best film: It’s Bringing Up Baby and it’s not that close. The Philadelphia Story and The African Queen would be the closest but Bringing Up Baby is a giant comic masterpiece and the very best of the screwball comedy subgenre. More than that, it makes a strong case to be Howard Hawks’ best film and along with David Lean he’s the best director Hepburn ever worked with.

best performance:  Bringing Up Baby but I don’t feel half as confident about this as I do that it’s her best film. She’s great in Holiday, The Philadelphia Story (outpacing even Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart), and completely unhinged going berserk with Peter O’Toole in The Lion in Winter– love that performance. Still, when I close my eyes and think about Katharine Hepburn I picture her as “Susan” driving Cary Grant nuts in a very loud and gutsy comedic performance.

stylistic innovations/traits: Katharine Hepburn has the iconic voice, accent (so well captured by Cate Blanchett in The Aviator), wit and strength. She’ll drive you crazy in half her films (certainly the battle of the sexes films with Spencer Tracey, Bringing Up Baby and Bogart in The African Queen) but she’s meant to and that’s the test. She was remarkably skilled, trained and nuanced when she wanted to be (Long Journey’s Day Into Night), serious and vulnerable (Summertime) and wacky and funny as well (Holiday). She won 4 academy awards (only one of which is amongst her 10 best)—one in the 30’s, two in the 60’s and then one again in the 80’s.

directors worked with:  Cukor (7) and they did tremendous work together. The small tragedy is that even from Cukor’s work (and I have him as the 99th best director of all-time), two of the best three films from him aren’t featuring Hepburn (My Fair Lady (1) and A Star Is Born (3)). She also worked with George Stevens (2) and then once a piece with Hawks, John Huston, David Lean and Sidney Lumet.

Top 10 Performances:

  1. Bringing Up Baby
  2. The Philadelphia Story
  3. The Lion in Winter
  4. Summertime
  5. Holiday
  6. Alice Adams
  7. Woman of the Year
  8. Pat and Mike
  9. The African Queen
  10. Adam’s Rib

Archiveable films

1932- Bill of Divorcement
1933- Little Women
1933- Morning Glory
1935- Alice Adams
1935- Sylvia Scarlett
1937- Stage Door
1938- Bringing Up Baby
1938- Holiday
1940- The Philadelphia Story
1942- Woman of the Year
1949- Adam’s Rib
1951- The African Queen
1952- Pat and Mike
1955- Summertime
1959- Suddenly Last Summer
1962- Long Day’s Journey Into Night
1967- Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
1968- The Lion in Winter
1981- On Golden Pond