Wednesday marks what would’ve been actress Katharine Hepburn’s 114th birthday. While Meryl Streep holds the record for Oscar nominations (21), Hepburn is still in the lead when it comes to winning (4) nearly 20 years after her death. • Celebrated for her roles from “Morning Glory” (1933) to “On Golden Pond” (1981), among others, Hepburn remains one of the most successful actresses in history. In order of release date, here are nine of her most popular films to help you kickstart a commemorative Hepburn marathon.
“Morning Glory” (1933)
Based on the Zoe Akins play, “Morning Glory” follows aspiring star Eva Lovelace (Hepburn) as she struggles to make her way in the break-neck world of 1930s musical theater. Along the way, Lovelace meets a series of mentors who, rightly or wrongly, steer her toward her goal. Hepburn stole the show with her portrayal of the Broadway ingénue in what would become her first Academy Award-winning performance. “Morning Glory” is available on Apple TV.
“Bringing Up Baby” (1938)
In what would become the first of many collaborations with Cary Grant, this screwball comedy follows Susan Vance (Hepburn), a high-spirited heiress with a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and David Huxley (Grant), a paleontologist who hopes to secure a large donation for his museum. Their series of increasingly ridiculous predicaments are often made worse by the presence of Baby, Vance’s pet leopard. “Bringing Up Baby” is available on HBO Max.
“The Philadelphia Story” (1940)
Based on Phillip Barry’s Broadway play of the same name, “The Philadelphia Story” follows Tracy Lord (Hepburn), the eldest daughter of a high society Philadelphia family. Recently divorced, plans for her remarriage begin to unravel when her ex-husband (Grant) and a suave society tabloid reporter (Jimmy Stewart) come back into the picture.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would go on to reproduce the film as a musical titled “High Society” starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. “The Philadelphia Story” is available on HBO Max.
“Adam’s Rib” (1949)
Work-life balance proves uncommonly difficult to navigate when married lawyers Adam (Spencer Tracy) and Amanda Bonner (Hepburn) take up opposite sides of a legal case involving a woman’s attempted murder of her uncaring husband. “Adam’s Rib” is available on HBO Max.
“The African Queen” (1951)
Adapted from the 1933 novel by C.S. Forester, “The African Queen” follows Rose Sayer (Hepburn), a British Methodist on a mission trip in Africa at the outset of World War I. Following her brother Samuel’s death at the hands of a German officer, Sayer persuades their Canadian riverboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) to use his boat to attack a German warship. “The African Queen” is available on Amazon Prime Video.
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967)
Successful newspaper editor Matt Drayton (Tracy) and his wife, Christina (Hepburn), find their world views challenged on a new level when their daughter (Katharine Houghton) brings her African-American fiance (Sidney Poitier) home for the first time. This role would garner Hepburn her second Oscar win. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is available on Amazon Prime Video.
“A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (1982)
Adapted from Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1956 play, “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” follows one fateful day in the lives of the Tyrone family. Struggling to cope with their individual addictions, Mary Tyrone (Hepburn), her husband (Ralph Richardson) and their two sons find themselves beginning to fall apart. “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is available on Amazon Prime Video.
”The Lion in Winter” (1968)
Based on the James Goldman play of the same name, “The Lion in Winter” follows King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) as, nearing the end of his reign, his wife (Hepburn) and three sons plot to coerce him into finally choosing an heir. Hepburn would win best actress for her role. “The Lion in Winter” is available on YouTube and Apple TV.
”On Golden Pond” (1981)
Rounding the corner of his 80th birthday, Norman Thayer’s (Henry Fonda) relationship with his daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) is still on the rocks. But when Thayer and his wife Estel (Hepburn) agree to take in the son of Chelsea’s boyfriend, the future begins to brighten. “On Golden Pond,” for which Hepburn would win her record-setting fourth Academy Award, is available on Hulu.
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