Me: Stories of My Life by Katherine Hepburn (1991. Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-41009-2)

Too harsh, you say? Well, maybe. I mean, there is something folksy and close to the heart in the cozy style Kate invokes to tell her life stories. I mean, there are some real gems contained within the covers of this book, tales that flesh out what I’d known and heard about America’s greatest actress (4 Oscars for Best Actress across six decades of work). So there is that. But the disorganized manner in which the stories are told, along with the insertion of mundane and frankly, boring remembered exchanges between Hepburn and friends or beaus, that eat up page after page after page of the volume (maybe to pad and expand the book to make it appear to be weighty and noble?) renders what could have been a wonderful examination of the life and loves of a modern woman less than compelling. Here’s a sampling of what I mean. From page 294-318, she recalls a trip to Europe with Willie Rose that goes something like this:

Willie:

Look, don’t tell me about the whole trip. Just here-what do I do? Which way do I turn now?

Kate:

You turn left.

Willie:

I thought you said right.

Kate:

I did but I was wrong. You can’t turn right. It’s against the law. You turn left. IN about a mile turn all the way around to the left, then past the aerodome take first right. Go under bridge, then left onto…

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get away with selling such drivel to my readers. But of course, I’m not the world’s most famous actress!

Oh, there are very interesting and heart felt admissions and revelations. Her writing about her three year relationship with Howard Hughes (portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the Aviator opposite Leonardo DeCaprio’s Hughes) is fascinating, though she offers nothing as to her thoughts of the bizarre billionaire later in life. The 27 years she spent with Spencer Tracy? Also well documented and heartfelt. Similarly, her depiction of her family and her early life in movies flows well, once the reader becomes accustomed to her stream of consciousness writing style. But whether Ballantine thought so much of the actress to avoid editing her words, or whether her editor thought the better play would be to present this unvarnished, rapid fire regurgitation as a stand-in for the actress spending time over tea with adoring fans,  the end product is a disorganized, fairly bland depiction of a fascinating figure in American cinematography.

A disappointment.

2 stars out of 5. An unmemorable memoir.

Peace.

Mark

 

 

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