What was Katharine Hepburn’s Net Worth?
Katharine Hepburn was an American actress who had a net worth equal to $30 million at the time of her death (after adjusting for inflation). Katharine Hepburn was an actress of the screen and stage, known as one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Nominated for 12 Academy Awards and winner of a record four, she starred in such classic films as “Bringing Up Baby,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “The African Queen,” “Suddenly, Last Summer,” and “The Lion in Winter.” On screen as in her life, Hepburn cultivated a progressive image of forthrightness, independence, and sophistication, making her a role model in 20th-century popular culture.
Katharine Hepburn passed away on June 29, 2003 at 96 years old.
Soon after her death, Hepburn’s lawyer estimated that her estate was worth $20 million. The majority of that value came from her 7.17 acre waterfront Connecticut property. Her parents were actually the original owners of the estate, having bought the land in 1913. The home that was subsequently built was destroyed by a hurricane in 1938. The current manor was built a year later. For most of Katharine’s adult life she summered at the estate. She retired there full-time in her later years. Several years after her death a 1.5-acre portion of the estate was sold for $11.5 million. Here’s a video tour:
Early Life and Education
Katharine Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut as the second of six children of suffragette Katharine and urologist Thomas. Hepburn and her siblings were raised to think independently, freely engage in debate, and to exercise their bodies in a range of physical activities. A tomboy, Hepburn took especially to golf. However, her spirited upbringing was disrupted in 1921 when, on a visit to New York with her brother Tom, she found Tom had hanged himself. As a result of this, Hepburn became sullen and anxious, dropping out of school. She returned to school for her higher education when she was accepted to Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1924. There, Hepburn performed in a number of school stage productions, earning strong praise.
Career Beginnings in Theater
The very day after graduating from Bryn Mawr in 1928, Hepburn traveled to Baltimore to meet Edwin H. Knopf, who ran a stock theater company. Knopf cast her in his production “The Czarina,” and in another production the following week. However, criticized for her voice, Hepburn left for New York City to receive vocal lessons. She went on to star in Knopf’s “The Big Pond,” in which she bungled her performance and was fired. Later in the year, Hepburn made her Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre; however, the show was poorly received and ended after a week. Her most successful stage role yet came when she was hired as the lead understudy in the play “Holiday,” a role she played for six months. In 1929, Hepburn played the lead in “Death Takes a Holiday,” but was again fired. She continued to take on a variety of roles that ended in her release. Hepburn had greater success with a summer stock company in Ivoryton, Connecticut, where she had her breakthrough performance in a production of the Greek fable “The Warrior’s Husband.”
Hollywood Career in the 30s
Hepburn’s performance in “The Warrior’s Husband” drew the attention of a Hollywood talent scout, who asked the actress to test for a part in the upcoming RKO film “A Bill of Divorcement.” Hepburn agreed after negotiating a high salary, and arrived in Hollywood in the summer of 1932. “A Bill of Divorcement” made her into an instant star. For RKO, she went on to appear in “Christopher Strong,” “Little Women,” and “Morning Glory,” the lattermost of which earned her her first Academy Award for Best Actress. Hepburn’s career took a slight downturn after that, as she starred in a string of commercial flops including “Spitfire,” “The Little Minister,” and “Break of Hearts.” She rebounded in 1935 with “Alice Adams,” for which she received her second Academy Award nomination. Hepburn subsequently starred in such films as “Sylvia Scarlett,” “Mary of Scotland,” “A Woman Rebels,” “Quality Street,” and “Stage Door.” In 1938, she starred opposite Cary Grant in Howard Hawks’ screwball comedy “Bringing Up Baby,” a commercial disappointment that later became one of her most beloved films. Hepburn also starred alongside Grant in the film adaptation of “Holiday,” which she had appeared in on stage.
