Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn

Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year, as well as one of Publishers Weekly’s 100 Best Books of the Year, KATE garnered great attention upon publication, being serialized in Vanity Fair and the New York Daily News. “A corrective to the hagiography that has often been passed as her personal history,” wrote The Washington Post. Indeed, Mann’s portrait of the American icon differs from her public legend in many ways, not least of which was her steely determination to make it to the top and her obsession with staying there.

And yet the book remains respectful and even affectionate toward Hepburn, the beloved movie queen and Connecticut Yankee. The real woman, as Mann points out, was far more interesting than the one-dimensional legend she fostered. Katharine Hepburn was her own creation. She charmed the public with the image of an East Coast aristocrat, wearing pants and freely speaking her mind, and the image stuck. But that show didn’t come easily to her, or without tremendous effort and concealment. None of her success did. What lay beneath Hepburn’s public roles was an ambitious, vulnerable woman whose relationships and sexuality were never as simple as Kate–and previous biographers–suggested.

With this biography, William J. Mann challenges much of what we think we know about the Great Kate, and shows how a woman originally considered too controversial for Hollywood stardom learned the fine art of imagecraft, and transformed herself into an icon as all-American as the Statue of Liberty.


“Certain to stand tall as the definitive biography of Hepburn.” — The Sunday Times (London)

“A page-turner and a revelation.” — USA Today

“Not just the best on Hepburn–it’s a book that sets new standards in movie biography.” — The New York Observer

“While previous biographers may have added more embroidery to the accepted story of Hepburn’s life, Mann pretty much blows everything out of the water.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“Mann handles the material with clear-eyed equanimity. . . . A corrective to the hagiography that has often been passed as her personal history.” — The Washington Post

“Not only an intriguing portrait of Katharine Hepburn — but also an accurate picture of her Hollywood and the difficult business of stardom.” — Gore Vidal

“Thoughtful…savvy… A real life version of one of America’s favorite fairy tales.” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Packed with details…painstaking reportage.” — Entertainment Weekly

“An incisive look at the blue-blooded screen legend whose deft creation of her own myth may startle even a Hollywood insider.” — Vogue

“I thought I knew a lot about Katharine Hepburn until I read William J. Mann’s stunning biography. Mann’s account is mesmerizing and well researched; he is psychologically acute without ever being clinical, deeply respectful without being reverential. Plus, KATE is a wonderful read—I could not put it down.” —Patricia Bosworth, author of Diane Arbus: A Biography

“She wrote memoirs, she gave interviews, and she talked, talked, talked. We thought we knew everything about Katharine Hepburn, but we actually knew only what she wanted us to know. William J. Mann’s exciting new biography pulls back those carefully drawn curtains to reveal the real Hepburn—a different but far more interesting woman than the one we thought we knew.” —Gerald Clarke, author of Capote and Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland

“Katharine Hepburn is a 10,000-piece jigsaw. I would have defied anyone to have assembled the puzzle as beautifully as William Mann has done. What a job! This is one of the best books ever written about a movie star and the complexities and compromises involved with fame and celebrity. It delves intimately, candidly, mesmerizingly, into Hepburn’s ‘dual’ sexuality as a key to her persona. The reporting is fresh and persuasive, the tone intelligent and compassionate. This is the book that finally pierces the mystery of the human being behind the legend. I couldn’t stop reading—or thinking—about it.” —Patrick McGilligan, author of George Cukor: A Double Life and Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

“William J. Mann’s biography of Katharine Hepburn deepens the focus on the singular life of this spectacular 20th century personality. An extraordinary job of research … This is solid craftsmanship, entertaining, well presented and completely satisfying.”—Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant

“The time is ripe, the author is right, for this eye-opening biography. With humor and a sympathy unclouded by awe, Mann dismantles the elaborate charade that went into the Katharine Hepburn mystique. Not least fascinating is the ambiguous sexuality that lay behind the deceptively straightforward image, carefully crafted by Hepburn herself with the eager compliance of reporters and fans. ” —Molly Haskell, author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies