1. - Elissa Landi, The Warrior’s Husband, 1933. The play made Hepburn on Broadway, won her a top agent (lover, nearly husband) Leland Heyward - and a secret test for John Ford - “disappointing - not my kind of gal at all. ” (He was later her lover over several years). He chose Landi. Kate wrote her a fan letter - and the two (alleged) bisexuals later became lovers in Hollywood, calling themselves: Jimmy and Elissa.
2. - Barbara Barondess, Queen Christina, 1933. Lust at first sight when Greta Garbo met Hepburn, climbing naked out of director George Cukor’s pool in 1932. The resultant affair lasted nine years - until Garbo quit Hollywood. Kate was so smitten she strived to play the queen’s funny, sexy maid. Director Rouben Mamoulian was all for it - producer Walter Wanger felt it would be too distracting. And when MGM boss, LB Mayer, saw the way Barbara’s maid rubbed the tired queen’s legs, he cut it. “We’re not making a lez picture!”
3. - Ginger Rogers, In Person, 1935. “Dreadful script,” said Kate. “I pulled it off,” crowed Ginger, “because I have talents as a comic. I’m very versatile. Dancer, dramatic actress and comedienne. Some big names can hardly get through a dramatic role, much less do anything else.” It was about then that Hepburn kicked her hated rival in the shins...
4. - Florence Eldridge, Mary of Scotland, 1936. Kate was set for Mary but director (and lover) John Ford had trouble finding an Elizabeth. Even Ginger Rogers was tested! “Katharine of Arrogance” suggested playing both roles. “But if you played both queens,” asked John Carradine, “how would you know which one to upstage?”
5. - Joan Crawford, The Gorgeous Hussy, 1936. Suddenly, everything The Magnificent Yankee touched - except her supposed AC and DC lovers - flopped. Now wonder MGM’s chief LB Mayer withdrew his invite and made Crawford into Peggy O’Neal Eaton became confidante and adviser to President Andrew Jackson. 6. - Barbara Stanwyck The Mad Miss Manton, 1938. With Bringing Up Baby flopping (oh yes it did!), RKO dropped Miss Hepburn for Missy Stanwyck. And it was an even bigger flop.
7. - Ann Shirley, Mother Carey's Chickens, 1938. Box-office poison or not, this dreadful RKO programmer was “a deliberate insult!” That was the idea: Do it - or leave! Kate bought her contract and quit the studio. Third husband of Shirley (best known for Anne of Green Gables, 1934) was the bisexual Czech actor Francis Lederer - who Hepburn had fired and replaced by Charles Boyer in Break of Hearts, 1935. (Hayley Mills re-made Chickens as Summer Magic for Disney, 1963).
8. - Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
9. - Carole Lombard, In Name Only, 1939. Set for Kate-Cary Grant until Bringing Up Baby flopped (oh, yes it did) and she (not he) was labelled Box Office Poison. In most movie books, this is Kate’s label - although in his Bottom Ten list of “poisonalities” (May 30 1937), exhibitors’ leader Harry Brandt also cited: Astaire, Crawford, Dietrich, Garbo... and Hepburn’s alleged lover, Greta Garbo.
10 - Merle Oberon, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
11 - Bette Davis, Dark Victory, 1939. Rewind one year... and RKO was chasing the Broadway flop for Kate - just as MGM figured it’d be a great Garbo vehicle. Warners won the battle and Davis an Oscar nod... losing to Vivien Leigh in the role hungered after by both Kate and Bette: Scarlett O’Hara. Spencer Tracy also refused what could have been the first of their films together - nine, in all, during their tumultuous life until his death in 1967. However, their Bogart-Bacall-esque love story was a myth created by Kate, a useful cover for them continuing to have numerous other bisexual lovers.
12 - Claire Trevor, Stagecoach, 1939. Lovers during 1936-39. When they were lovers, John Ford showed Kate a magazine story he’d read, Stage To Lordsburg - he wanted her in his movie version. John Wayne became a star in the Western and Ford told him: “Kate Hepburn is the kind of woman a man could almost leave his wife for.”
