Britannica's list of "300 Women Who Changed the World", Ladies Home Journal's book 100 Most Important Women of the 20th century, Variety magazine's "100 Icons of the Century", and she is number 84 on VH1's list of the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons of All Time". In 1999, the American Film Institute named Hepburn the "greatest American screen legend" among females.
Regarding Hepburn's film legacy, one of her biographers, Sheridan Morley, said she "broke the mold" for women in Hollywood, where she brought a new breed of strong-willed females to the screen. Off screen, Hepburn's lifestyle was ahead of her time, coming to symbolize the "modern woman" and playing a part in changing gender attitudes. Hepburn's legacy extends to fashion, where she pioneered wearing trousers at a time when it was a radical move for a woman. She helped make trousers acceptable for women, and fans began to imitate her clothing. In 1986 she received a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in recognition of her influence on women's fashion.
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