Few classic Hollywood stars rise to the heights of Katharine Hepburn, a four time Oscar winner who became legendary for films as diverse as "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), "The African Queen" (1951), and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967). Born in Connecticut in 1907, Hepburn earned a dozen Oscar nominations over the course of her long career, which began in 1932 and continued for more than sixty years. Her off screen love affair with Spencer Tracy, her costar in many of her most popular movies, only added to the public interest in her story, which she told with characteristic frankness and humor in her 1991 autobiography, "Me." Katharine Hepburn died, at the age of 96, in 2003, but her legacy lives on in her film performances. Here are ten classic movies where you can appreciate both her beauty and her talent.
1) "Morning Glory" (1933) - Hepburn earned her first Best Actress Oscar for her performance in this Broadway story of a young actress and her mentors. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Adolphe Menjou also star.
2) "Sylvia Scarlett" (1935) - Hepburn spends much of her time dressed as a boy in this unusual comedy, which would also be her first collaboration with costar Cary Grant. Edmund Gwenn gives a delightful performance as Hepburn's felonious father.
3) "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) - This fan favorite shows Hepburn and Cary Grant as a hilarious pair of opposites destined to fall for each other during a misadventure involving two missing leopards, one tame and the other dangerous. Howard Hawks directs the fun.
4) "The Philadelphia Story" (1940) - George Cukor directs Hepburn in one of her most important roles as spoiled heiress Tracy Lord, who plans to marry a second husband even though her first spouse is determined to break up the wedding. Cary Grant and James Stewart shine in their roles, while supporting players Ruth Hussey, Mary Nash, and Virginia Weidler also give memorable performances.
5) "Woman of the Year" (1941) - Hepburn makes her first appearance with Spencer Tracy in this romantic comedy directed by George Stevens. The love story depicts the problems of falling and then staying in love when both partners are ambitious career professionals, a theme that would recur in later movies starring the pair.
6) "Adam's Rib" (1949) - Hepburn and Tracy play married lawyers who end up on opposite sides of a domestic case in this comedy from director George Cukor. Judy Holliday, Jean Hagen, and Tom Ewell add to the picture's appeal with their comic performances.
7) "The African Queen" (1951) - Hepburn stars with Humphrey Bogart in this beloved story of adventure and romance shot on location in Africa. Hepburn plays a spinster missionary who embarks on a dangerous river journey with Bogart's alcoholic captain during the violence upheaval of World War I. Despite horrors and hazards, the two find love and a shared purpose in life as they make their way toward an enemy ship.
8) "Desk Set" (1957) - Hepburn and Tracy find love later in life in this workplace comedy about an office librarian whose staff is threatened by computerized replacement. Walter Lang directs, and the noteworthy cast also includes Joan Blondell and Gig Young.
9) "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967) - Hepburn makes her final collaboration with a dying Spencer Tracy in this drama about race and prejudice, which tells the story of a liberal couple faced with the limits of their own open-mindedness when their daughter brings home a black fiance. Sidney Poitier stars as the unexpected new member of the family, while Hepburn's real-life niece, Katharine Houghton, plays her daughter.
10) "Rooster Cogburn" (1975) - This John Wayne Western puts Hepburn into a plot that parallels "The African Queen" but provides a unique opportunity to see two very different Hollywood icons together in the same picture. As the title suggests, the movie is more or less a sequel to "True Grit" (1969), the first movie in which Wayne played the Rooster Cogburn character.
For more of Katharine Hepburn's best work, see "Holiday" (1938), "Pat and Mike" (1952), "The Lion in Winter" (1968), and "On Golden Pond" (1981). You can learn more about the classic Hollywood actress by watching the video at the top of this article, and you can also visit Margaret Perry's blog, The Great Katharine Hepburn.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her newest book, "Beyond Casablanca II: 101 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available for Kindle on Amazon.