William J. Mann, the respected author of “Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn” (Holt & Co.), describes Katharine Hepburn‘s “lifelong affection for women,” as Janet Maslin puts it in her N.Y. Times book review, as “the elephant in the room.”
I for one could never really imagine Hepburn making love with a man…not Spencer Tracy, not Charlie Allnut, not Rossano Brazzi. Whatever and whomever she let into her life and heart, hetero mambo never seemed part of the deep-down picture. And you can always sense these things, to some extent. Not everyone was readable, but many were. You could always detect on some level the inclinations of Montgomery Clift, James Dean, et. al. And there was never any missing the fact that Frank Sinatra was straight.
Maslin writes that “from [Hepburn’s] early friend Laura Harding, who described herself as ‘Miss Hepburn’s husband,’ to Phyllis Wilbourn, a companion of 40 years about whom Hepburn said, ‘Phyllis and I are one,’ women figure prominently in Mr. Mann’s thinking. [But] his goal here is less to detect lesbian relationships than to reiterate how greatly Hepburn’s public and private identities diverged.”