Saturday, October 17, 2009

Katharine Hepburn's Unique Star Bio

The musical Coco received rather negative reviews for all of the parties involved when it opened in December 1969, with the exception of Michael Bennett and his choreography. However, the negative notices didn't keep the show from becoming a major theatrical event, spurred on by the presence of Katharine Hepburn in what would be her only appearance in a musical. Hiding her insecurities behind her Yankee resolve, Miss Hepburn gave the audience a mega-watt star turn that defied her limitations as a singer and dancer. While not many folks are fans of the show or its score, I think there is a lot to enjoy on the original cast album (admittedly a poorly produced record). When Hepburn left the show, an actress (Danielle Darrieux, who was French, could sing and dance, and was similar to Chanel) more suitable to the role replaced her and the show folded within weeks. The audience was there to see Hepburn, who kept the Mark Hellinger Theatre filled.

Hepburn took the show out on national tour, with original Broadway cast members Gale Dixon, Jeanne Arnold and George Rose recreating their roles. Joining the cast was Don Chastain as the ingenue's lover and Daniel Davis as Sebastian Baye, the effete designer who has it out for Coco (Rene Auberjonois won the Tony for his scenery-chewing performance in NY). The tour also had a souvenir program. Featured are publicity shots and stills of the production, but also one of the most unusual star bios I've ever seen with Hepburn providing a running commentary about every role she had played professionally from 1928-1969. Only a no-nonsense star like Hepburn would be so frank in looking at her career.

The following is a chronological list of Miss Hepburn's plays and films and her capsule comments on each. [A couple of the dates regarding her films are inaccurate, and I considered changing them. However, I figured it was better to just present what the star had included, imperfections and all.]

1928: (Plays) Edwin Knopf Stock Company, Baltimore
1928: (Play) The Big Pond - "Lead...fired after first night"
1929: (Play) These Days - "Small part...Arthur Hopkins (producer)...Good reviews"
1929: (Play) Holiday - "Understudy"
1929: (Plays) Stockbridge Stock Company
1930: (Play) Art and Mrs. Bottle - "Ingenue...Good reviews...Fired and rehired"
1931: (Plays) Ivoryton Stock Company
1931: (Play) Death Takes a Holiday - "Fired out of town...mixed reviews"
1931: (Play) A Month in the Country - "Maid and understudy"
1931: (Play) The Warrior's Husband - "Fired and rehired...Good reviews"


1932: A Bill of Divorcement - "Raves"
1932: Christopher Strong - "Mixed"
1933: Morning Glory - "Academy Award"
1933: Little Women - "Raves"
1933: Spitfire
1933-34: (Play) The Lake - "Roasted by all...Bottom of the heap in two and a half hours"


1934: The Little Minister - "Mixed"
1935: Alice Adams - "Raves...Nominated"
1935: Sylvia Scarlett - "Total Disaster"
1935: Break of Hearts - "Bore"
1935: Mary of Scotland - "Roasted"
1935: A Woman Rebels - "Poor"
1935: Quality Street - "Poor"
1936: (Play) Jane Eyre - "Closed...On tour good... Roasted out of town by Brooks Atkinson in Chicago, who came to Chicago only for this"
1937: Stage Door - "Raves"
1938: Bringing Up Baby - "Mediocre"
1938: Holiday - "Mediocre...Box office poison...Couldn't get job."
1939: (Play) The Philadelphia Story - "Raves... On tour, raves"
1940: The Philadelphia Story - "Raves...nominated"
1941: Woman of the Year - "Spencer Tracy...Good, Nominated"
1941: (Play) Without Love - "Mixed"
1943: Keeper of the Flame - "Spencer Tracy...Good"
1944: Dragon Seed - "Fair"
1945: Without Love - "Spencer Tracy...Good"
1946: Undercurrent - "Fair"
1946: Song of Love - "Fair"
1947: Sea of Grass - "Spencer Tracy...Good"
1948: State of the Union - "Spencer Tracy...Good"
1949: Adam's Rib - "Spencer Tracy...Raves"
1949: (Play) As You Like It - "NY mixed...On tour, raves"
1951: The African Queen - "Nominated"
1952: Pat and Mike - "Spencer Tracy... Good"
1952: (Play) The Millionairess - "London, raves...New York, roasted"
1953: Summertime - "Raves...Nominated"
1955: (Play) The Taming of the Shrew - "Australian tour, raves"
1955: (Play) The Merchant of Venice - "Fair"
1955: (Play) Measure for Measure - "Mediocre"
1955: The Iron Petticoat - "Poor"
1956: The Rainmaker - "Good...Nominated"
1957: Desk Set - "Fair"
1957: (Play) The Merchant of Venice - "Stratford (Conn.)...Good"
1957: (Play) Much Ado About Nothing - "Raves"
1958: Suddenly Last Summer - "Raves...Nominated"
1960: (Play) Antony and Cleopatra - "Excellent"
1960: (Play) Twelfth Night - "Roasted"
1961: Long Day's Journey Into Night - "Good...Nominated"
1967: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - "Spencer Tracy...Raves...Academy Award"
1968: The Lion in Winter - "Raves...Academy Award"
1969: The Madwoman of Chaillot - "Mixed"

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