13 - Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman, 1940. Passed - in order to make her Philadelphia Story. “I didn’t want to play a soap-opera about a shop girl.” And as for her replacement, “the invading preying mantis”: “If you have anyuhing good to say about. [her], don’t say it in my presence.” They’d co-starred in Stage Door, 1937, Kate usurping Ginger’s top billing. They took it in (angry) turns to be Queen of RKO and Kate hated Ginger since finding her and Kate’s lover, director George Stevens, naked in a tub. (Rehearsing, he said). “Miss Ginger Snaps,” as Kate called her, won the Oscar from Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story. “Prizes are nothing,” snapped Hepburn. “My prize is my work.”
14 - Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1940. “I realise you don’t want me,” said Roz to director Howard Hawks. Certainly, the loathed Columbia czar Harry Cohn preferred Irene Dunne - for every role that came his way!
15/16 - Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1941. Spencer Tracy’s original idea, rejected by MGM, was to have the good doctor’s very proper fiancee (Turner) and the evil Hyde’s whore (Bergman) played by the same actress. “I was the girl he had in mind,” said Kate. “At this time we had never met. It still seems the most fascinating idea - thrilling and very modern.” Tracy got his way - in a fashion. Ingrid, booked as the fiancee, swopped roles with Lana... and became his lover.
17 - Maureen O’Hara, How Green Is My Valley, 1941. The Fox answer to GWTW was Richard Llewellyn’s classic about a Welsh mining village - with such typical Welsh folk as O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald. Well, John Ford was directing!
18 - Rosalind Russell, Take A Letter Darling, 1942. No, said Kate (or Katie) to Hollywood, Kath to family and friends. By the way, Fred MacMurray was the secretary.
19 - Paulette Goddard, Reap The Wild Wind, 1942. A reprise of Gone With The Wind... She lost a Southern belle (“pursued by both John Wayne and Ray Milland”) at the last minute... to another Scarlett O’Hara contender, Or, “Chaplin’s whore,” as Kate generously referred to her. “I’ve never met the bitch but I know that... I won’t be able to stand her.” Particularly when Spencer Tracy started two-timing her with Paulette. (Despite an invite to partner Duke in 1953, it was another 33 years before Kate finally co-starred with Wayne: Rooster Cogburn, 1975).
20 - Irene Dunne, A Guy Named Joe, 1943. “He wanted Kate, not me,” Dunne told Roddy McDowell in 1971. Impossible. She was starring in Without Love on Broadway. There were times when the famous lovers were apart for years. “We ironed everything out., Tracy and me,” said Dunne about her “most difficult” film. Such a favourite of Steven Spielberg’s that he re-made it, in 1989. As badly as he renamed it: Always.
21 - Joan Fontaine, Frenchman’s Creek, 1944. Kate was due to be Daphne Du Maurier’s heroine, Donna Sty Colmb - “A Lady of Fire and Ice,” screamed the posters, falling for a piratical “Rogue of Steel and Gallantry.” Then, she Keeper of the Flame with a certain Spencer Tracy in 1942, second of their nine films.
22 - Elizabeth Taylor, National Velvet, 1944. Producer Pandro Berman (a Kate fan from their RKO days) tried to buy the Edith Bagnold book for her in 1935. Paramount beat him to it and later sold the rights to MGM - where Berman wound up working, He got it back and the “beautiful, darling and gorgeous” Elizabeth Taylor promised “to grow into the part.”
23 - Merle Oberon, A Song To Remember, 1945. Inevitably, the trousers-loving Katie was named for George Sand in the mid-30s. She fortunately escaped the (Cornel) Wilde Chopin.
24 - Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge, 1946. She passed on being Tyrone Power’s socialite fiancée in order to support her lover Spencer Tracy’s 1945 return to Broadway in The Rugged Path.
25 - Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra, 1947. Theresa Helburn of the Theatre Guild offered the film of Eugene O’Neill’s play to Kate - with the promise of her lover, Garbo, as her mother. The playwright agreed Kate would be a fine Lavina but that 1930s’ movie censorship would castrate his work. Certainly, MGM’s LB Mayer was aghast at the very idea of Garbo as a mother in, er... “Isn’t this play about incest?” Opposite Katina Paxinou as mum, Russell won an Oscar nomination and thought she’d won - getting up too early only to side back down as she heard Loretta Young had won for The Farmer’s Daughter.
