Katharine Hepburn and her chauffeur stopped for speeding in
the tiny town of Blackwell, Okla. Hepburn berates the
strapping young officer as a ''moron'' and
''dumbbell,'' then adds, ''If I ever found an Oklahoma
car in Connecticut, I would flatten all the tires.''
What could be a
scene from a screwball comedy is actually drawn from
Hepburn's real life -- at least her version of it.
single-spaced account of the arrest during a
1950-1951 tour of Shakespeare's As You Like
It was in one of 22 boxes of papers from Hepburn's
theater career that have been donated to the New York
Public Library. They will be available to scholars and fans
after they have been cataloged.
coexecutor of Hepburn's will, said the arrest story is
written in the voice of the woman she loved -- ''impatient,
funny, and occasionally just a little high-handed.''
''I suspect she
was driving,'' McFadden added. ''She frequently drove her
When Hepburn died
in 2003, the trustees of her estate chose to donate
papers from her film career to the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library. They
decided to donate papers from her extensive though
less-known stage career to the New York Public Library
for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
didn't throw away much, so there are boxes and boxes and
roomfuls of material,'' McFadden said.
Taylor said the library's archivists are still going through
the papers, which include scripts, photos, letters, and
Taylor said the
materials will be indexed by early February, at which
point members of the public will be able to check them out
and read them -- while wearing white gloves in a
special reading room.
the collection were displayed last week on a table at the
There were fan
letters from Judy Garland and from Charlton Heston, who
wrote in 1981, ''You have made all our hearts tremble, one
time or another.''
There was a
speech Hepburn delivered after a May 1970 performance asking
for a moment of silence in memory of the four students shot
by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University.
A packet of
correspondence from 1971 concerned Hepburn's use of a
four-letter word in Coco, a play based on the
life of designer Coco Chanel. Her latest collection having
bombed, the character utters the profanity.
With the play
headed to Los Angeles, Hepburn was contractually forbidden
from using the expletive. Her letter begging to have it
reinstated is an eloquent plea for free expression.
''First we have
tried everything that anyone can think of to use
instead,'' she wrote. ''Nothing works ... the sadness ...
the finality ... the clarity and the brevity of this
expression coming from the lips of a highly
respectable old lady -- who is alone -- and who is in tears
over the total failure of her show -- strikes the audience
as funny then as she runs up the stairway -- curiously
Hepburn got her
way. Edwin Lester of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera
Association responded that the letter ''was sufficient for
us to acquiesce, particularly if acquiescence would
make you happy.'' He added, ''Again let me tell you
how much we are looking forward to your visit with us,
even though you bring that naughty word along with you.''