Kate the Great Gets a Postage Stamp

PlayBlog   Kate the Great Gets a Postage Stamp
[caption id="attachment_3824" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Postage stamp of Katharine Hepburnphoto by USPS"]Postage stamp of Katharine Hepburn<BR>photo by USPS[/caption]

"I don't want to be worshipped. I want to be loved." The woman who voiced that desire was Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord in playwright Philip Barry's 1939 comedy of the privileged class enjoying its privileges, The Philadelphia Story. Seventy years later, the U.S. Post Office, it was just announced, is lavishing a bit of both — worship and love — on the four-time Academy Award winner, as it puts those fabulous cheekbones (which someone once called the greatest calcium deposit since the White Cliffs of Dover) on a new postage stamp.

Hepburn joins Mother Teresa, Tom Mix, cartoonist Bill Mauldin, among other celebrated individuals, as part of the USPS 2010 stamp program.

The Hepburn stamp, a flat-our stunning publicity photograph taken for the 1942 film "Woman of the Year" by another great, Hollywood photographer Clarence S. Bull, is being issued as part of the ongoing Legends of Hollywood series that has previously honored such fellow legends as Hepburn's co-stars Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, as well as that other Hepburn — Audrey — Bette Davis and Alfred Hitchcock, among many others. The border image on the stamp sheet shows Hepburn onstage in Ernest Thompson's West Side Waltz. Forty years separate the two images and offer incontestable proof that she was, as her Lion in Winter co-star Peter O'Toole once said to Charlie Rose, a great beauty.

Over the course of her illustrious career, Hepburn chased leopards in the Connecticut countryside ("Bringing Up Baby"), battled the sexes ("Adam's Rib," with her nine-time co-star Spencer Tracy) and beat the rapids and the Germans in the Belgian Congo ("The African Queen"). She espoused a love of family and her New England roots ("Little Women"), of sports ("Pat and Mike") and possessed a fierce intelligence ("Woman of the Year"). And in perhaps her greatest roles, she proved to be a heart-wrenching tragedienne ("Long Day's Journey Into Night) and a powerful, plotting queen ("The Lion in Winter").

But to many fans, she was more. Her niece, actress and playwright Katharine Houghton summarizes it on the USPS web site this way. Hepburn, she says, "provided hope and inspiration and courage for a whole new generation of women." Yours truly included.

The Hepburn stamp will be issued in the coming year on what would have been Hepburn's 103rd birthday: May 12, 2010. For more information, go to Postal News.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Side Note:

Two other luminaries who will receive stamps in 2010 are actor William S. Hart (as part of the Cowboys of the Silver Screen series) and singer Kate Smith. Katharine Hepburn had been known to claim Hart as her first crush when she was a little girl going to the movies. As for Kate Smith, legend has it that Hepburn cajoled "Luddy," the man she married in 1928, to change his name from Ludlow Ogden Smith to Smith Ogden Ludlow so she wouldn't be stuck with the moniker of Kate Smith.

— Judy Samelson

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