"I'm a personality as well as an actress," Katharine Hepburn once declared. "Show me an actress who isn't a personality, and you'll show me a woman who isn't a star." Hepburn's bold, distinctive personality was apparent almost from birth. She inherited from her doctor father and suffragette mother her three most pronounced traits: an open and ever-expanding mind, a healthy body (maintained through constant rigorous exercise), and an inability to tell anything less than the truth.
Hepburn was more a personality than an actress when she took the professional plunge after graduating from Bryn Mawr in 1928; her first stage parts were bits, but she always attracted attention with her distinct New England accent and her bony, sturdy frame. The actress' outspokenness lost her more jobs than she received, but, in 1932, she finally scored on Broadway with the starring role in The Warrior's Husband. She didn't want to sign the film contract offered her by RKO, so she made several "impossible" demands concerning salary and choice of scripts. The studios agreed to her terms, and, in 1932, she made her film debut opposite John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement (despite legends to the contrary, the stars got along quite well). Critical reaction to Hepburn's first film set the tone for the next decade: Some thought that she was the freshest and most original actress in Hollywood, while others were irritated by her mannerisms and "artificial" speech patterns. For her third film, Morning Glory (1933), Hepburn won the first of her four Oscars. But despite initial good response to her films, Hepburn lost a lot of popularity during her RKO stay because of her refusal to play the "Hollywood game." She dressed in unfashionable slacks and paraded about without makeup; refused to pose for pinup pictures, give autographs, or grant interviews; and avoided mingling with her co-workers. As stories of her arrogance and self-absorption leaked out, moviegoers responded by staying away from her films. The fact that Hepburn was a thoroughly dedicated professional -- letter-perfect in lines, completely prepared and researched in her roles, the first to arrive to the set each day and the last to leave each evening -- didn't matter in those days, when style superseded substance.