Hepburn saved time for archivists of mementos

For the Record

September 26, 2004|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD - Katharine Hepburn was a pack rat with panache. The actress saved an amazing amount of material - letters, annotated scripts, fans' scrapbooks, photographs of herself in outfits of every kind. She even stored it all in a climate-controlled facility.

The beneficiary of her steadfast personal archiving is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, which recently announced its acquisition of Hepburn's collection of such items. The collection was donated to the library by the estate of the four-time Oscar winner, who died June 29, 2003, at the age of 96.

"She saved a lot of material," said library director Linda Mehr. "We have old scrapbooks that go back to the very beginning of her film career, even some including her early stage work along with the film work. They are quite unique. She saved a lot of her scripts - a lot of them have notations that indicate how she worked out the role she was to play. It is really an incredible record of her life - she is one of the most influential women of the 20th century."

More amazing, Mehr said, is that "we have never gotten a collection where they saved as much that documents careers like this. For an individual performer, it is quite rare. She was probably aware of her life's legacy and how important it was."

The Hepburn collection complements several of the library's collections on her major collaborators, including directors George Stevens, George Cukor, John Huston and actor Cary Grant. "This will really help fill in the picture of the creative talents behind her," Mehr said.

None of the material in the library collection is from the Sotheby's estate sale of more than 600 items that took place in June and earned $5.8 million for the Hepburn family.

Though items in that auction included photographs and letters, the bulk of that material was more personal - jewelry, furniture, a bronze of her longtime love and frequent co-star Spencer Tracy, film contracts and a wedding dress.

"It was a really small amount," Mehr said. "Anything that was of potential research value, they photocopied so we have replicas of everything."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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