1) The recent death of actress Katharine Hepburn at age 96 has engendered any number of eulogies of this media favorite whose career ran six decades. She is being praised both as a strong moral person and as a vibrant indomitable rebel who was an eminent role model for women. To set the record straight for the unknowing or the naive, let me say that both of these renderings are completely false.
2) It is bad enough to see the secular media depicting Hepburn as a high-principled woman of morals, an honest, frank soul always living by her convictions. But it is absolutely shocking to see a diocesan newspaper, even of the notoriously liberal Los Angeles Diocese, print an article describing Katharine Hepburn as having “Old World values,” and romanticizing her illicit love-affair with Spencer Tracy, a married Catholic man.
3) “She did not smash, but lived by a set of values so traditional that they would shock all those who are making her a mother goddess of breaking rules and improvising one’s way through life,” the article by Eugene Cullen Kennedy read (“Spencer called her Kath,” The Tidings, July 11, 2002). Sifting through her biographical data, I could not find this “set of traditional values” she supposedly lived by.
4) What I found was that she was raised from childhood in a notoriously liberal environment. Long before it became “fashionable,” her mother was a feminist and an advocate of abortion-rights. In fact, Hepburn’s influential mother was co-founder with Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood. It was these “values” she instilled in Katharine, who supported women’s rights all her life, became a board member of Planned Parenthood, and asked that donations made after her death should be directed to that organization.
5) During her college years at Bryn Mawr, Hepburn lived a wild party life. Her penchant to break conventions was already apparent in her unorthodox dress: baggy men’s trousers, oversized sweaters and men’s shirts, shocking even for the extravagant tastes of the “roaring ‘20s.”
6) When she finally decided to marry, she insisted not only that her wealthy fiancé change his name from Ludlow Ogden Smith to Ogden Smith Ludlow so she would not have the plain name of Kate Smith, but also that she would continue her stage career. After several years, she went to Mexico for a divorce. “I don’t believe in marriage,” she later stated. “It’s bloody impractical to love, honor, and obey.” These are not exactly traditional values.
7) And so she began the string of illicit and open love-affairs with powerful men such as Hollywood agent Leland Howard and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. And there were others. In her autobiography egotistically titled “Me,” a lot of ink is spent reminiscing about her immoral relationships with the “men in my life.” Children? Of course not. “I would have been a terrible mother. I’m basically too selfish,” Hepburn laughs, and this is what the fawning media presents as an admirable example of her frank and honest spirit.
8) The grand enigma is the general public sympathy Hepburn elicited – even among Catholics – for her scandalous 25-year up-and-down relationship with Spencer Tracy. Hepburn always said she respected Mrs. Tracy, and so she and Spencer did not appear in public, although the whole world knew about her affair. It was a strange kind of respect. Ironically, she called herself and Tracy the “perfect American couple."
9) Nor was Hepburn traditional in her views and affiliations. “I’m an atheist and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.” Based on her utilitarian vision of the world, she supported euthanasia. “If I got sick and was no longer of any use to myself or anyone else, I would find a way of ending it, “ she once said.
10) In a 1990 Associated Press interview, she offhandedly summarized her thinking on the afterlife: “I’m what is known as...
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