Hollywood Career in the 40s and 50s
Labeled “box office poison” after the commercial failure of “Bringing Up Baby,” Hepburn was in need of a comeback. She got just that when she starred opposite James Stewart and Cary Grant in George Cukor’s 1940 romantic comedy “The Philadelphia Story,” adapted from the play in which she also starred. The film was one of the biggest hits of the year, and earned Hepburn another Academy Award nomination. She continued her success with “Woman of the Year,” her first of nine screen pairings with Spencer Tracy. Hepburn’s other notable credits in the 40s include “Keeper of the Flame,” “Dragon Seed,” “Without Love,” “Undercurrent,” and “State of the Union.” She closed out the decade with one of her most acclaimed pairings with Tracy, “Adam’s Rib.”
Hepburn significantly expanded her film repertoire in the 50s, taking on a wide range of genres. Early in the decade, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in the adventure film “The African Queen,” her first film shot in Technicolor. The year after that, she was in the sports comedy “Pat and Mike,” her final film at MGM. Hepburn had some of her greatest successes in the latter half of the decade, starting with David Lean’s romantic drama “Summertime,” for which she received another Academy Award nomination. She garnered further nominations for “The Rainmaker” and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “Suddenly, Last Summer.” Among Hepburn’s other credits in the 50s was the romantic office comedy “Desk Set.”
Later Hollywood Career
Hepburn’s next Academy Award nomination came for Sidney Lumet’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 1962. The actress took a break after that to care for an ill Spencer Tracy; the pair finally reunited in 1967 to star in their final film together, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” A huge success for Hepburn, the film became her biggest commercial hit and resulted in her second Academy Award win. She won a second consecutive Academy Award and her third overall the next year for her performance as Eleanor of Aquitaine in the historical drama “The Lion in Winter.” Hepburn subsequently starred in “The Madwoman of Chaillot.” Continuing to work steadily into the 1970s, she appeared in such films as “The Trojan Women,” “A Delicate Balance,” and “Rooster Cogburn.”
By the 1980s, Hepburn had developed a physical tremor that made it difficult for her to work. However, she still went on to appear in some films, most notably the 1981 drama “On Golden Pond,” in which she and Henry Fonda starred as an aging couple. One of the highest-grossing films of the year, “On Golden Pond” earned both Hepburn and Fonda Academy Awards, making Hepburn the first and only person in history to win four Oscars for acting. Focusing mostly on television after that, Hepburn appeared in few further films. After “Grace Quigley” in 1984, she had her final feature film role in the 1994 film “Love Affair.”
Hepburn appeared in a number of television films starting in the 70s. That decade, she starred in “The Glass Menagerie,” “Love Among the Ruins,” and “The Corn is Green.” Her television film credits in the 80s were “Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry” and “Laura Lansing Slept Here.” Hepburn’s final television films were 1992’s “The Man Upstairs” and 1994’s “This Can’t Be Love” and “One Christmas.”
Later Theater Career
Even as she lit up the big screen, Hepburn continued to work on stage. In the 50s, she starred in productions of “The Millionairess,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Measure for Measure,” “The Merchant of Venice,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” Hepburn continued to perform Shakespeare in the early 60s in “Twelfth Night” and “Antony and Cleopatra.” One of her most acclaimed roles was in the Broadway musical “Coco” from late 1969 to the summer of 1970; she earned a Tony Award nomination for her work. Hepburn was nominated for another Tony in 1981 for her final role on stage in “The West Side Waltz.”
Personal Life and Death
Known for being highly independent and headstrong, Hepburn kept much of her life private. She disdained the Hollywood publicity machine and sought to go against the social conventions of the time. Defying traditional gender categories, she famously wore trousers. Hepburn’s only marriage was to businessman Ludlow Ogden Smith, to whom she was wed from 1928 to 1934. She later had notable relationships with her agent Leland Hayward and with business tycoon and aviator Howard Hughes. Hepburn’s most significant relationship was with her screen partner Spencer Tracy; because he was married, the two carried out a discreet affair over many years. When Tracy passed away in 1967, Hepburn was at his side.
In the early 1990s, Hepburn’s health began declining, and she was hospitalized for exhaustion in 1993. Later, in 1996, she returned to the hospital with pneumonia. Hepburn struggled with some other health issues over the subsequent years, including signs of dementia. In 2003, she passed away from cardiac arrest at the age of 96.