A. Scott Berg. Putnam, $25.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-399-15164-4
Even those who've read many Hepburn biographies will find Berg's immersion in the actor's world engrossing, full of crisply-voiced takes on old Hollywood and intimate looks at her everyday life. As a longtime friend and ardent fan, Berg (Lindbergh; Max Perkins; etc.) does not attempt an objective biography; instead, he aims to convey Hepburn's thoughts and memories. Framed by Berg and Hepburn's 20-year friendship, the book charts the inescapable subjects of Hepburn's life, such as her romance with Spencer Tracy and her assessment of her own performances. She considered Tracy the greatest American screen actor and her last years with him (in the 1960s) the happiest of her life. Among her movies, she spoke warmly of her films with George Cukor. As to Hepburn's sexual orientation, Berg notes that in the 1930s she lived with actress Laura Harding and decades later was rumored to have exceptionally close relations with a woman, but Hepburn reported nothing. Most interesting is Berg's depiction of Hepburn's early acting days: how she moved from Broadway to Hollywood, negotiated an outsized salary, and, after becoming box-office poison, fought her way back with The Philadelphia Story. Throughout those years, she was befriended personally and professionally by her husband Ludlow Ogden Smith and by industrialist Howard Hughes. Berg is true to his subject and lets her voice come through in every quote, whether she's pooh-poohing him for thinking the 50-ish-degree water near her Connecticut house is cold (""Only for the first few seconds. And then you're numb"") or explaining why she never tried to marry Spencer Tracy:""I never wanted to marry Spencer Tracy."" Photos.
Reviewed on: 07/01/2003