The epic romance of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy was a fable cultivated by Hepburn to hide their bisexuality, according to an exhaustive new biography of the actress.
Film historian William J. Mann writes in "Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn," that the two "sexually complicated" screen legends had an enduring companionship but were only briefly passionate and never lived together intimately.
Hepburn herself fostered the belief that she and "Spenc-ah" could never marry because he was a devout Catholic committed to Louise Treadwell, his wife of 43 years. But Mann, who draws on never-before-seen documents and interviews with people who wouldn't talk while Hepburn was alive, writes that Tracy's interests lay elsewhere.
It was at gay director George Cukor's estate that he met a Hollywood hustler identified as "Scotty," a mechanic who staffed his gas station with "handsome young bucks, just home from the war" who for $20 were "happy to wash their hands (or not) and take a trip with a client to the back room," Mann writes.
"Tracy would always be drinking when I arrived," Scotty told Mann. "He'd get so loaded. He'd sit there at the table drinking from five o'clock in the afternoon until two in the morning, when he'd fall onto the bed and ask me to join him. ... And in the morning he'd act like nothing happened."
Hepburn's notorious relationship with American Express heiress Laura Harding wasn't "lesbian," but it certainly was sexual, Mann believes. He writes: "Hepburn admitted as much to friends like James Prideaux, cutting him off with a shrill 'Of course!' when he asked ... as if the subject were simply too obvious and boring to belabor."
Mann also delves into speculation about Hepburn's relationship with "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden, almost 50 years the screen legend's junior.
Debunking the rumor that McFadden was Spencer and Tracy's love child, Mann writes that McFadden was 25 when, strolling down the beach near Hepburn's Connecticut home in the early '80s, she met the woman she'd long admired.
"You look like me," Hepburn told the quick, lithe beauty.
"Kate fell in love with Cindy," one friend told Mann. "She wasn't expecting a relationship with her, but there's no question she was enchanted. ... Kate was dazzled."
Some of Hepburn's intimates grew suspicious of the young woman's intentions. But producer John Dayton championed McFadden as a true supporter: "She was one of those people who loved Kate and who were not out to get something from Kate. And I can't say that about everyone