Hello, my pals and gals, and welcome to my homegirl's birthday.
In my dreams, she would had lived to see this day. In my dreams, she would've lived eternally, and not only in the metaphorical way in which she did and already does live forever. It made sense that she should live forever, since she inverted the rules of the world with such ease that we could barely remember how things used to be. Almost a century old, she would laugh at time going by, immune to the passing of the years that seem to haunt so many, thinking of them as battles won against the intangible, unbeatable force that drags a little bit of life out of our chests every day. Yes, most of us begin dying in the moment we are born, Kate was still living even in the moment when she died.
What a woman. I have no words left.
And since my personal feelings for this child leave me with what feels awfully like writer's block; and you are most likely tired of my endless emotional musings; I will take a different, hopefully unexpected approach to this celebration. I will touch pieces of work La Hepburn produced that I find are underrated or unbeknownst to many old movie fans. I'm not gonna talk about The Philadelphia Story, or Bringing Up Baby, or the Academy Awards. I'm gonna show you something new.
The year: 1970. The place: Broadway. A play about the life of a fashion designer, with song and dance numbers, played by a star who could not sing, dance or dress, ended up being the opposite of the anticipated fiasco. By watching this clip, one can see the reason for the Tony nomination, despite the abysmal supporting cast. She couldn't sing or dance, but somehow it doesn't seem to matter. She lost the Award that year to her friend Lauren Bacall, who blew the house down with her Margo Channing in "Applause". Bacall, whose career on the stage was perhaps even more fabulous than her career in the movies, got a congratulatory letter from Kate. "None could be more proud than I", she wrote.
In the late 1940s, the political climate in Hollywood and the entire world was boiling hot. An almost pathological fear of communism had taken the United States, and even those without the slightest hint of a political inclination were subject to accusations of hatching the most convoluted red plans. So much so that some actors, directors and producers refrained from bringing up the subject of politics. Amidst the days of persecution, Katharine stood up and delivered a fine speech, written by Arthur Laurents, who was there to witness it, and realized no one could've delivered it better. It's amazing that the speech can still be listened to, today. She was wearing a big red gown. I can assure you fear of accusations was the last thing on her mind.
Among the accused was John Huston, talented director, known for filming in unusual places. He directed one of my favorite movies with Hepburn's name above the title: The African Queen. From this movie, came Kate's first work as a writer, one much less well-known than her autobiography: The Making of the African Queen, or How I Went To Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. I have not read this book, but from what I hear it's not a recollection of facts and behind the scenes anecdotes, but in fact a character study of the people involved in the making of this legendary flick. I'd expect nothing less from the author.
The goings-on from when the Technicolor cameras were off were in fact captured by Lauren Bacall, in charming home movies, that show off a funny and enthusiastic Kate, always getting on swimmingly with the co-stars. They endured difficulties, such as bathrooms shared with honey badgers, sinking steamboats and fleeing natives and went on adventures such as filming wildlife, hunting elephants and trying to get a call through to Ratty in Los Angeles, which certainly was the hardest of them all. I can't think of something I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall. Or rather, a part of that amazing group, participating in all the adventures and all the stories to tell.
This tiny little clip from the home movies of Africa is already an example of the warmth she makes me feel. Her breezy, earthy laugh, of someone sure that what they're doing, whatever it is, it's okay. Her confidence is such that it becomes inspiring, it becomes contagious. Her joy of living is remarkable, her willingness to let the problems slide is unusual, her fascination with the world at large is beautiful and her ability to love and not consider herself a hero for it is absolutely rare. Her energy is impossible to stay immune to. Her career was a treasure, her life was a jewel, her legacy is a gift.
Godspeed, Old Kate. Leave it to us to remember the days when your laugh echoed the loudest and those teeth that you made sure to tell everyone were your own still framed that open smile. We love you. I love you. Happy birthday.