From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Mann, a skilled chronicler of gay Hollywood (Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines), says at the onset it doesn't make sense to try to pin down Katharine Hepburn with modern labels of sexual identity. Mann's careful research on the longstanding rumors about Hepburn's lesbianism suggests that the notoriously feisty and tomboyish actress lived her life as a man with little empathy for women's issues. This interpretation also shatters the legend of her romance with Spencer Tracy—instead, Mann establishes a pattern of relationships in which the sex-averse Hepburn played emotional caretaker to a series of alcoholic, closeted homosexuals that, in addition to Tracy, included director John Ford. Yet the portrait is constructed so carefully that it never feels shocking. Mann also devotes significant attention to Hepburn's rocky relationships with Hollywood studios and with the press, revealing that the self-styled renegade wasn't above collaborating to shape her public image, and depicts her final decline into alcoholism and depression with sensitivity. Hepburn's siblings and contemporaries (now free to speak after her death) make major corrections to earlier Hepburn biographies, creating a picture of a complex woman rather than the icon she worked hard to become in the public's eye. This will surely be the definitive version of Hepburn's life for decades to come, as it is an outstanding example of painstaking research matched with splendid writing. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
When Katharine Hepburn's movie career began in the 1930s, people didn't know what to make of her. It didn't matter; she formed her own image: an iconoclast and a feminist, yet a woman who found her greatest happiness caring for--some would say subjugating herself to--her longtime love, Spencer Tracy. Since her death, there has been some revisionist history. In Kate Remembered (2003), author and friend A. Scott Berg seemingly confirmed rumors of Hepburn's bisexuality. Mann goes further, exploring Hepburn's liaisons with numerous women and even suggesting that the Hepburn-Tracy relationship was never really a romance, except perhaps at the beginning. Moreover, he posits that Tracy had sexuality issues of his own, which may have been the root of his excessive drinking. This gossip has been whispered about in the past, but Mann has done his homework, digging up sources who have never before spoken, finding new facts, revealing how both press and public played their parts in upholding Hepburn's carefully crafted persona. He also avoids the pitfalls of so many biographers: although he puts his subject on the couch, he lets her do the speaking. Rich and vivid, this will garner great attention--and deservedly so. Ilene Cooper
See all Editorial Reviews
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved