Warren Beatty
December 26, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Farewell: Warren Beatty pays tribute to Katharine Hepburn

My one-way ”love affair” with her began when I was 9 and saw a reissue of The Philadelphia Story. No doubt it had something to do with her being a slim, rock-ribbed, highly principled Northeastern WASP. My mother was too. Hepburn was a progressive with a feminist mother and a doctor father. My mother was too. She liked to act. My mother did too. Her name was Katharine. My mother’s was Kathlyn.

Through brief and jovial encounters with her in the ’60s and ’70s, my passion remained unrequited. The closest I came to what I could pretend to myself was reciprocation was in 1977 when she let me talk her into seeing a well-known dermatologist about her extremely sun-sensitive but beautiful skin.

In the fall of ’93, having become a willing object of ridicule and sympathy to my associates in my fervent pursuit of her, I overcame a host of obstacles and persuaded her to do Love Affair with me and my amused wife, Annette. It turned out to be her last movie.

She was in her late 80s. Okay, she might’ve had some trouble moving around or remembering things, but she never seemed a day over 40 to me…or 20.

Removing her makeup after her final day, she looked over and caught me sitting and staring at her, besotted.

She blinked. ”You should stay with me when you come to New York.”

”Stay with you?” I asked, hoping to have heard her correctly.

”Yes,” she said. ”You and Annette should stay with me.”

”Oh,” I said. ”Of course, of course. Me and Annette. Thank you.” But I could have gone on staring at her for two days.

Two days later, in fact, the house we had found for her just a stone’s throw from our own was demolished by the Northridge earthquake. She had returned to New York only hours before. Even the Northridge earthquake knew better than to mess around with Katharine Hepburn.

She was the longest-lived survivor of a generation of movie actors between 1930 and 1950 who were seen always on screens much larger than life. The generation before her had been silent. The one following her would be seen more often on screens much smaller than life.

In earlier days, privacy was a possibility for this carefully carefree, controlling woman, this symbol of perpetual integrity who told me she went out to restaurants only three times after becoming famous (that means in 71 years) and, because he wasn’t divorced, never once appeared in public with the man who for 26 years was her great love.

She never relinquished responsibility for what she considered her image.

Why invade her privacy now? It’s better just to love her and look at her.


(Hepburn died of natural causes in Old Saybrook, CT.)

You May Like