best film:   Bringing Up Baby is Katharine Hepburn’s best film and despite decades of phenomenal work it is not that close. The Philadelphia Story and The African Queen would be the closest, but this is not a category of strength for Hepburn. Yet, Bringing Up Baby is a comic masterpiece and the very best of the screwball comedy subgenre.


Hepburn is not only one of Hollywood’s most decorated actors- but certainly gives one of the best comedic performances of all-time in Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby


best performance:   Bringing Up Baby again here but this category might be closer with The Philadelphia Story. Katharine Hepburn outpaces (ever so slightly) both Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart in the film and that is obviously no small feat.


Hepburn as Tracy Samantha Lord in The Philadelphia Story opposite James Stewart and Cary Grant


stylistic innovations/traits:   Katharine Hepburn has the iconic voice (so well captured by Cate Blanchett in The Aviator), wit and strength of personality. Her characters often sparred with their male counterparts and Hepburn was always up to the challenge. Certainly the battle of the sexes films with Spencer Tracey fit here, Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby and Bogart in The African Queen.  She is meant to drive these men crazy- and that is the test – she has enough force and presence to get a reaction. 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 four Academy Awards (only one of which is amongst her ten best performances)—one in the 1930s, two in the 1960s, and then one again in the 1980s. Hepburn’s case for this list here is that depth for filmography with her nineteen (19) archiveable films.


Hepburn’s career lasted decades- but her best stretch is from 1932 to 1940 with nine archiveable films in nine years (including her three single best performances).  This here from Little Women.


directors worked with:  George Cukor (7) and they did tremendous work together. The small tragedy is that even from Cukor’s work- two of the best three films from him do not feature Hepburn (My Fair Lady and A Star Is Born). She also worked with George Stevens (2) and then once a piece with Howard Hawks, John Huston, David Lean and Sidney Lumet.


Hepburn won (or tied to win) three Oscars from age 60 on- including 1968’s The Lion in Winter.


top ten performances:

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



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