Hepburn's memoir gives inside track on late screen star

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The Independent Culture

Katharine Hepburn, the American actress who died aged 96 two weeks ago, has posthumously gone public on her life and her loves, notably with her fellow Hollywood star Spencer Tracy, in a new authorised memoir released in the United States yesterday.

The book, Kate Remembered, contains few shocking revelations about the actress, who won a record four Oscars for her films over a career that spanned five decades. Its author, the Pulitzer prizewinning biographer A Scott Berg, called it "part biography, part memoir".

It is the result of a 20-year friendship between writer and actress that began in 1983 when she was 75. There was never any formal agreement it would result in Mr Berg writing the book but that was the understanding. She stipulated, though, that it should only be published on her death.

The interviews mostly took place in her riverfront home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. In speaking of Mr Tracy, she recalled how he once slapped her with the back of his hand in a drunken rage during a stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Ms Hepburn recalled deciding against ditching Mr Tracy. "If I had left, we both would have been miserable," she said. Mr Tracy was apparently too drunk to remember the incident and she never reminded him. She did consider enrolling him in Alcoholics Anonymous but said it would be impossible to keep it a secret.

The book's 370 pages are peppered with reminiscences of encounters with other stars of the past century, including the reclusive Howard Hughes. While filming On Golden Pond in 1979, she met Michael Jackson, "an absolutely extraordinary creature", who had, "never lived a single moment, I mean not a moment, in the real world".

An early poignant passage describes a brief holiday when she was 13 years old in Manhattan with her elder brother Tom. One morning, he failed to emerge from his bedroom and Ms Hepburn found him hanging from a rafter on a torn sheet. The suicide devastated the actress.

The book, expected to become a bestseller, will be noted more for the unusual circumstances of its release. Putnam Books, a unit of Penguin, agreed to Ms Hepburn's edict that it appear only on her death. Written between 1999-2001, it was kept a secret to all but a handful of people in the company. "Kate often suggested the importance of publishing a book right away because she presumed there would be so many books written about her over the ensuing years, filled with mistakes," Mr Berg said yesterday.