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The 4 Roles That Defined Katharine Hepburn's Career

By    |   Wednesday, 06 May 2015 03:19 PM

Everybody has their favorite when it comes to debating who's the best actor or actress in film history, but if you want to go by industry honors, Katharine Hepburn is tops.

Hepburn earned four Best Actress Academy Awards (and an additional eight nominations) during her stellar six decades on the big screen, a feat yet to be matched by any other performer.

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Here's a look at the four roles that defined Katharine Hepburn's career:

1. Eva Lovelace, "Morning Glory" (1933)

Hepburn's turn as Eva Lovelace in "Morning Glory" is significant in her career in that it marked the performer's first Academy Award nomination and win for Best Actress. Ironically, Hepburn plays a newbie actress in the film, albeit on Broadway, opposite the dashing Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Classic Movie Guide in its review of the film said, "That Katharine Hepburn won her first Oscar in only her third movie, 'Morning Glory,' was a testament to what an amazing career lie ahead of her."

2. Jo, "Little Women" (1933)

Released three months after "Morning Glory," Hepburn proved in her role as Jo in the first sound version of "Little Women" that her success was no fluke.

"As vital, sympathetic and full of the joie de vivre as one could hope for, Jo, the Jo of 'Little Women,' is to be seen in the person of Katharine Hepburn in the cinematic translation of Louisa May Alcott's immensely popular novel of the March family," wrote Mordaunt Hall in his 1933 review of the film for The New York Times.

3. Tracy Lord, "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

Hepburn proved that she could hold her own opposite the best in the business in "The Philadelphia Story," an endearing comedy romance that also starred Cary Grant and James Stewart. The film, directed by legendary filmmaker George Cukor, earned Hepburn her third Best Actress nomination.

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The film was based on stage play written for Hepburn, and the New Yorker magazine says her time treading the boards in the role as a strong-willed socialite prepared her well.

"The film is a Hepburn triumph, and moviegoers who resent the theatre's habit of requisitioning their stars may feel that Miss Hepburn's time on the stage has not been spent in vain and that she simply prepared herself for this achievement during the long run of the play," wrote John C. Mosher.

4. Rose Sayer, "The African Queen" (1951)

Hepburn suited up for adventure with Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen," a film that also included elements of war, romance, and even comedy. Playing a snooty missionary, Rose Sayer, opposite Bogart's rough-around-the-edges steamboat commandeer Charlie Allnut, the film earned Hepburn and Bogart Academy Awards recognition.

"The film veers from comedy to high adventure to romance, but always the focus is on Hepburn and Bogart, giving mesmeric performances that won him an Oscar and her a nomination," Sian Stott wrote in his review of the restored version of the film for The Telegraph in 2010.

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Everybody has their favorite when it comes to debating who's the best actor or actress in film history, but if you want to go by industry honors, Katharine Hepburn is tops.
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Wednesday, 06 May 2015 03:19 PM
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