Katharine Hepburn
1907 - 2003

Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda
share a reluctant "kiss" in 1981's seminal
On Golden Pond.

I just found out that Katharine Hepburn passed away yesterday (June 29th).  There's no need to say that she was one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century.  Everyone already knows this.  There is a need to say that I feel like I just lost my beloved grandmother.

My grandpa and grandma couldn't stop praising the film On Golden Pond.  They went to it at the theater, and rented it countless times on video.  I chalked up their praise to "old people identifying with some flick featuring old people."  When my grandma rented it specifically for me in 1991 (a decade after its release), and asked that I give it a chance, I finally gave in. 

My brother, who was only 10 at the time, was visiting, and the two of us had run out of video games to beat, and trashy MTV videos to view, so we decided to stick the film in the VCR and get through it, just once, to please my grandmother.  Both of us expected to be bored to tears.  Surprisingly, we both ended up loving the movie.  It's actually turned into one of our personal favorites. 

My grandma was right:  this film was startling close to the relationship my grandparents had.  Hepburn, playing the effervescent Ethel Thayer, and Henry Fonda, playing her cynical husband, Norman Thayer Jr., were my grandparents.  And their relationship was simultaneously funny, moving, happy and sad. 

Hepburn has given wonderful performances in numerous films, but none touched me like On Golden Pond.  When my grandfather passed away in 1992, I looked to this film for comfort.  Norman Thayer Jr. embodied almost everything that he was.  Thank heaven my grandmother is still alive, and I don't have to remember her through her favorite movie.  But, when I found out Katharine Hepburn had died, it felt like hearing that my grandma passed away. 

It's hard to face the fact that Katharine Hepburn is gone.  It's hard to think of how much this will hit home for my real grandmother.  It's scary how close the two are to one-another. 

For me, On Golden Pond was Katharine Hepburn.  She stopped taking the medication she was prescribed for Parkinson's Disease (the "disease" that killed my grandfather) to appear older in the film.  She gave it her all.  She always gave it her all.  That was Katharine.  We won't have another like her. 

Why'd you have to go and die on me, "you old poop?"  The impact a single performance in a seminal film can make is incredible.  Katharine will be remembered for many things, but I'll always remember her for the passion she showed on her golden pond.  I'll always miss her enthusiasm.  When I saw the film as a teenager, I thought passion died by 50.  Katharine proved to me that it can go on for a lifetime.  And I'm sure that it went on for the entire 96 years that she was alive.

And a passion like that should never die.  Not at 30, 50 or even 96 years old.  I'll miss you Katharine.  Thanks for the wonderful performances you left us with.  Thanks for the incredible movies you made your own.  And thanks, more than anything, for that "golden pond" that I'll always look toward, when I need to remember and need to believe. 

Thank you.

Alex Sandell
6/30/03 - 3:30 AM


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Katherine Hepburn


Katharine Hepburn 1907 - 2003.  Never forget.