a personality as well as an actress," Katharine Hepburn
once declared. "Show me an actress who isn't a personality,
and you'll show me a woman who isn't a star." Hepburn's
bold, distinctive personality was apparent almost from birth.
She inherited from her doctor father and suffragette mother
her three most pronounced traits: an open and ever-expanding
mind, a healthy body (maintained through constant rigorous
exercise), and an inability to tell anything less than the
truth. She was more a personality than an actress when she
took the professional plunge after graduating from Bryn
Mawr in 1928; her first stage parts were bits, but she always
attracted attention with her distinct New England accent
and her bony, sturdy frame.
outspokenness lost her more jobs than she received, but
in 1932 she finally scored on Broadway with the starring
role in The Warrior's Husband. She didn't want to sign the
film contract offered her by RKO, so she made several "impossible"
demands concerning salary and choice of scripts. The studios
agreed to her terms, and in 1932 she made her film debut
opposite John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement (despite
legends to the contrary, the stars got along quite well).
Critical reaction to Hepburn's first film set the tone for
the next decade: some thought that she was the freshest
and most original actress in Hollywood, while others were
irritated by her mannerisms and "artificial" speech
patterns. For her third film, Morning Glory (1933), Hepburn
won the first of her four Academy Awards (a still unbeaten
record). Despite initial good response to her films, Hepburn
lost a lot of popularity during her RKO stay because of
her refusal to play the Hollywood Game. She dressed in unfashionable
slacks and paraded about without makeup; refused to pose
for pin-up pictures, give autographs or grant interviews;
and avoided mingling with her co-workers.