Hepburn: So Good It’s Scary

Only the greatest actors can inhabit a character so fully that you forget who’s who. Daniel Day-Lewis is not Daniel Day-Lewis. He IS Abraham Lincoln. He IS Hawkeye. Christian Bale IS retired boxer Dicky Ecklund. Adam Sandler IS . . . Adam Sandler.

This is my way of complimenting Katharine Hepburn. If she wasn’t a truly great actor, tell me how she could embody this force of evil in one terrifying glance?

Hepburn-Venable

I nailed this photograph on the wall during exhibit installation, and I haven’t been so unnerved since I was six years old and encountered Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.Whether Hepburn’s character in this 1959 film, Suddenly Last Summer, is actually evil is beside the point. (Although she does try to force a lobotomy on her own niece, and her name IS Violet Venable.) Her Death Stare says it all, and it freezes my blood every time I pass by it in the exhibit gallery.

Don’t miss Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, on view this summer. Come for the stardom. Come for the slacks. Come for the horror.

Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society

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