"Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files" Exhibition

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

poster for "Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files" Exhibition

This event has ended.

Katharine Hepburn’s elevation to the status of “icon” was due undoubtedly to her singular success on the screen. But her acting career began on the stage and it was there that she honed the skills that would later serve her so well in Hollywood. Yet even after her stature as a screen actress was solidified, she returned repeatedly to the stage, where each time she found new challenges, new audiences, new risks, and, more than once, failure. Her role models as serious actresses (Jane Cowl, Katharine Cornell, Lynn Fontanne) avoided film work, so she served as the role model for the current generation. The Katharine Hepburn Papers, Billy Rose Theatre Division, document the actress’s life and stage career from the late 1920s through the mid-1990s. Among the papers are typescripts (some—like the script for Coco—annotated in Hepburn’s hand),hundreds of photographs (publicity shots and formal portraiture as well as informal snapshots and rehearsal candids, scrapbooks, promotional ephemera, and sixty years of correspondence includes fan mail, congratulatory notes, and general letters from such notable friends and admirers as Judy Garland, Charlton Heston, Richard Burton, George Cukor, Vivien Leigh, Peter O’Toole, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, John Gielgud, and Joan Crawford, among scores of others. A few personal notes are signed “Pot,” Hepburn’s pet name for long-time friend Spencer Tracy. A journal of sorts (1950–51) contains an account of her arrest for speeding in Kansas—a minor misadventure during which, in typical Hepburn fashion, she proclaimed the arresting officer “a moron.” Notable also are a copy of a curtain speech she delivered in tribute to the fallen students at Kent State and an impassioned plea she composed for Joe Papp’s Save-the-Theatres campaign. Also included are such unique items as her annotated vocal exercises, pages and pages of handwritten rehearsal notes, and a rather severe full-length photo of her from The Big Pond in 1930, a production she appeared in for one night only before being fired.

[Image: Vandamm Studio "Contact sheet for a 1950 studio photography session" Billy Rose Theatre Division]



from June 10, 2009 to October 10, 2009
Closed Sunday. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 11am-6pm. Monday, Thursday: 12-8pm. Saturday 10am-6pm.

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