We’re moving on from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but we’re not leaving it entirely. Katherine Hepburn’s career started during the old studio days. But most of her Oscar wins came later in her career. The 50’s and 60’s saw Elizabeth Taylor in her prime. While Hepburn was enjoying a surprising resurgence as a middle-aged actress, Taylor was a vulnerable sex symbol. These two don’t share much in common beyond their status as iconic movie stars and their Best Actress wins.
But first, let’s review the results of yesterday’s match.
This one wasn’t so close. Swedish sensation Ingrid Bergman won the day with nearly 80% of the votes. But the numbers don’t convey the hand-wringing that was going on in the comments section. Several readers remarked on what a difficult decision this was. No matter how hard the choice was, readers picked Bergman to advance in the game. That means Ilsa Lund will take on Scarlett O’Hara in the first match of the second round.
Katharine Hepburn enjoyed early success playing an ambitious actress in the drama, Morning Glory opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. She earned her first Best Actress trophy at the sixth annual Academy Awards. Hepburn didn’t accept her award in person and made it a practice throughout her long career not to attend the ceremony.
Hepburn was nominated for best actress a dozen times over the course of six decades! Only one actress can claim more nominations than Hepburn, but we’ll get to her in another round. No one has more wins. There are several actresses in our game who have won Best Actress twice. But Hepburn took home four statues.
Thirty-four years after winning her first Best Actress Oscar, Hepburn finally won her second in the 1968 drama, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Spoilers: It’s Sidney Poitier.) The movie marked the final on-screen pairing of Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Tracy passed shortly after completing the movie. Hepburn said her Oscar win was a way for the Academy to honor her late partner.
The following year, Hepburn won again for The Lion in Winter although she shared that award with Barbra Streisand who won for for Funny Girl. Finally, in 1982, Hepburn won her fourth Best Actress Oscar for On Golden Pond.
Elizabeth Taylor became a movie star at the age of twelve when she starred in National Velvet. During the 40’s Taylor grew up under the studio system. She claimed that MGM was calling the shots. The studio went so far as to put her in braces and to have baby teeth pulled. In the 50’s, Taylor transitioned into adult roles with the original Father of the Bride in which she played Spencer Tracy’s daughter.
Taylor continued her growth in movies like A Place in the Sun and The Last Time I Saw Paris. She starred opposite Rock Hudson and James Dean in the 1956 drama, Giant. The following year, she earned her first Best Actress nomination for Raintree County. Taylor received continued to be nominated annually for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959).
Around this time, Taylor started an affair with singer Eddie Fisher who was married to actress Debbie Reynolds. The resulting scandal got Taylor branded as a home wrecker by the public.
As the decade came to a close, Taylor owed MGM one more movie. The studio decided to capitalize on her scandalous image by casting her as a high class prostitute in the drama, BUtterfield 8. Taylor hated the idea, but needed to fulfill her contract. She agreed to make the movie on the conditions that they filmed in New York and that Eddie Fisher be cast in a sympathetic role. The couple hated the movie, but it was enormously successful and won Taylor her first Academy Award.
Taylor left MGM to make the notorious flop Cleopatra with Richard Burton. Burton and Taylor began an affair while filming the movie despite the fact they were both married. News of the relationship overwhelmed the movie and the studio ended up suing its stars – unsuccessfully. Burton and Taylor married in 1964, divorced divorced ten years later, then remarried and divorced again.
In 1967, the couple costarred in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which earned Taylor her second Best Actress Oscar. We’ll talk more about that if Taylor advances to round two.