Happy 110th birthday to Katharine Hepburn, Oscar’s biggest winner

“As for me, prizes are nothing,” Katharine Hepburn once harrumphed. “My prize is my work!”

That’s a curious philosophy from the star who reigns as Oscar’s biggest champ, having won four times, all in the lead Best Actress race. Years ago she also held the record for most nominations (12), narrowly eclipsing rival screen diva Bette Davis (11 noms, 2 wins), but Meryl Streep ultimately surpassed them both by reaping 20 bids. Not wins, though. Streep’s only triumphed three times: twice in lead, once in supporting.

Curiously, Hepburn never appeared in person at a ceremony when she was nominated – or even when she won. The more she scorned academy members, the more they seemed eager to heap more golden statuettes upon her, all of which are now on public display at the National Archive in Washington D.C.

The only time she appeared at an Oscars ceremony was at the 1974 awards show where she presented the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer and friend Lawrence Weingarten. She told the crowd, “I’m living proof that a person can wait 41 years to be unselfish.”

At that point, Hepburn had only won three Oscars (“Morning Glory,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “The Lion in Winter”). Soon afterward, she returned to being selfish by spurning the academy crowd when she won for “On Golden Pond.”

As part of my personal collection of historic showbiz memorabilia, I own two of Hepburn’s Oscar nomination certificates: “The Rainmaker” and “Suddenly, Last Summer.” Also, I own two of her membership cards in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences – see photo above. Isn’t it interesting to know that she was a dues-paying member of an organization she usually spurned?

Below is the list of her Oscar competitions:

1934: Best Actress, win, for “Morning Glory”

1936: Best Actress, nomination, “Alice Adams”

1941: Best Actress, nomination, “The Philadelphia Story”

1943: Best Actress, nomination, “Woman of the Year”

1952: Best Actress, nomination, “The African Queen”

1956: Best Actress, nomination, “Summertime”

1957: Best Actress, nomination, “The Rainmaker”

1960: Best Actress, nomination, “Suddenly, Last Summer”

1963: Best Actress, nomination, “Long Day’s Journey into Night”

1968: Best Actress, win, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

1969: Best Actress, win, “The Lion in Winter”

1982: Best Actress, win, “On Golden Pond”

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