Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Under the Stars: Katharine Hepburn

Movie Dearest continues our daily previews of Turner Classic Movies' month long "Summer Under the Stars" celebration:

Now Playing Star Profile for Katharine Hepburn - Stardates: Born May 12, 1907, Hartford, Connecticut; died 2003. Star Sign: Taurus. Star Qualities: Ravishing bone structure, distinctive speech patterns, independent spirit, glowing presence. Star Definition: "She has tremendous integrity, a superb sense of humor, self-discipline, courage, generosity. And above all she is a great professional." -- Director Anthony Harvey. Galaxy of Characters: Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby, Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, Patricia Pemberton in Pat and Mike, Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond.

In the classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, Hepburn plays Susan Vance, a flighty heiress whose eccentricities include keeping a leopard (the "Baby" of the title) as a pet. She crosses paths with Cary Grant's uptight paleontologist Dr. David Huxley, who finds himself in this scene trapped in Susan's house with nothing but a frilly woman's robe to wear. Desperately searching for a pair of trousers, he is interrupted by a knock on the door, where a stuffy dowager (May Robson) says he looks ridiculous and asks him why he's wearing such an unlikely outfit. Completely flustered by this point, David blurts, "Because I just went gay all of a sudden!"

Arguably the first time the word "gay" was used on screen to mean "homosexual", it is certainly the most famous early example. Speculation has it that the slang term, which had just came into use during the late 1930's, wasn't familiar to the censors at the time. Otherwise, it most likely would have been cut. Legend also has it that it was Grant who came up with the line as an ad-lib, which only adds to the long-persistent rumors that he himself "went both ways".

Bringing Up Baby airs tomorrow on TCM at 2:30 PM EST.

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