Until last night I’d never laid eyes on a decent-quality color photograph of young Katharine Hepburn. This shot from John Ford‘s Mary of Scotland (’36) was taken when Hepburn was 29. It appears to be genuine color (i.e., not tinted monochrome). Mary of Scotland happened in the middle of Hepburn’s “box-office poison” period, when she starred in several failures and couldn’t catch a break. Alice Adams (’35) was the only hit she had during this streak. Even Sylvia Scarlet (’35) was a bust. Even Holiday and Bringing Up Baby (both in ’38) underperformed. Hepburn finally got back on the rails with The Philadelphia Story (’40).

Katharine Hepburn in John Ford’s Mary of Scotland. Her freckles were airbrushed or makeup-based out. Word around the campfire is that Hepburn and Ford locked loins during production but you’d have to ask Ford biographer Joseph McBride about that and I’m not sure he’d know. Did John Ford ever have sex with anyone, ever? He drank and scowled and swore and smoked like a fiend, but sex? Some people aren’t cut out for it.