Katharine Hepburn, Summertime

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Pauline Kael

"Katharine Hepburn is probably the greatest actress of the sound era. Her career spans talkies almost from the beginning, and the transformations that have taken place in her, the way she has embodied new tastes in heroines, make her career an index of American changes. There were actresses who were career women types, others proud heiresses, other madcap comediennes, others sufferers for humanity, others defiant modernists. Hepburn has been all of them--rich girls, poor girls, pioneers, decadents.... Hepburn began--when she was close to fifty--to play "plain Janes." It may be relevant that Hepburn rarely played a woman with a child; she was almost invariably the modern woman, the career girl, the bachelor girl. By 1955, in Summertime, she was at the end point of that tradition--as the aging virgin, an innocent abroad in corrupt, sensual Venice. Prim and gaunt, withering in her loneliness, she is the female Yankee, the archetype of a Henry James heroine grown old. There is an element of embarrassment in this kind of role, but she is so good at that she almost--though not quite--kills the embarrassment...."

Pauline Kael
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968), p. 445