26 - Gene Tierney, The Ghost and Mrs Muir, 1947. She took three weeks to tell director and ex-lover John Ford - back from WWII - that she couldn’t make his comedy. (Ford quit, too). Kate was too busy tending another soggy Irish boozehound, Spencer Tracy. As LA gossip put it, they were more sisters than lovers.
27 - Lana Turner, Green Dolphin Street, 1947. Finally learning after so many clunker choices, Hepburn left the this Elizabeth Goudge novel well alone. Van Heflin eagerly signed on, hoping to rekindle his Broadwsay love-affair with Kate.
28 - Barbara Stanwyck, BF’s Daughter, 1948. BF, indeed! Labeled “pink” for attending a rally for the first (and last) Progressive Party candidate, Henry Wallace (Roosevelt’s first vice-president), Hepburn suddenly found she was no longer Charles Coburn’s daughter. And the Republican Stanwyck was - opposite one of Kate’s ex-lovers, Van Heflin, as Barbara’s husband.
29 - Ingrid Bergman, Joan of Arc, 1948. King Kong producer Merian C Cooper tested “that horse face” as early as 1934. RKO felt colour cost too much... until l4 years later.
30/31 - Deborah Kerr and Leueen MacGrath, Edward My Son, 1949. She was in London with him, but backed off playing Spencer Tracy’s alcoholic wife - as, indeed, he should have refused the British millionaire role. During the production, director George Cukor suggested Kate play Tracy’s secretary - and accept third billing. Oh, yeah, sure.
32 - Rosalind Russell, A Woman of Distinction, 1950. Delighted with Kate for rescuing State of the Union, 1948, Frank Capra asked her to join his next screwball number - but MGM would not going to loan her to Columbia. So we missed an ironic pearl... when Hepburn, of all people, asked another character (about electricity, of course): Are you AC or DC? !!
33 - Joan Bennett, Father of the Bride, 1950. “It’s hopelessly weak for me.” Hepburn once again refused to be Spencer Tracy’s wife in one of his biggest hits. She was livid when the “beautiful but vapid” (and pregnant) Joan took over. Kate hated Joan for obviously arranging the visit of her sister, Constance, during a Little Women lunch-break lunch - when she slapped Hepburn’s face “for stealing Morning Glory from me.”
34 - Geraldine Page, Hondo, 1953. John Wayne’s one and only 3D Western. Katie eventually joined his penultimate movie, Rooster Cogburn, 1975. "It was like leaning against a great tree,"
35 - Elizabeth Taylor, Elephant Walk, 1954. Among the many refusing to take over following Vivien Leigh's breakdown in Ceylon.
36 - Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
37 - Lucille Ball, Forever Darling, 1955. No, no, Kath was not about to replace The #1 TV Wife of the #1 TV Husband... Lucille and Desi Arnaz simply dusted off the plot many years after first, The Thin Man couple of Loy and William Powell, then Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (like who else?) passed on being the splitting couple saved by an angel... Didn’t work: the Arnazes were divorced five years later. (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn).
38 - Dorothy Maguire, Friendly Persuasion, 1956. Director William Wyler usually got what he wanted. Not this time. Due as her Quaker husband, Gary Cooper wanted Ingrid Bergman - and hated the movie.
39 - Sophia Loren, The Millionairess, 1960. Before she played the role on stage, George Bernard Shaw wanted her in a movie version. Her mother “worshipped” every word GBS wrote but Kate felt “the first act was good, the second act was worse and the third was absolutely hopeless. So I said no.” She did the play in the West End, before Broadway, in 1952 - another long separation from Spencer Tracy. (While he romanced Gene Tierney). The film idea cropped up anew in 1953 - and was shelved. (Loren and Tracy both, were considered unbankable when due to join Frank Capra’s Big Deal in 1960).
40 - Shirley MacLaine, The Children’s Hour, 1961. Opposite Doris Day - as lesbian schoolteachers. Rather too close to Kate’s secret sex life with Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Laura Harding, Judy Holliday, Irene Mayer Selznick, Susan Steele., etc.
