Published a mere 13 days after the death of Katharine Hepburn, Kate Remembered is best appreciated as a valentine of devoted friendship. It's a moving study of mutual trust and admiration between Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer A. Scott Berg and legendary Hollywood icon Hepburn, who'd established an instant rapport in 1983, beginning a 20-year conversation that blossomed into this enchanting "biographical memoir." As a casual but authoritative survey of Hepburn's career, Berg's book offers little new information to anyone who's read previous Hepburn biographies or Me: Stories of My Life, Hepburn's bestselling 1991 memoir. But the duality of Berg's title reinforces his purpose: "More than my remembrances," writes Berg in his author's note, "this book intends to convey hers." As such, Kate Remembered offers a rare, unvarnished portrait of one of the 20th century's most influential women, achieving a personal intimacy while making the reader feel welcomed in Hepburn's private world of privilege.
Although Berg (the acclaimed biographer of legendary editor Max Perkins, producer/mogul Samuel Goldwyn, and aviator Charles Lindbergh) had written all but the final paragraphs by 2001, Hepburn insisted this book remain unpublished until after her death, which came, in quiet dignity at age 96, on June 29, 2003. Given the book's pre-publication secrecy, it's hardly tabloid-worthy, serving instead to correct or clarify details from Hepburn's glory days--especially her long-term affair with Spencer Tracy--while offering choice bits of Hollywood gossip, Hepburn's frequently scathing assessments of other actors, and amusing encounters with such luminaries as Michael Jackson and Warren Beatty (both of whom appear as mock suitors with selfish motivations). It's a brisk read but a substantial one, richly emotional and as dignified as Hepburn herself, whose faults and foibles make her even more appealing than her beloved public persona. --Jeff Shannon [via]