Vintage Photographs of Katharine Hepburn Playing Tennis in the 1950s

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Katharine Hepburn never did interviews. But the fiercely private four-time Academy Award-winning “Best Actress” and star of such big screen classics as African Queen, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby and Woman of the Year suddenly broke her “no media” policy in the early 1970s by giving an interview with Dick Cavett in New York City.
Hepburn was a unique character in her private life. She contacted Cavett and expressed an interest to visit his studio but she did not commit to any live network television interview. Katharine said she wanted to see and feel the studio, the chair, the lighting, the temperature, etc.
Then, Cavett would say later, Hepburn felt comfortable enough to suddenly say, “Ok, let’s do it now.” So Cavett obliged the miraculous offer (or order) by Hepburn and did a two-hour long conversation with the great “Katharine Hepburn” on the spot, with no live audience, just the two of them. Among the many revelations made by Hepburn was her fascination and love for the sport of tennis.
“I was really a tennis addict,” she suddenly declared when talking about how she conquered her smoking habit. “I just stopped smoking. I started tennis in California. In Beverly Hills. I noticed when I smoked I couldn’t keep it up (play long hours). I noticed if I didn’t smoke that day, I could keep it up. If I didn’t smoke I could play for six or seven hours. We would play all day Sunday.”
“I LOVE tennis. I think it’s a great game. You can play yourself to exhaustion. I have improved…”
Cavett remarked that he had seen Hepburn play the Bel Air Hotel courts and said he was impressed. “No, I’m not good,” she corrected him, modestly. Cavett commented her game was a little “choppy.”
Hepburn continued: “I’ll tell you how you know you’re good or you’re not good. The terrible thing in sports is they’ll look at you on the street and think, Oh, you’re so fascinating. They’ll look at you on the court for two seconds and say, Oh… she can’t play. And then leave [laughs]. But it’s a sensational game.”
“Perfection is a thrill. And you practically never achieve it.”
Hepburn was born in 1907 in Hartford, CT and lived until the age of 95, she passed away in 2003. And thanks to Dick Cavett, we now know Katharine Hepburn loved tennis about as much as anyone who ever played.

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