41 - Paula Prentiss, Man’s Favourite Sport, 1963. Or The Girl Who Almost Got Away when Howard Hawks first figured on reuniting his Bringing Up Baby team of Grant and Hepburn. At 59, Grant was worried about romancing Paula Prentiss, aged 24.
42 - Olivia De Havilland, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, 1964. Joan Crawford fell “ill” during (or due to) the Baby Jane reunion. When asked to take over, Kate did not even bother to reply. Bette Davis vetoed her, anyway, and Robert Aldrich's other suggestion (Vivien Leigh) and sent for her (only) Hollywood friend.
43 - Vivien Leigh, Ship of Fools, 1965. When producer-director Stanley Kramer would not use Spencer Tracy as well, Kate declined. Then, for them both, Kramer created Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - Tracy’s last hurrah.
44 - Giulietta Masina, Giulietta degli spiriti (US: Juliet of the Spirits), Italy-France, 1965. Masina cooled her career after a bad experience with French realisateur Julien Duvivier. He told her that Fellini didn’t know how to direct her (!), and gave her a Marilyn make-over for Das kunstseidene Mädchen - which, for someone who didn’t rate Fellini, was a Berlin-set re-hash of the couple’s Nights of Cabiria. (And internationally known as The High Life... La Dolce Vita was The Sweet Life). To help make up for that (and a few affairs), Fellini wrote this gift for her but certain Cineriz company suits yawned. “We want a Hollywood star.” It is not known if Hepburn was aware of topping their list. Or whether she also yawned. As Fellini did.
45 - Rosalind Russell, Rosie! 1967. Universal bought the Ruth Gordon-adapted play, A Very Rich Woman, for Kate, but living well off the allowance her father handled, she remained off-screen for five years, nursing Spencer Tracy, and totally embroidering the “truth” of their love story
46 - Noel Coward, Boom, 1968. “Not a bad idea,” said exiled US director Joseph Losey . Except Hepburn was insulted by Liz Taylor’s invitation to play her bitchy neighbour, The Witch of Capri. (They had been aunt and neice in Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959). Joe’s agent, Robin Fox, suggested Coward. He also refused. “Listen, you old fool,” Losey told him, “you'll get $75,000 for two weeks’ work. You’re not young, your reputation is safe - what harm can it do?” And Coward turned courageous.
47 - Geraldine Page, Look Homeward Angel, TV, 1971. Kate gave up attempts to set up a movie of the Broadway play (a 1958 hit with Anthony Perkins) when she could not persuade Warren Beatty to join her.
48 - Maggie Smith, Travels With My Aunt, 1972. “I got fired a week before we were going to shoot. I don’t know why exactly. All very political.” Her dir4ector pal, George Cukor declared: “MGM behaved badly with her - Mr. Whoever-It-Was-Then [James Aubrey]. They were shits. They thought she was running things. She behaved impeccably. But hey were just stupid. Petty. Idiotic. I wanted to leave but...” Kate told him: “Don't you be impracticable, you’ve worked on it for two years.” It became a funny, lovely picture, he said. About “a real old cow,” said Maggie.
49 - Ingrid Bergman, A Matter of Time/Nina, 1976. Vincente Minnelli’s last film was his first to star daughter Liza. Ingrid’s daughter, Isabella Rossellini, was also cast.
50 - James Cagney, Terrible Joe Moran, TV, 1984. Cagney’s 65th and last movie (for CBS TV) had once been an idea for Hepburn - as a wealthy, ex-tennis star, embittered by family estrangement and finding a little affection in old age from a grandchild. Jimmy, went out fighting - a mite punchy, alas - as an ex-boxing champ.
51 - Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage To India, 1984. Almost 30 years after their Summertime, Kate was the first thought of UK director David Lean for what proved his final film - even to the extent of allowing Mrs Moore to hail from New England. Dame Peg disapproved of Lean’s autocratic ways and told him: “I’m 75 and beyond doing another film in India.” He told her: “I'm 75, too.”
52 - Maggie Smith, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, 1987. Maggie strikes again... Before director Jack Clayton achieved his dream, John Huston had planned his with Kate as Brian Moore's Irish spinster.
53 - Mona Washbourne The Bluebird, 1976. Why? No explanation has been found. But then Katharine Hepburn never enjoyed media questions. “I welcome death. In death there are no interviews!”