Katharine Hepburn's secret sporting passion

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The Independent Online

In the wake of the death of the late, lamented Katharine Hepburn, I have received many letters of appreciation in her memory and think it only right to print a selection of them today.

From Mr George "Gubby" Trotter

Sir, In all the deserving tributes to the late, great Katharine Hepburn there has been one glaring omission, for there has been no mention of her abiding love of the English game of cricket.

Unlike most Hollywood actors, Katharine came from a fairly patrician family. Her father was a wealthy New England doctor and her mother an advanced thinker, and they were exactly the sort of family who were likely, if they favoured any sport, to have a weakness for cricket. And so it proved to be. At family festivities they would divide into two teams and play cricket.

"This was mighty unpopular with outlying branches of the family," she told me once. "I remember one time we had some cousins come to visit with us who insisted on playing baseball, and we insisted on playing cricket. So, for an experiment, we played a game in which we stuck to cricket rules and they played by baseball rules."

I asked her what on earth the result could have been.

"Oh," she said, "they scored nine home runs, which is very good. However, we were 211 for four declared, which is a lot better."

Yours etc.

From Mrs Dorothy Baker

Sir, I remember when we were filming The Philadelphia Story she was always off in the bushes with Cary Grant, and we really thought there was something going on between them. It turned out later that she thought that because he was British he would know all about cricket, and have the latest results. But he came from a place called Bristol, where, apparently, they have two football teams and no cricket team.

"Just think of it, Dotty," he said to me once, "if I had come from Taunton, I could be married to her by now." I often wonder what he meant by that.

Yours etc.

From Mr Sid Weissman

Sir, You don't know me, but I knew Katharine Hepburn, and she was one hell of a lady. Not much of a woman, but a hell of a lady. There was a time in Hollywood in the late Thirties when girl power was all the thing (remember a movie called The Women that had no men in it?) and Kate said to me one day that she wanted to do the same sort of thing, only she wanted to organise an all-female Hollywood cricket XI.

"You wanna do what?" I said. "You wanna ruin your career?"

"No, I want to enable all people to play sport," she said. "Have you noticed that neither of America's national games, football or baseball, can be played by women? But cricket and soccer are both open to females. The British are ahead of us there."

Well, that's Commie talk in any language, and I was forced later on to denounce her to Senator McCarthy. Seemingly, however, my letter must have been lost in the post, because he never got back to me.

Yours etc.

From Ms Trudy Walton

Sir, I am reminded of the time I spent working on the African Queen in Africa, with Kate Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, John Huston, Robert Morley and everyone. (I was in make-up.) They were tense times, as everyone knows, but I don't think many people realise that a lot of the tenseness came from Kate's desire for us to use our spare time to play cricket. Bogart and Huston, as American tough guys, sneered at all European sport. Robert Morley, as a British aesthete, sneered at all sport. So Kate spent a lot of time trying to raise an XI from the nearby villages.

"I don't know what it is with the British, Trudy," she said. "You can't rely on them to finish the job. They taught the West Indians and Indians to play cricket. It's a national craze in Australia and New Zealand. But what happened in Africa? Not one black African country was calmed, civilised and softened by the application of cricket culture. No wonder the continent's in a mess. Now, go tell Bogart to put that whisky away and get his pads on."

Yours etc.