Sunday, April 7, 2013

Katharine Hepburn's Bronze Bust of Spencer Tracy

This Sunday, as spring is in the air and I’m feeling pretty great about life, I thought I’d get a little sentimental. Or probably, more accurately, a little MORE sentimental than usual about my favorite films and actors and actresses.
Right from the beginning of my classic movie-watching days, I've always loved Katharine Hepburn. I love her spirit and her wit and her strength of character. She had the rare ability to be a terrifying pillar of strength at one moment, and a source of pathos the next. Of course, as most critics put her at the top of the “Best Actresses” list, I’m not alone in these sentiments. Still, she always has a special place in my heart. Her films, especially her early comedies like Bringing up Baby, fostered in me a love of classic cinema that’s never left me.  

As I've become more a connoisseur over the years, I've found more appreciation in some of her later roles, especially, as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, which I consider one of her best performances ever. Then, there’s always that old standby, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), to which I devote my post to, in a way.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a fairly monumental piece about interracial marriage, a very touchy issue at the time of the film. So, the movie was pretty groundbreaking. More importantly (to me, at least), it’s the last pairing of Kate and her long-time lover, Spencer Tracy. Weeks after filming, Spence would die, leaving Katharine heartbroken. Their love affair has been documented and re-documented and I’m not going to go over old ground. (I will say though, the one great irony I find in it was the Spencer, the “great” Catholic, couldn't justify divorce, but could justify a decades-long affair- but whatever). At the end of her memoir Me, Kate concludes with a beautiful “letter” to long-dead Spencer, which is quite touching. They meant a great deal to each other, and I think both their work was bettered because of their mutual love and support.

According to the internet, a certain bust of Spencer Tracy appears in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner which Katharine made herself. To confess the truth- I've never seen the whole movie. In the scenes I DID watch I couldn't find it, but that certainly doesn't mean it isn't there. (This is a hint for you readers to comment with a picture or a sassy comment like “it’s right behind Sidney Poitier, you dope”).

Regardless of its appearance in the film, the bust exists. Katharine Hepburn was apparently quite an accomplished artist who took up painting and sculpting as a relaxing hobby. Her bust of Spence was a true testament of her love for him, and I find it quite lovely that this piece of art exists forever attesting to their love. I believe she created it in the early '60s, when Spencer was quite ill as a way to pass the time peacefully. As you can tell, it is certainly not a young Spencer Tracy, but certainly it certainly conveys his strength and his character in all his glory, regardless of age. 

This piece doesn’t really hold many thematic elements; it adds some greater attractiveness to the set and serves as a magnificent portrait of one of old Hollywood’s greats by one of old Hollywood’s greatest. Incidentally, it was sold at auction a few years ago for over three hundred thousand dollars. So, that should tell you the value that the world puts on such a piece. Not only is it a rare piece of movie memorabilia, it’s a rare piece of Hepburn art of Hepburn’s great love. Needless to say, it’s an incredibly neat piece of art, just for its historic value alone.

1 comment:

  1. Poitier holds it in his hand and there is even dialogue about it. Go back and look again, my friend.


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