Tennis Prose



Katharine Hepburn Called Tennis “A Sensational Game”

By Scoop Malinowski

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 Philadephia Story”, “Bringing Up Baby” and “Woman Of The Year” suddenly broke her “no media” policy in the early 1970’s 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. The interview is on you tube.

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.”

One of the greatest film actresses in the history of cinema was entranced by and awed yet also humbled by the racquet sport of grace.

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.

(Note: In a later interview at her home with Barbara Walters in 1991, Hepburn said she had “no idea why I became an actress – I wasn’t very bright. I thought I was a good golfer. But sports don’t last. I would have loved to become a tennis champion but I wasn’t that good. So what was I gonna do? Persuade someone to marry me?”)

Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in “The African Queen.”

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  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2021 at 10:54 am

    Imagine the thrill and honor for Dick Cavett to be picked by Katharine Hepburn to do an interview. I was never a fan of KH before this but this interview inspires a massive new respect for her. She knew Dick Cavett was the very best interviewer and she sought him out and bared her soul for him. Fascinating on so many levels. Dick Cavett is the greatest TV interviewer in human history.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 22, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    This is my Hank Aaron Biofile, he died today at 86. The baseball legend was a huge tennis fan, he had some very interesting favorite players. Read his Biofile to see who…

  • Sam · January 28, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Scoop, I didn’t know that Hank Aaron was a big tennis fan. Too bad that he passed away prematurely. As I’m sure you heard, he’d gotten the Covid-19 vaccine only a couple of weeks before he passed away. Just a coincidence–riiiiiiight. 😛

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 28, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    Yes he was Sam, a friend of mine RD Ferman just told me this week he sat next to Hank at US Open in a box in Ashe on Super Saterday in 2001. His comments: “yes! Hewitt/Kafelnikov – Safin/Sampras. Venus and Serena played at night in woman’s final! Great read; glad he went with tennis. Most Baseball HOF migrate to golf.”

  • Sam · January 29, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    Interesting that he was one of the few to take a liking to tennis. Well, I’m sorry that a friend of yours passed away then. Such a shame that he decided to become a guinea pig for the vaccine, when he probably still had several years left to live. 🙁

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Well we don’t know Sam if he died because of the vaccine or what. He did live a long successful life.



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